Playing it Safe on the Sierra’s Waters
The calm, blue surface can appear so tranquil, so refreshing and inviting that it’s easy for any one of us to forget how quickly conditions can change, how quickly a relaxing afternoon on the water can turn dangerous. This is true whether you’re on a kayak, canoe, stand up paddleboard, or the increasingly popular inflatable stand up paddleboards, the latest craze for paddlers looking to get more intimate with the Sierra. As our majestic alpine lakes lure paddlers and kayakers alike, we’d like to remind everyone of some basic water safety and resource conservation tips.
As with any adventure, plan ahead and check weather, wind, and marine forecasts. If you’re heading into the backcountry, take a friend and make sure everyone has backcountry wilderness safety and cold-water survival skills. Pay attention to changing conditions and know the signs of hypothermia. Make sure your gear is Clean, Drained and Dry – especially with inflatable SUPS that can store water in nooks and crannies – to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species that will ruin the health and water quality of our precious watersheds, and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.
Keep in mind that water temperature can be frigid, even on the hottest days of summer. A major misconception is that a SUP leash is equivalent to wearing a personal flotation device. The leash will only keep you tethered to your board; it won’t prevent you from drowning or cold water shock. As such, it is a good idea to always wear your life jacket since it’ll keep you warm and insulated, and keep your head above the water. Carrying a whistle and flash light is smart too, which are essential tools for everyone who recreates by any method in the Sierra Nevada. To address the explosion in SUP popularity and unfortunate resulting water deaths, the U.S. Coast Guard has developed specific regulations for SUPs, which can be found here.
This has been a friendly reminder from SBC and the Lake Tahoe Water Trail. Just as we respect the power of the mountains, it is imperative to respect the power of the water.