A man paddling alone capsized his newly purchased kayak on the Alouette River on Sunday, May 2. (Klamer Eggens/ Facebook)

A man paddling alone capsized his newly purchased kayak on the Alouette River on Sunday, May 2. (Klamer Eggens/ Facebook)

Pitt Meadows Paddling Club provides water safety tips for canoers and kayakers

Katie Stein-Sather says: know how to swim, go with friends, be aware of boat and surroundings

As the days get a little warmer, the many water features in-and-around Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows get more enticing to local paddling enthusiasts.

While it can be tempting to hop right in, a little respect for the terrain is in order first.

Rescues have occurred along the Fraser, Pitt and Alouette Rivers already this year, and while all have escaped relatively unscathed, that isn’t necessarily always the case.

Katie Stein Sather, commodore for the Pitt Meadows Paddling Club, pointed out some simple tips for safely enjoying the local H2O.

“First thing you do is learn how to swim,” she said.

“When I started paddling I realized I didn’t know how to swim well enough, so I went to take swim lessons as an adult.”

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READ MORE: Pitt Meadows photographer snaps cyclists helping capsized kayaker

She noted paddling, whether its on a canoe or a kayak, is better enjoyed with company.

“Ideally you want one boat to rescue you, and another boat to retrieve your boat,” she said.

“And it’s more fun to go with friends anyway.”

Knowing your vessel is also paramount.

“There are specific skills required with each different type of boat,” Stein Sather said.

“And you’ve got to know how to get it where you want it to go, just like if you were to drive a car.”

Being aware of hazards like rocks, branches from above (sweepers) and ones submerged (strainers) can be critical too.

“You want to be able to spot them, maneuver around them, and use the current to your advantage,” she said.

While some of the smaller local lakes are probably the best for beginners, rivers can be enjoyed too.

Stein Sather said the Lower Alouette is fairly easy to maneuver, but more experience is needed to float down the Pitt or Fraser Rivers.

“For the Pitt, the biggest hazards are boat traffic and the wind,” she said.

“The boats leave a lot of wake and they don’t see you or respect you.”

The experienced paddler said although she has traversed the Fraser River from Hope down to Vancouver, she prefers to stay off it.

Finally, she said it’s important to remember to pack right.

“You must have a (personal flotation device) in your boat. The best thing is to wear it,” Stein Sather said. “You’ve also got to have a signalling device, like a whistle, and a throw rope, as well as a bailer or small bucket.”

Have a story tip? Email: ronan.p.odoherty@blackpress.ca

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