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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Safe Paddling

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Paddle Safe! Have Fun! Boat Responsibly!

This public service announcement comes courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard. Here are 10 ways to paddle safely:

1. Always wear your life jacket. Wear a properly fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times when on the water.
2. Don’t drink alcohol, or use any other substance that will decreased your judgment and coordination, while paddling.
3. Stay low in the boat. Learn how to enter and exit your boat safely and stay low in the boat if possible. This will diminish the number of times that you capsize and help prevent slips and falls.
4. Keep your balance. Don’t overload the boat. Distribute passengers and other components of the load, secure gear evenly and low, and leave pets on land.
5. Practice the wet exit. Learn how to get out of your boat, hang onto the boat, turn the boat upright, and re-enter a capsized boat. If it is important to know how to perform rolls and other essential in-water maneuvers, do this before you attempt to negotiate dangerous water.
6. Dress for the weather conditions and be prepared for cold water immersion.
7. Have a paddling plan, that includes scouting and knowing the water and all rapids, difficult stretches, and so forth. File a float plan with someone who can be expected to seek assistance should you not arrive on time at your intended destination.
8. Never paddle alone. Always have at least one highly experienced paddler in your group.
9. Know how to maneuver your boat, both in water and on land. You must be able to paddle in all directions, and how to stop. Learn to read the water and be familiar with all hazards, such as undercut rocks, strainers, large branches and trees, hydraulics, drop-offs, and other paddlers.
10. Take the time to take a canoe or kayak safety class. The American Canoe Association is one such resource.

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Tags: In the Water , Staying Safe

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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