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Posted on: June 23, 2021

Boaters, paddlers reminded to take extra caution during heatwave

Extreme hot weather a concern as people flock to the water

Olympia – June 23, 2021 – Hot, sunny weather is in the forecast for the next week. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures statewide will be in the 90s and 100s.The Washington State Parks Boating Program urges boaters and paddlers to be extra cautious on the water. 

Even though the air is warm, water in rivers and lakes remains cold from snowmelt runoff. Most river and creek water temperatures range from the upper 30s to the mid-40s — temperatures that can easily cause cold-water shock.

“One of the best ways for boaters and paddlers to stay safe on the water during excessive heat is to wear a life jacket,” said Rob Sendak, Boating Program manager. 

Participation in all water sports includes some risk. The weather and cold-water conditions underscore the need to always be prepared to deal with all circumstances. Small craft such as kayaks, canoes and SUPs are the most vulnerable to capsizing. Sudden immersion in cold water makes it difficult, if not impossible, for people to keep their heads above water and stay afloat. 

Last year, Washington state ranked in the top five out of all 50 states in boating fatalities. According to the State Parks Boating Program accident data, four people recently died in boating-related accidents, and two people are missing. Two of the fatalities were stand-up paddleboards (SUP) users. 

The Boating Program recommends the following hot-weather, cold-water safety tips:

  • Hydrate. Drink water — a lot of it.
  • Eat something. Keep snacks on hand to replace electrolytes and calories.
  • Apply sunscreen. Wear water-resistant sunscreen. Reapply often. Consider wearing a hat and the color white to reflect sunlight.
  • Take a break — in the shade. Dehydration can sneak up on people. Get out of the sun and rest.
  • Eyes on the water. Don’t be blinded by the sunlight — lookout for swimmers, other boaters and paddlers, water skiers, etc.
  • Always wear a life jacket. Accidents happen fast and without warning, even on a clear, sunny day. 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. Children, age 12 and younger, are always required to wear a life jacket.
  • Always wear a leash. For stand-up paddleboards, a leash is a necessity. Staying tethered to a paddleboard provides extra flotation and a chance to stay alive in an accident. A variety of leashes are available (coiled, hybrid, straight, quick release). Which one to use depends on the waterway. Paddlers need to research which leash is right for them.
  • Stay sober. Never use alcohol or drugs when boating or when floating in a river. Operating a boat under the influence impairs important survival reflexes and decision-making skills. Also, be aware of any prescription medications that can affect balance. 
  • Keep eyes on children. Children should never boat or float a river without the close supervision of an adult. 
  • Avoid going out alone — friends and family may be life savers.

More information about cold-water immersion and boating safety tips is available here

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.

News media contacts:
Rob Sendak, Boating Program administrator, (360) 628-1876
Christina Fremont, Boating Program communications manager, (360) 902-8337

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About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.

News release number: 21-035

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