Paddleboarders urged to wear to wear PFDs

Courtesy photo

RIDGWAY  As stand-up paddleboards become more and more popular, Colorado Parks and Wildlife reminds paddlers to wear personal floatation devices (PFDs) when using this watercraft.

Over the last several years at Colorado’ state parks, more and more people have been falling off their boards and some have drowned. In all those cases people were not wearing PFDs.

“So many people see paddle boards as low risk; but if you fall off your board into cold water you can get into trouble very quickly,” said Kirstin Copeland, manager at Ridgway State Park.

On rivers or reservoirs, if a paddleboarder falls off there is no guarantee that the board will remain within reach. In rivers, the board can be pulled away by the current. In lakes, a board can be pushed away quickly by the wind.

The danger is amplified on reservoirs and ponds in the afternoons in Colorado when winds pick-up or fast-moving storms stir up waves. Water temperature is also a factor. Even though the weather has been warm, the spring run-off is just starting and water in rivers and reservoirs is only about 50 degrees or lower. Cold water quickly impairs swimming ability and can cause hypothermia.

According to CPW regulations, on any watercraft the number of life jackets on board must match the number of passengers. Anyone 13 years or younger must wear a life jacket at all times. Every kind of craft is subject to the regulations, including powerboats, paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, sailboats and sailboards.

In the last two years at Ridgway reservoir, four adults who were not wearing PFDs had to be rescued by park rangers after failing off their boards. In addition, two youngsters who were wearing adult-sized life jackets also had to be rescued. The ill-fitting PFDs did not support them in the water properly. Children must be fitted with properly sized PFDs.

“Anything can happen at any time on the water. So we urge people to be cautious and consider their own safety and their loved one’s safety while they’re enjoying the water,” Copeland said. “Please, wear your PFD.”

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