The Season to Know When Not to Go

Always exercise caution when you paddle during the stormy season. 

Always exercise caution when you paddle during the stormy season. 

As paddlers, the top priority for all of us should be safety. There are many ways we can get in trouble when engaging with the ocean, and weather is one of the chief drivers of that peril. It probably seems like winter is the time we are most vulnerable to adverse weather, but in many ways, the summer is more dangerous. 

In the winter, we experience large episodic fronts that bring high winds, some rain, and cooler temperatures. When the temperature drops, we certainly have to be keenly aware of, and plan to avoid, the effects of hypothermia and other cold-related ailments. It seems odd that in Southwest Florida, we need to think about hypothermia, but often we do. These winter storms are typically big, well-predicted, and long-lived.

Summer brings massive, quick-building, and potentially deadly squalls that are very unpredictable. We believe the best advice is that if you think it looks like you probably shouldn’t go, don’t. Thunderstorms often build in size and strength very rapidly and very locally, and can produce strong winds, high seas, and a lot of lightning.

When paddling on San Carlos Bay, it is easy to have a false sense of security. It seems so protected, but don’t be lulled into that falsity. San Carlos Bay is not a good place to be in a big thunderstorm – we promise.  

Fortunately, most summer storms build in the afternoon, and less frequently in the morning. Paddle in the morning if you can in the summer – it is light early and still cool outside. Check your local radar for the movement and location of storms. And always  err on the side of caution. If you think you can squeeze in a quick paddle before the storm hits, think twice. The ocean will still be there, after the storm, beckoning you.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.