We've been teaming up with Northwest Paddleboarding in Richland for complimentary paddleboard rentals, and those babies are as hot as the triple-digit-heat the Columbia Basin will be baking in this week. You can get in the rotation for that supreme solo social distancing outing, maybe a round of golf or some fine local restaurant fare through the station's mobile app and the Toyota of Tri-Cities ticket link.

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And it's perfect timing to beat the heat out on the water as this week is Paddle Safe Week Washington. The Washington State Parks Boating Program wants paddlers to have fun on the water, while being safe. The Paddle Safe Week campaign, July 19–25, focuses on safe paddling practices and safety on Washington's marine and fresh waterways throughout the year.

According to a report on paddlesports and safety from the Outdoor Foundation, paddlesports continue to grow in popularity — especially kayaking and stand-up paddling. Yet only 23% of kayakers and 31% of stand-up paddlers have considered taking formal training to further their skills.

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“These statistics are troubling,” said Rob Sendak, Boating Program manager. “Paddlesports are fun activities, but they also involve risk.”

“We strongly recommend people educate themselves,” Sendak added. “Educated paddlers make life-saving choices to increase their safety and reduce risk – such as always wearing a life jacket and filing a float plan.”

For the third year in a row, Gov. Jay Inslee has issued a proclamation declaring this week Paddle Safe Week.

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Why is paddlesport safety so important?

  • According to national and state recreational boating accident data, paddlecraft are at a higher risk of capsizing and swamping.
  • Since 2012, close to half of all boating fatalities in Washington state involved paddlecraft.
  • Nationally, where cause of death was known, 79% of paddle-related fatalities from 2015 to 2017 involved drownings. Of those drowning victims, 74% were not wearing a life jacket.

The Boating Program recommends the following safety tips. More details are available at www.paddlesafewa.org

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Get educated

All paddlers are responsible for knowing laws and keeping themselves and others safe. At a minimum, people should take a course to increase their knowledge of paddlesport safety, emergency procedures and navigational rules.

Always wear a life jacket

State law requires all vessels, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, to have at least one properly fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person onboard. All children, age 12 and younger are always required to wear a life jacket.

File a float plan

Paddlers are encouraged to study their route in advance. Before going out on the water, even for a brief time, people should always tell someone their plan.

Carry essential gear

Paddlers should carry essentials for safety, emergency communications and comfort. State law requires carrying a sound-producing device, such as a whistle – even on a stand-up paddleboard.  

Avoid alcohol and drugs Operating any vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including marijuana, is not only unsafe, it’s illegal. Washington state’s Boating Under the Influence (BUI) law applies to all boats including kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.

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Check and understand the weather

Paddlers should check the weather frequently before and during their trip, keeping an eye on current conditions and forecasts. Check warnings, weather conditions, wind and wave forecasts, tides or river flows.

Protect against cold-water shock

Falling into water under 60 degrees is dangerous, and many of Washington’s waters — including lakes and rivers — remain below 60 degrees all year, even during hot weather. The biggest risk is cold-water shock — not hypothermia — which occurs in the first stage of immersion.

Be visible to other boaters

People should paddle to be seen by wearing bright neon colors and colors that contrast, putting highly reflective tape on paddles, using a flagpole and carrying a bright light.

Follow social media

Paddlers can learn more about and participate in the Paddle Safe Week campaign through social media by using some of the following hashtags: #PaddleSafeWeek, #PaddleSmart, #PaddleSafe, #PaddleSober, #PaddlePrepared, #PaddleToBeSeen

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About the Washington State Boating Program

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission administers the state’s Boating Program, which provides leadership in boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways, and keep recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime. For more information on the Boating Program, visit www.parks.wa.gov/boating.