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Dangers of Cold Water Paddling And What To Do

Updated: Apr 5

By: Mason Turowski


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As we say goodbye the colder months, it is crucial to still remember the unique risks associated with cold water paddling. Even water temperatures as high as 55 degrees Fahrenheit can lead to hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition. The unpredictability of water demands preparation and vigilance, especially for those venturing out solo. The number one rule in all paddling situations is do not forget to wear your PDFs (Personal Flotation Device) not only is it against the law to not have one aboard your device but you never know when you will need it. 


Understanding the Risks: Hypothermia can set in rapidly in cold water conditions. It is essential to recognize that even experienced paddlers can capsize, highlighting the need for comprehensive safety measures. With water temperatures below 60 degrees, wearing appropriate gear such as dry suits or wetsuits becomes imperative to ensure safety. Remember, dry suits do not keep you warm. It is important to research the correct kind of layering to remain comfortable and warm!


Emergency Preparedness: In the event of a capsizing, knowing how to swiftly re-enter your device and assist others is paramount. Also, water is unpredictable. Even the most experienced paddlers cap size! Solo paddlers face increased urgency, as immediate assistance may not be readily available. Essential safety gear includes items to combat hypothermia, such as heat blankets, hand and foot warmers, and hot beverages like tea or coffee.


Cold Weather Gear and Equipment: Batteries tend to drain faster in colder temperatures, underscoring the importance of reliable communication tools such as flares, whistles, or radios. Additionally, carrying a hot thermos can provide much-needed warmth in emergency situations. Ensuring your gear includes these essentials can make all the difference in safeguarding against the risks of cold-water paddling.


Timeline for Hypothermia: Hypothermia can occur within minutes in extremely cold-water conditions. It is crucial to act swiftly and decisively to prevent its onset. Symptoms progress rapidly, and without prompt intervention, hypothermia can become life-threatening within an hour.


As we embrace the beauty of cold-water paddling, let us prioritize safety. By staying informed, prepared, and equipped with the right gear, we can ensure enjoyable and safe experiences on the water, even in colder temperatures.




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