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Many Iowans love spending summertime paddling through the water. If you want to try paddling for the first time, check out these tips to get started:
Start with the basics
Before you find yourself on the water, learn the basic paddle strokes. You can check into formal instruction, or join a local paddling group. Paddling requires good boat control skills. To practice these skills, start on flat water, like a small lake. Learn how to remount your boat in deep water and how to self-rescue so you know what to do if you find yourself in a sticky situation.
Keep yourself safe
Safety is key while on the water. Always wear a life jacket, even if you don’t think you’ll need it. Iowa law only requires children 12 and under to wear a life jacket while moving through the water, but adults are urged to follow suit. A life jacket used as a seat cushion won’t help when you need it.
Never paddle on flooded rivers or fast moving, rain swollen streams. These areas often have large amounts of wood and debris floating through, and that can cause your boat to flip or even pin you under the water.
Other simple steps can help you stay safe on the water. Stretching before paddling can help avoid injuries. Don’t drink alcohol while boating, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Don’t paddle alone, and file a float plan before you head out. Letting someone know where you plan to go and when you’ll get back can help you in case of an emergency.
Dress for success
When planning to paddle, remember to dress for the water, not the air. You should always expect to get wet, and water temperatures often dip lower than the air. With that in mind, you should also take a set of dry clothing in a dry bag along, so if you do get wet you can change. Wear proper water shoes, not flip flops, and bring along a first aid kit in case of cuts or scrapes.
Know what’s out there
You should learn the hazards you could face while paddling. Things like strainers, sweepers, low-head dams and strong currents are some of the deadliest hazards on the water, so you need to know what to do if face to face with them.
Check out the DNR water trail maps to locate access points. The interactive paddler map shows real-time water hazard updates to give you a heads-up on the things you may face, or places to avoid.