Paddle Smart – Paddle Safe!
Check out the American Canoe Association’s safety videos here.
Life Jackets Are Essential
Life jackets are at the core of safe boating. The U.S. Coast Guard reports 81% of boating deaths in 2021 were due to drowning, and 83% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.
While regulations on life jacket use vary from state to state, the Wear It program of the National Safe Boating Council promotes boating safety by encouraging boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized.
Good swimmers still need life jackets. When people tip a kayak or canoe, they may become disoriented, injured or unconscious. Life jackets can keep victims’ heads above water so they can breathe and be rescued more easily.
Choose the right life jacket for the activities you will be doing. Double check to make sure the life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard approved and fit correctly:
- Make sure the jacket is a proper fit for your size and weight
- Make sure the jacket is properly fastened
- Hold your arms straight up over your head, ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings and gently pull up; make sure there is no excess room above the openings and that the jacket does not ride up over your chin or face
Before setting out:
- Choose a brightly colored life jacket and paddling clothing that will make it easier
for others to see you on the water.
- Check that your equipment is in good working order.
- Review a pre-departure checklist to ensure you have everything you need
- Before you leave, always file a float plan with someone you trust
- Carry a light, especially if there’s a chance you’ll be on the water early or late in the
day. High visibility strobes and running lights are available at your local paddling
- Dress properly and bring an extra set of clothes in case you get wet
- Don’t forget the sunscreen and know the signs of heat illnesses
Exercise Good Judgment
- Respect your limits and keep within your limits to avoid injury
- Don’t drink and paddle. Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination
- Never assume that power boaters can see you. Avoid high-traffic areas whenever
possible, and proceed with caution when you can’t avoid them.
- Be aware of factors like fog and glare that make you more difficult to spot. If you’re
between a powerboat and the sun when it’s low on the horizon, the operator almost
certainly won’t see you.
- Once on the water, use common sense. In a split second, a situation can arise or the weather can turn
- If you notice storm clouds, a sudden temperature drop or wind speed increasing, play it safe and get off the water