Safety Tips: Getting ready for Manulife Paddle the Don

We are excited to be taking part in this weekend’s annual Manulife Paddle the Don! Swift Response will be on the water providing safety and response to any on-water emergencies during the event.

On Sunday, May 5th hundreds of paddlers of all experience levels will be canoeing and Kayaking down a 10.5km stretch of Toronto’s Don River in this annual event that kicks off spring in a very Canadian way!

Over the past 26 years, Manulife Paddle the Don has raised over $600,000 to support Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) restoration initiatives, which are of environmental benefit to the watershed. The fundraiser also helps TRCA educate and engage the public on the significance of the Don River and other watersheds in the Toronto region.

With only a few days left before this exciting event, we would like to take this opportunity to share some important safety tips for the 700 paddlers taking part in this event, and for those who may be paddling in the coming months through Ontario’s scenic waterways.

The best way to be safe is to plan ahead and be prepared. Here are a few things you should consider before you head out on the water this spring:

Dress for the weather

Not only is it important to stay warm and dry for your safety, it also helps to make sure your day won’t be ruined by the constant feeling of being cold! Check the forecast and and consider dressing with extra layers. If it's going to be a cool day, consider a base layer that will wick away moisture, an insulating layer like a down, fleece or wool, and an outer layer to work as a wind and rain barrier.

Wear your Personal Flotation Device at all times when on or near the water

It is very difficult to put a life jacket on once you are in the water, and it becomes difficult to also help friends or family members to do the same.  Especially in the spring when the water is still very cold, wearing your life jacket is essential. Even strong swimmers can become incapacitated quickly in cold water.

Bring food, water, and personal medications

Bring any medications you require, and if you have any medical concerns that could require support (such as an allergy), be sure to inform the person you are with. Paddling can be a strenuous activity, so be sure to pack snacks and lots of fluids to keep you hydrated. Sunscreen is also important - it’s not summer yet but even on a cool day it can be easy to get sunburnt, especially while on the water.

Consider wearing hand, foot and eye protection

Well fitting gloves will help with warmth, and will help to prevent blisters from forming.  As there are a few portages along this route, consider wearing sturdy shoes which will protect your feet against sharp rocks and provide ankle support, and protective glasses to prevent any damage that could be caused by tree branches.

Preparation is key to not only a safe paddle but a fun and memorable one!