COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) reminds boaters and paddlers to be cautious in windy conditions and to know the dangers of cold water with warming weather.

CPW says the best safety precaution one can take is to wear a life jacket at all times while out on the water.

“We see a large increase in requests for help from kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders during windy conditions,” said Kris Wahlers, Park Manager at Chatfield State Park. “It’s not unusual for paddlers to plan to stay close to shore, but get blown across the lake or into spots difficult to get out of when wind comes up.” 

Paddlers can get blown off course quickly, according to CPW. When this happens, it is difficult to return from due to headwind and waves. Added to these concerns is the loss of energy many paddlers experience when trying to maintain balance in windy conditions that make it harder to paddle.

It is also easy for paddlers to lose balance and get separated from their paddleboard or kayak. CPW states it is best practice to avoid being in windy conditions from the start

“Wind typically moves in from the west in the early afternoon, pay close attention to that direction and time to avoid being caught unaware,” Wahlers added. “If you do get caught, it’s best to wait for conditions to improve or to walk along the shoreline if possible.”

CPW gives warning to power boaters as well.

“It’s generally easier for power boats in windy conditions while everything is in good working order,” Wahlers said. “If they lose power, that can change very quickly.”  

Boaters are asked to make sure their boat is in good working order, bring plenty of fuel, an anchor if they need to keep from moving during a power loss as well as a paddle if they need to move. CPW advises that a good rule of thumb for anchoring is to have three times more rope than the water is deep. For example, 150 feet of rope for 50 feet of water. Not having enough rope will make it difficult for the anchor to set well and could possibly work itself out.

The heightened dangers of sudden, unexpected cold water immersion should also be taken into account.

“Anglers, swimmers, paddlers and all boaters must be aware of the risks of cold water,” Wahlers said. “Paddlers and any boater on the water can take precautions and prevent being suddenly thrown overboard, swamped or stranded in cold water.”

Sudden immersion in cold water can cause gasping, inhalation of water and hypothermia, resulting in unconsciousness or swimming failure as muscles become numb, says CPW.

CPW officers have noticed many individuals who overestimate their ability to ‘swim out of a problem.’ For this reason CPW encourages individuals to wear life jackets to help keep your head above water and support your body should your swimming ability fail, or if you become unconscious.