*As the air temperatures soared to 70° yesterday, I watched a paddle-boarder wearing shorts, a short sleeve shirt and no PFD paddling on one of the local creeks. The scene reminded me of an article I had written several years ago that still applies today.
Let's Be Careful Out There!
Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from “Hill Street Blues” used that line before sending his officers out to the streets. I think it is applicable for us paddlers as well. After a long winter dreaming about getting on the water, many of us just take off at the first signs of warmth and go. And so, in our haste, we often forget to address some basic safety issues.
Imagine this: it’s a beautiful sunny spring day, about 70 degrees when you sneak out of the office to hit the water. You rush home, load your gear, throw on a light layer of paddling clothes (don’t want to get too hot while paddling) and head for the water. You have your favorite paddling spot all to yourself and the birds are singing. You’re having a grand time soaking it all up, paddling across the calm water. And suddenly the next thing you know is you’re perched on top of a rock, you lose your balance, and you’re upside down.
After the initial shock of the 38-degree water you regain your wits and wet exit. Thankfully you see that you are only about 30 feet from the closest shore and begin swimming in with your boat, but after a few minutes it seems like you aren’t getting any closer and you’re exhausted. You struggle for a few more minutes and then thankfully realize that you can touch bottom. With your last ounce of energy you drag your boat up and collapse on shore.
This is when it hits you: you’re shivering uncontrollably, your hands aren’t working and you have no strength left. There isn’t anyone else on the water, your phone is soaked, you’re on the wrong side of the lake and about three miles from your car, the temperature has dropped 20 degrees, and it’s going to be dark in an hour. In your rush to get on the water you didn’t bother to tell anyone where you were going.
This scenario is a compilation of several real-life stories that I’ve heard from students and guests over the years. This type of scenario is real, and it can happen to you anywhere whether you are paddling the Adirondacks, 1000 Islands or in Florida.
The best way to avoid this situation is to plan ahead:
So before you head out this spring, put together a small first aid/emergency kit to carry with you, get some appropriate clothing and wear it, practice rescues at a local pool, and find a paddling partner. And remember, “let’s be careful out there.”
Spring Paddling is on the Way Comments