Cold Water Safety

Cold Water Paddling Guidelines

Acknowledging the increased risks associated with hypothermia during colder weather paddling, the following guidelines are required for paddling under cold water/weather conditions, namely when:

  • the air temperature is below 50 degrees, or
  • the water temperature is below 50 degrees, or
  • the Board or steerer decide that current weather conditions merit cold water paddling rules.

Paddlers need to be appropriately dressed for paddling conditions. This means:

  • Absolutely no cotton clothing – this includes layers worn under clothing (e.g. a cotton t-shirt under a fleece jacket will stay wet and cold once it accumulates moisture)
  • Paddlers must wear full length tops and bottoms
  • Appropriate footwear is required – rubber boots with wool or fleece socks or neoprene booties are ideal
  • Neoprene wetsuits or full length drysuits are recommended, if available
  • Gloves (wool, fleece or neoprene) and headwear are advisable
  • Fully secured PFDs are to be worn at all times on the water under cold water conditions as defined above, without exception

Steerers should ideally stay in close to the shoreline so that in the event of a huli, it is feasible to get cold paddlers to shore more quickly. It is also advisable to avoid paddling too far north from East Shore Marina (i.e., not past Bolton Point) so that returning back to shore quickly if needed is possible. Steerers need to be aware of frozen ice on the lake and paddlers sitting stroke need to communicate proximity to ice to the steerer during the paddle. Similarly, in shallow-water conditions present during the spring and fall, the steerer should avoid shallow areas with debris; stroke should advise the steerer if any obstacles lay ahead.

Everyone needs to be attentive to the well-being of others on the boat with respect to body warmth. This includes having steerers check-in periodically during a paddle to make sure people are comfortable and warm.

Steerers and everyone in the boat need to monitor continually for signs of hypothermia in anyone in the boat. If someone in the boat begins to show signs of hypothermia, this needs to be communicated to the steerer, and the steerer needs to return to East Shore Marina immediately. Once the boat is safely landed, anyone with signs of hypothermia needs to be: 1) brought into a vehicle with the heater turned on to rewarm or brought into the sailing center if it is open, and 2) to the extent possible changed into dry clothes.

As the process of getting the boat into and out of the water often subjects paddlers to the most cold, paddlers must minimize the time standing in the water holding the canoe. Paddlers should enter and exit the canoe from the shallowest point to avoid getting wet. All paddlers should be prepared to launch immediately to increase body warmth.