Northern Michigan is starting to see warmer air temperature and while the water looks tempting, Paddle Antrim warns paddlers to take precautions to protect themselves from heightened dangers of sudden, unexpected cold water immersion while on early season paddling outings.

While spring is in the air and outside temperatures are warming, lake temperatures are much cooler, with Grand Traverse Bay currently only 40 degrees. When water temperatures are below 70 degrees, paddlers should wear a wetsuit or a full immersion drysuit with insulating layers. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause gasping and inhalation of water and hypothermia, resulting in unconsciousness or swimming failure as muscles become numb. Wearing a life jacket may keep your head above water and support your body should your swimming ability fail or you become unconscious.

“We encourage people to get out and enjoy the water but we also want to make sure people are safe at all times,” says Paddle Antrim Executive Director, Deana Jerdee. “While no one is ever expecting to fall in while paddling, it happens and paddlers need to dress for being in the water, not for the air temperature.” 

Cold water claims the lives of experienced and inexperienced paddlers each year. Please take the extra precautions to ensure your safety. Here are the five steps paddlers need to take before heading out on the water for any period of time: 

  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket. Simply stated, life jackets save lives;
  • Dress for the water temperature;
  • Avoid boating alone and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Have a cell phone or VHF radio accessible, in a watertight bag, should you need to call for help;
  • Carry essential safety gear, signaling devices and whistles; and
  • Refrain from using alcohol.