Top 10 Safety Tips for Paddlers
Free Online Paddling Course
The Oregon State Marine Board offers a great introduction to the waterways with a free online paddling course that's approved by the state and recognized by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).
The Paddle Sports Safety Course
, offered through BoaterExam.com, covers state boating laws, rules of the road, how to read the waterway, what to do in case of an emergency, and other tips to enhance boater’s knowledge base and operating skills.
We’re so fortunate to have great public access to rivers, lakes, bays and the ocean in Oregon to play in. Learning how to paddle is a great way to get your feet wet in recreational boating, and by starting off with basic boating knowledge will make your experience more enjoyable and safer.
Prepare for your adventure by doing the following:
- Always wear a properly fitting life jacket and know how to swim in a river current.
- Never paddle alone. Bring along at least one other boater. When paddling, two boats with two operators each, are recommended. Three boats with two paddlers each are even better. If unfamiliar with the waterway, paddle with someone knowledgeable.
- Never overload the boat. Tie down gear and distribute weight evenly.
- Maintain a low center of gravity and three points of contact. Keep your weight balanced over the center of the boat.
Stay alert at all times and be aware of your surroundings, including nearby powerboats. Be prepared to react when dangerous situations arise.
- Standing up or moving around in a small boat can cause it to capsize –a leading cause of fatalities among paddlers.
- Leaning a shoulder over the edge of the boat can also destabilize it enough to capsize.
Practice re-boarding your boat in the water with the help of a companion.
Dress properly for the water temperature and type of boating.
Check your boat for leaks.
Map a general route and timetable when embarking on a long trip. Arrange for your vehicles to be shuttled to the takeout.
Know the weather conditions before you head out. While paddling, watch the weather and stay close to shore. Head for shore if the waves increase.
Sharing the Waterways
Waterways have "lanes of travel" similar to a highway system. Know the area you plan to paddle. If you are near commercial waterways, the navigation charts change often and you need a current set.
The depth of the channel may limit deep-draft vessels. You, however, are mobile and agile. Make use of your ability to move out of the way. If you are not crossing the channel, stay close to shore. Large stationary objects offer a margin of protection.
At night, a white light must be shown toward oncoming traffic. Bright colors not only help keep track of fellow paddlers, but make you far easier to see if separated from your boat.
If motorized boats are nearby, you are far less likely to capsize if you turn your bow into the wave and don't take the wake broadside.
See and Be Seen
Wear bright, noticeable clothing.
- Use reflective tape on your paddle blades.
- Keep your whistle handy.
- Any boat less than 20 meters should not impede the passage of a larger ship, whether under power or not.
- Monitor channels 13 & 16 on your VHF radio.
- At night and during restricted visibility, a white light must be shown toward on-coming traffic.