Paddling Tips

Paddling Tips

Encourage participants to take hands-on training and paddle with experienced paddlers. Have the group summarize what they have learned:

Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.—Leaving behind a trip plan will greatly assist a timely rescue.

Wear the proper clothing.—Wear layers appropriate for both the air and water conditions. Wetsuits or dry suits may also be considered for moving water and/or ocean travel.

Wear an approved helmet.—Helmets should be worn when paddling on moving water and in surf.

Learn the whistle code.—Three whistle blasts indicates an emergency. Follow the direction of the leader. Any other whistle signals need to be defined prior to departing.


Know and review cold and heat related emergencies.—Hypothermia is a real danger during any outdoor activity. Know how to recognize and treat it.

Bring proper equipment.—The essentials are exactly that, don’t leave them behind. Practise using everything you bring.

Know and practise rescue techniques.—Rescue techniques should be practised regularly in the conditions you expect to paddle in.

Watch for weather changes.—Check the marine and land forecasts before heading out. Maintain a watchful eye for unexpected storms that will change water conditions.

Know your paddling craft and its limits.—Review all safety material. Makes and models can vary greatly in their designed purpose and performance.

Never consume alcohol while paddling.—Alcohol impairs judgment and abilities. It also increases the risk of cold injuries.

Avoid travelling at night or in limited visibility.—Destinations and hazards can be difficult to see at night or in fog.

Always travel with others.—Not only is this more fun, but it often means the difference between life and death.

Avoid hazards.—There are many hazards beneath the surface. Caution should be taken when getting out of paddle craft.

Know the rules of the road.—Be aware of the rules and protocols for paddling in shipping lanes and busy harbours.

Learn and use common safety signals.—Know and use hand signals to indicate direction, stopping, getting off the water and that you are okay. The signals are a reliable way to communicate when it is difficult to hear.

Take a hands-on course.—There are many disciplines in recreational paddling. Canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards can each be paddled in lake, moving water or coastal settings. It is important to learn the strokes and techniques appropriate to the type of paddling activity. This knowledge empowers people to paddle safely and efficiently.

Practice the buddy system.—Stay within ear shot of person ahead and behind you. The lead can see and hear the last person in the group ahead. At intervals the lead stops and waits for the entire group to join them.

Know the HELP and HUDDLE Positions.—Know how to conserve energy and reduce heat loss when in the water.

Signal for help.—Think big, think contrast, think three. To be noticed from the air or land, make your signal big and contrasted to your environment. Any group of three indicates distress.