Paddle Boats

Canoes - Kayaks - Stand Up Paddle Boards (SUP)

All paddlers are urged to boat responsibly to prevent accidents, minimize impacts, and avoid conflicts with other users. Here are some guidelines before you head out on your paddling adventure:

  • Be prepared and know your skill level. 
  • Wear IT! - wear a properly fitted life jacket and never go out on the water under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Paddle with a group or family member. 
  • Dress appropriately for the weather and water conditions - including water temperature. 
  • Learn your route in advance and look for potential hazards and avoid any hazards beyond your skill level.  
  • Carry a supply of food and water. 
  • Know how to rescue yourself and others in the event of capsize.
  • Know and follow the navigation rules - for a complete listing of navigation rules, refer to the document "Navigation Rules of the Road" published by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Take a course and learn essential information. Regardless of how much experience you have, its always a good idea to fine tune your skills. Once you've finished a course practice paddling and rescue skills before heading out on the water for your paddling adventure.
FREE online paddle sports safety course!
The Washington State Parks Boating Program invites boaters to try an online course for paddlers. The free, online paddling course is being offered by BoaterExam.com. The course is approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, a nonprofit organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety. The course covers the basics for your first adventure on the water…a must for anyone looking to start paddling. Whether you have a desire to learn the sport for the first time or improve your skills as a paddler, the course will provide you with basic boating knowledge and sharpen your skills.

Take the free course and you'll start your boating season with important information that will help you build on your technique, confidence, and enhance your time out on the waterways! Get started

Kayaks
Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes. When considering to purchase or rent one, you should take stock of where and how you plan to do most of your paddling. A few things to think about are:

Length, width and speed - this affects speed and maneuverability. A long, thin line allows paddlers to slice through the water quickly which is a real advantage if you plan on touring, but a drawback on some rivers. A narrow kayak is faster, but a wide kayak tends to be more stable (depending on hull shape). 

Hull shape - there are different hull shapes. Keeled kayaks (V-shaped) have more stability. Flat or smooth-bottomed kayaks (U-shaped) have more secondary stability and may feel tippier but feel more stable in moving water like rivers. Tri-form hull combines both primary and secondary stability with a long center keel to keep the kayak straight. The tri-form hull is generally not as fast, but is great for sports where stability is needed like fishing and diving.
  
Single or tandem - one person can paddle a tandem alone, but it requires sitting in the rear of the kayak while ballasting the front. Having a partner to go out with is much safer and more enjoyable. 

Stand up paddle boards (SUP)

SUP users should be aware of the dangers and dress for the temperature of the water, not the air, and in case they fall off the board. 

Woman on SUP board
Pictured: student taking an American Canoe Association class.

Paddler’s Safety Checklist
Know how to swim
File a float plan
Wear your life jacket
Know the weather conditions
Know the water venue
Carry a spare paddle
Wear appropriate clothing
Dress for immersion in cold water
Wear a hat or helmet
Carry a compass and chart/map
Carry a whistle or sound signaling device
Carry a knife, throw bag or tow rope, paddle float, sling and other rescue gear
Wear sunscreen
Water and snacks
Light/signal for low light conditions
Wear proper footwear