Paddling Safety 101: Always Dress for Immersion


This article was produced under a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.

According to Murphy’s law, whatever can go wrong, most certainly will go wrong. And when you’re planning to launch any paddling trip, your outerwear choices need to follow this probability. That means: If you’re going to be on the water, you need to be prepared to be in the water.

Following best safety practices starts with the right equipment. Beyond a safe boat or board and the necessary life jacket, the next most critical piece of gear is your clothing. Always assume that you could end up in the water, separated from your craft, and prepare for it—especially when paddling in cold water, where hypothermia can set in quickly. That means dressing in well-insulating layers, and relying on a wetsuit or a drysuit, when dictated by the temperature of the water, not the air. Dress for immersion every time you paddle.

After all, the best offense is good defense. If you foresee an errant swim and plan accordingly, you’ll ensure an enjoyable paddling excursion.

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