Safe Paddling



Trip Tips

Gifts & Reviews

Wilderness Trips

Related Links

Other Links



info at wilds.mb.ca

Copyright © 1997
WILDS of Manitoba





WILDS Of Manitoba

Safe Paddling

The following safety information was extracted from an article by Brian Johnston (with his permission), CRCA Moving Water Instructor, entitled "Surfing for Safety" published in MRCA Newsletter Volume 12, Number 4, Winter 1999.

The information has been modified and expanded by D R Kurt.

American Whitewater Association Safety site

A lot of good links but be sure to visit the Accident Database.

Gruelling details and statistics drive home facts for all paddlers:
85 percent of drowned boaters weren't wearing a PFD,
25 percent of drowned boaters died from being pinned, and
4 percent drowned as a result of foot entrapment.

Two years ago a skilled guide drowned in a keeper on the Pigeon River on the East side of Lake Winnipeg; RCMP say he had a 100 percent chance of surviving if he was wearing his PFD. His only tourist/client watched him drown then had to deal with getting off the remote wilderness river on his own. They had put their PFDs in their packs rather than carry them.

A stone and cement monument are erected overlooking Kiskoosebesis Rapids on Manitoba's Bloodvein River where a young man drowned a few years ago because it was "TOO HOT" to wear a PFD; despite the fact he could not swim and was not skilled in running rapids. His twin brother and the trip leader erected the monument several weeks after the accident. During the rescue and recovery, another canoe party and official rescuers nearly suffered their own losses due to a few oversights.

Canadian Coast Guard

New regulations:
Minimum required safety equipment for canoes, kayaks, rowboats and rowing shells not over 6 metres long:

  • 1 bailer or one manual water pump with sufficient hose to enable one person to pump water from the bilge of the vessel over the side of the vessel
  • 1 Canadian approved PFD or life jacket of appropriate size for each person on board
  • navigation lights as set out in the CCG Collision Regulations for use after sunset and before sunrise (1 flashlight or approved flares)
  • one buoyant heaving line not less than 15 meters long
  • navigation equipment - one sound-signalling device or a sound signalling appliance (1 whistle or airhorn)
  • 1 manual propelling device (paddle)


  • USE a WATERPROOF flashlight (a BRIGHT one).

  • 1 PADDLE PER PADDLER PLUS a spare paddle in the boat.

  • WEAR PROPERLY FITTING PFDs (whatever the CCG approved colour).

  • WEAR a whitewater HELMET when in whitewater; PROTECT YOUR COCONUT!

  • SECURE your buoyant heaving line (and painters) so they aren't foot loose, secure them under bungee cords on the decks of your boat; tie on the bailer too!

  • ATTACH a LOUD (STORM or FOX40) whistle to EACH PADDLER's PFD.
    NOT on the zipper pull, if the whistle catches on something your flotation might come undone when you need it most!

Northwater Outfitters

Use a good throwbag from Northwater or Ostrom to meet the Canadian Coast Guard's 15 meter buoyant heaving line requirement with gusto.

Throw it to that human flotsam.

Or, if the flotsam is you, swim to shore WITH the throw bag, THEN haul the boat in for an easier self rescue (if you've attached the other end of the throw bag rope to your boat's grab loop).

Ostrom Packs

Good outfitting will help to keep you floating and minimize potential for getting pinned on a rock, bridge abutment, strainers, undercuts or other hard places.

Also visit
Northwater Outfitters

Pick up a copy of Paul Mason's and Mark Scriver's "Thrill of the Paddle", a book that provides excellent outfitting information for boat and paddler no matter how easy or extreme the whitewater is.

U/M Hypothermia Studies

Dr. Giesbrecht has submersed over 300 human subjects into various hypothermic states to monitor physiological and psychological recovery and techniques useful in improving recovery from hypothermia.

If the victim is shivering, provide sweet (sucrose) warm liquids to drink (no alcohol), remove wet clothes and dry the body then put it into warm insulating clothes (or sleeping bag, etc.). Body warmth from others might help.

If the victim is no longer shivering, do not provide any liquids, but change him or her to dry clothes and provide additional warmth if possible.

Of course, treat for drowning (respiration first aid) if necessary.

Paddle Manitoba

Join Paddle Manitoba to find A PADDLING BUDDY,

take a canoe paddling COURSE,



Paddle Canada
formerly Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association