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Paddling Safety and Preparedness


Currently in Coeur D Alene, ID: 78 °F and Clear
7/14/2024 Forecast: High: 95 F Low: 64 F Very hot; breezy in the p.m.
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The Coeur d'Alene Canoe and Kayak Club organizes paddling trips that primarily take place on flat water (lakes), or stretches of rivers that are rated no more than Class 2. Most trips take place in the Idaho Panhandle, Eastern Washington, and Western Montana. On occasion, we have organized ocean trips for advanced paddlers. We welcome anyone with a kayak, canoe, sit-on-top or stand-up paddleboard to accompany us on Thursday Night paddles. Only club members are allowed on other club-sponsored paddling events.

No matter where you paddle or under what conditions, however, adhering to a common set of equipment and safety precautions helps to ensure that you and your paddling companions have a safe and enjoyable outing.


  • Paddling Fundamentals and Basic Water Safety

  • If you have never paddled a canoe or kayak before, we advise taking a tour, or a course that can help you learn paddling fundamentals and basic safety. Several local businesses offer flat-water kayak tours at a reasonable price, and local colleges also offer spring and summer extended-education courses that teach paddling skills and water safety.

  • Be a competent swimmer

  • If you can't swim, don't go paddling. Nobody wants to capsize their canoe or kayak, but you should expect to capsize sooner or later. You must have the ability to function underwater and in moving water.

  • Cold Water Safety

  • Cold water can be extremely dangerous. Because our club is located in the Pacific Northwest, water temperatures range from freezing in the winter time to 60 degrees Fahrenheit or so in the summer. Learn how to protect your self for cold-water immersion.

  • First Aid

  • Consider taking a first aid course that includes CPR. At least two people in your paddling group should know first aid and CPR.

  • Know the "Rules of the Road," Ethics and Conduct for paddlers.

Required Equipment

The CdA Canoe and Kayak Club does not provide any equipment to members or non-members. As such, it is expected that you provide your own boat and paddle. In addition, the following equipment, while not necessarily required by law, is required by the club. You could be turned away from attending a club event if you lack one or more of these items:

  • Personal Floatation Device (PFD), to be worn at all times while on the water.

  • Signal whistle. This is required by Idaho state law. The whistle should be kept on your person and should be easily accessible.

  • Clothing appropriate to the water temperature, not the air temperature. Consider a full dry suit or wetsuit when water temperatures are below 60 degrees. Keep spare, dry clothing in a dry bag in your boat while you are on the water. Avoid cotton clothing in cool temperatures.

  • Invasive Species Sticker. Idaho requires an Invasive Species sticker to be purchased each calendar year for every motorized and non-motorized boat. The funds from this purchase are used to combat invasive species into Idaho's waterways.

  • Bilge pump or bail bucket. If your boat is a canoe or kayak with a cockpit, a bilge pump or other container to evacuate water from your boat is a must.

  • Paddle float. A solid or inflatable paddle float turns your paddle into an outrigger, allowing you to re-enter your boat in the event that you capsize.

  • Water. A two-hour easy paddle might only require a bottle of water. Longer, more strenuous trips will require more. Multi-day trips require around 1 gallon of water per paddler per day.

  • Food. High-carbohydrate snacks for short paddles, snacks and lunch for a full-day trip, or complete multi-day nutrition for a multi-day trip.

  • Any additional personal items that you require, based on your own medical needs.

Recommended Equipment

The following equipment is recommended, but at least one or two persons in the paddling group should have them:

  • Basic first aid kit. Your first aid kit should be in a dry bag or dry box to keep the contents dry.

  • Sling. A sling is a loop of rope or vinyl strap that loops around your cockpit's coaming. Used with a paddle float, stepping into the sling allows you to re-enter your boat more easily than with a paddle float alone.

  • Tow ropes, to allow one paddler to tow another boat if a paddler becomes exhausted or incapacitated.

  • Throw bag. A throw bag is a rope in a weighted bag. You keep one end and throw the bag to rescue a distant boater or swimmer.

  • Knife. A small, sharp, folding knife kept in the pocket of your PFD can be a lifesaver, if you need to quickly cut a rope free.

  • Flashlight or signal light. For twilight or other low-light conditions.

  • Spare paddle. Paddles have been known to break, or you could accidentally lose yours during a capsizing.

Personal Comforts and Extras

  • Spray skirt. If you are paddling on a river or a lake with even a little wind or waves, you will want a spray skirt.

  • Hat. A hat can provide UV protection from the sun, or keep you from losing body heat in cold weather. Ideally, the hat should fit close to the skull, to stay on in the event of a capsize.

  • UV eye protection, commonly known as sunglasses.

  • Sunblock.

  • Small repair kit with duct tape.

  • Waterproof matches, lighter, or other method of creating fire.

  • Cell phone in dry case or dry bag.

  • GPS locator in dry case or dry bag.

Good Safety Habits

  • Check the weather forecast and water conditions for the location before, during, and after your scheduled paddling time. If the forecast or conditions have become questionable for your skill level, don't go.

  • Go over your checklist of equipment to make sure you are not forgetting anything important.

  • Assess your boat's floatation needs. Some boats, like sit-on-tops or stand-up paddle boards are virtually impossible to sink. Some kayaks have enclosed, watertight spaces at the fore and aft. Others might require floatation bags for non-enclosed spaces either fore, aft, or both.

  • Never paddle alone.

  • Know your skill level and your limits! Don't go on a trip where water or weather conditions could exceed your skill level or endurance.

  • File a float plan. At the very minimum, make sure a trusted friend knows where you are, who you are with, and when you are expected to return. They should know to call the authorities if you do not make contact with them by your scheduled time of return.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • Every so often, check on the position and welfare of each member of your group. If someone appears to be in trouble, is lagging behind, or something appears unusual, ask them how they are doing.

  • If you are tiring or if you are having a problem, let someone know you need a rest break.

  • Be aware of other craft or people with which you are sharing the water. This could include other groups of paddlers, motorized craft, swimmers, fishermen, or large industrial vessels. Be aware that other boaters might not know the proper rules for an encounter with your group. In fact, they might not even see you.

  • Pay attention to changing weather and water conditions. If conditions change rapidly and exceed your skill level, get to shore to wait it out.

  • Don't combine alcohol or other drugs with water recreation. If you must have a beer or cocktail, wait until you are on shore and in front of a campfire.

Drysuit Test
After floating around in 36 degree water for 15 minutes, Ted got bored and got out of the water. He never got cold in his drysuit!* Ted wanted to put his drysuit to the test and found that it can be a life-saving piece of equipment for cold-water kayaking.

*Ted is a very fit individual.  Your mileage may vary.

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