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Paddling Skills 2016

Day 5: Paddling Skills

Diana McBey
Rover Scout, Youth Spokesperson
Kingston, Ontario
Boating, canoeing and kayaking involve a certain degree of risk as they are sports that involve bodies of water and defying natural laws. By taking certain precautions, and properly planning for an outdoor paddling adventure, you can alleviate any foreseen risk and increase your personal and group’s safety.
Canoeing and kayaking are associated as the quintessential Canadian Camping experience. It’s not hard to see why; both are fast and fun, and they both involve exercise and the outdoors. As with all watercraft, canoeing and kayaking can be very dangerous. Here are some safety tips to take into consideration for the next time you plan a trip.

Safety Week — Paddling Skills


For a beginner

For a beginner paddler, one of the scariest parts of water sports is the fear of capsizing. For that reason taking swimming lessons and being comfortable in the water is a good skill to acquire before taking on water sports like canoeing or kayaking.
Take paddling lessons — this is a great way to get comfortable with being on the water and will teach you proper techniques and form. Summer camps are also a great way to learn key paddling skills; check out the Scouts Canada summer camp directory to find a camp near you.
Once you’ve started out, learn how to capsize safety. This will increase your confidence on the water and will teach you what to do in an emergency situation. Canoe-over-canoe and kayak-over-kayak are great exercises to prepare you for tipping. Safety note: Do not try these exercises alone.
When going onto the water always wear a PFD — no exceptions! Never stand up in a canoe or kayak, as the center of gravity in both are low and standing up makes you very unstable. To help keep the craft stable, secure any luggage low down and in the middle of the boat. Try and keep everything, including you, centered. And finally, always go with a group. Learning to canoe or kayak while with friends is much better than trying to go it alone as it makes the experience much more enjoyable to be with your friends, but it also makes water rescues easy and, as the adage goes, there is safety in numbers.

Medium Experience

If you have medium experience in paddling related sports then you’re probably more relaxed on the water. Despite this, it is always beneficial to try and paddle in groups and pair up with a more experienced paddler in order to learn new skills. For example, if going through rapids for the first time, paddle with individual who know how to handle rapids. If you lose something in the water, try and use your paddle to grab it rather than reaching into the water for it. Reaching can destabilize your watercraft and make your boat tip. If you are moving around (such as in a canoe), always maintain three points of contact with the boat. Most importantly though, if you have medium experience in paddling always canoe or kayak with a buddy boat. If you capsize this will allow you to perform a canoe over canoe or kayak over kayak rescue. “Less than three shall never be”.


Even though you may be an experienced paddler, there are always ways that you can improve your safety. Often it’s the most advanced paddlers that take the most risks, so make sure you consciously think about the safety of your paddling decisions.
Some safety tips would include, wearing bright colours and to always file a float plan with the authorities, friends, or family. Wear the right clothes (not cotton) for the season you are planning your trip. Stay out of floodwaters. It may look like a fun time but floodwaters pick up a lot of debris that can damage your watercraft and can pin you to other objects. Stay out of cold water. Your body will lose heat more efficiently in water than outside. If you do go overboard in cold water, try and right your boat or climb on top of it. Staying in cold water is more dangerous for you than being on top of your boat. Don’t swim unless it’s for another boat very close. If you go overboard in a current try and stay upstream from your watercraft so that you don’t get pinned by it. Going paddling with a group will allow you to perform rescue operations very quickly and make your entire trip safer. Most of all though, be aware of how advanced you are, and take advanced skills training courses for your paddling sport and paddle in groups.
Water sports are a lot of fun but require some planning and safety precautions. Planning ahead of your trip will ensure you have a great, and SAFE, paddling adventure.
Paddling Safety
Scouts Canada’s Youth Spokespeople challenge you to participate in Safety Week by sharing your #SafeScouting story on social media, or the MyAdventures Blog. You can also forward the daily tips to friends and family to make sure everyone in your community stays safe.


Scouts Canada, the country’s leading youth organization, offers challenging programs for boys, girls and youth age 5-26 in thousands of individual groups in most cities and towns across Canada.

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