Safety for Solo Paddlers

Always wear a PFD when paddling solo.

Always wear a PFD when paddling solo.

Paddling is a great way to spend time with others on the water and experience the natural world together, but sometimes it can also be fun to explore on your own. However, paddling alone comes with its own set of risks.

Before you paddle off into the sunset, be fully aware of the potential consequences of doing so without proper preparation. If challenges arise, you will need to have the skills to deal with them. Being prepared and aware of the environment eliminates the vast majority of common mistakes made by paddlers who do end up calling for help. You can enhance your safety by following a few simple tips:

  • Always wear a PFD, in case of unexpected immersion.

  • Create a float plan, and tell a friend when and where you will be paddling. Call your friend when you have returned safely from your trip.

  • Understand the environment you are paddling in and the potential for wind, weather, and other challenging conditions.

  • Have on hand a repair kit, snacks and water, a spare paddle, and a signaling kit (a cell phone will work, if there’s coverage where you are paddling).

  • Practice and get comfortable with solo self-recovery, launching, and landing.

These tips are great for group paddles as well, which provide an excellent opportunity to practice with friends. Ease yourself into solo paddling with short trips in familiar areas. As you begin to feel more comfortable, you can venture farther.

Paddling alone is rewarding and brings a great sense of accomplishment. You will learn to rely on yourself, and to trust your decision making abilities. The peace and quiet of solo paddling is also unique and enjoyable.

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.