Pre-Paddle Checklist: The Four Before

Always have a plan to carry plenty of water for the group. 

Always have a plan to carry plenty of water for the group. 

Whether you kayak or paddleboard, canoe or surf-ski, safety should always be first and foremost in your mind. Here are the top four things to consider before you paddle.

  • Know the weather. Always check the weather before you set out. Heat and cold can both be serious factors in the Sunshine State, and can catch paddlers unprepared. Pay close attention to winds and tides, as having to work against either can cause exhaustion to set in quickly. Remember, no matter the weather, always wear sunscreen and carry water.
  • Know your destination. Research your paddling destination thoroughly, staying mindful of tides, wind patterns, and boat traffic. Create a float plan with emergency contact numbers for every person in your group, and include details like where you will paddle and when you expect to return. This is valuable information that will decrease the time it takes for help to arrive if necessary.
  • Know your equipment. Be sure that your chosen paddle craft is well suited to the goals of where and how you want to travel. Knowing your equipment also means that you check regularly for wear and tear and any signs of disrepair. Life jacket materials break down over time, so make sure yours is in good condition. 
  • Know your people. When paddling with a group, always tailor your trip to the member with the least experience. Knowing the capabilities of each paddler will prevent serious emergencies when help is far away. If children are included, know that they can become tired even if they are not paddling. Make sure every person knows the float plan before you go.

Remember, a fun, safe paddling trip begins before you get on the water. Or, as my mother always says, “Prior planning prevents poor performance.”

Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.