By Amy Stephenson

The warming weather is drawing many to the water. Our neighbourhood is fortunate to have both the Rouge River and Lake Ontario to explore! Getting out on the water on a paddle board or kayak is a great way to see our community from a new view, explore nature and stay active. Before you hit the water, there are a few things you should consider.

Life Jackets or PFDs

Regardless of what type of craft you are on, the law requires a properly fitting PFD (personal flotation device) or life jacket onboard, and a signalling device like a whistle is required for paddle boards and kayaks.

Ask yourself a few questions to find out what kind of PFD or life jacket is right for you. What is the weight capacity? What kind of range of motion will you need to paddle comfortably? Large armholes, high visibility and pockets are all great features to look for. If you’re not a strong swimmer, a self-righting life jacket will keep your head above water in case of a spill. With all that said, wearing the PFD or life jacket properly is the only way to maximize safety.

Planning your adventure

The following tips aren’t laws but can help to ensure your paddle is fun and safe:

  • Don’t paddle alone, there is safety in numbers.
  • Let others know your route and planned times and check in with them when you are done.
  • Check the weather before you head out, including the winds. Anything over 30 km/h isn’t safe.
  • The water is a lot colder than you think, bare hands will lose dexterity in just 10 minutes in water under 10 degrees C. This means a spill or a lot of splashing can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
  • Avoid paddling on Lake Ontario until the May 24 weekend. The average water temperature is 5.6 degrees C in May, which makes it a high-risk setting.

Buying a Paddle Board

When making a purchase, always double-check the weight capacity and recommended skill level of the paddle board. Weight capacities also need to be respected. Don’t try putting two people on a craft designed for one or using a craft intended for a smaller person. Try looking up the manufactured stats if you’re buying a craft secondhand and that information isn’t available.

If you’re going for an inflatable craft, consider purchasing an electric pump. Manually pumping can leave you tired, frustrated and with a potentially saggy boat. When comparing, remember the wider and longer the craft, the more stable it will be.

If you are looking for ways to get out and you can’t get hold of a board or boat, you can connect with the Pickering Rouge Canoe Club. It operates out of Rouge Beach and has guided programs as well as Master memberships.