Safety Guidelines

The following guidelines are not race rules, but are designed to assist paddlers in understanding padding and etiquette.


  1. If in doubt, don't go out. Evaluate the conditions. Check the wind, currents, wave size and tidal reports. If in doubt of your ability to handle the conditions, do not go in the water. There is no shame in helping from shore, or turning around and heading to the gym or going for a jog. Overestimating your ability puts yourself, other paddlers and rescue personnel at risk.
  2. Try to paddle with at least one other person. Make arrangements in advance to have multiple people on the water during a workout. That being said, many people have their own specific training plans so please ask before you join someone or interrupt them.
  3. Tell non-paddling friends/family where you are going and when you plan to return. Give them details including the workout course, what boat/board you are going to be on, what you are wearing and emergency contact numbers.
  4. Tell your shore buddy when you return. We don't want to waste Search & Rescue's time on a non-necessary rescue call. However, if your shore buddy thinks you're overdue they shouldn't be shy about calling Search & Rescue. Search & Rescue would much rather be called unnecessarily than not be called when you need them.
  5. Attach a leash to your boat and to you! With winds that can move a boat away from you far faster than you can swim, it may be your only shot if you huli. Even if it's a glassy day, winds can surprise you and pick up fast.
  6. Ensure that your equipment is in good condition, e.g. cables checked, rudder in place, plugs water tight, etc.
  7. Wear appropriate clothing: hats, rash guards, etc. Brighter (fluorescent yellow, safety orange, bright red) is better, especially in the a.m., p.m. or overcast conditions. Large vessels cannot easily see you so make it easier for them!
  8. Drink appropriate amounts of liquid. Don't fail to plan for, take and use proper hydration.
  9. Be aware of "rules of the road" for boating. Leave and enter harbors from the right side. Since you are small, make sure that larger craft see you, particularly commercial operators. Stay out of high speed areas. Even though you may technically have the right of way, if a vessel cannot see you or maneuver around you it really won't matter!
  10. Be aware of the federally mandated security zones that affect Kahului Harbor, Lahaina Harbor and all large vessel traffic into and out of those harbors. Further information will be available here soon, for now ask somebody familiar with the areas. If you fail to observe the rules, you can be arrested, prosecuted, jailed and/or fined. You may also make it so no other recreational users get to use these facilities.

In An Emergency Situation

  1. NEVER LEAVE YOUR BOAT/BOARD. It is much easier to find an overturned or upright canoe than it is to find a single body in the water. Furthermore, the boats are designed to float and are your most reliable floatation device. Historically, in Search & Rescue situations, it's the person who leaves their group/boat/car/snow cave that meets the worst end.
  2. When Search & Rescue arrives, follow the instructions given by the rescue personnel. Rescue's goal is to make sure you survive, even if it means sacrificing your $300 paddle. Stay alive now, worry about your equipment later.
  3. Don't Panic. Sometimes even the toughest people panic in an emergency situation, and otherwise really smart people do seemingly stupid things. Stop and ask yourself, "Am I making this decision because it's the smart thing to do, or because I'm panicking?" Yeah, that sounds super-cheesy, but it works! Take a breath, supress your fight or flight instinct, you can do it.
  4. Positive Mental Attitude, or PMA. This is the very first an most important thing the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) teaches for SAR certification, and is the answer to at least 5 questions on the written exam (no cheating now). Again, it sounds cheesy, but it makes a difference! Even after you get past your instinct to panic, your mind is going to want to be negative and you won't think as logically. Don't be negative. Keep repeating to yourself "Positive Mental Attitude."

Safety Equipment, Gizmos & Gadgets

  1. Leash. Your leash is your #1 safety device. Yes, this is a recurring theme; it's that important.
  2. Whistle. Sometimes voices seem to travel a long way across the water, but usually they don't, especially when you need them to the most. Wind and waves can make it impossible for somebody very close to you hear you shout. A whistle can carry much, much farther, and you can blow it all day long without losing your voice. Keep your whistle on you instead of on your boat in case your leash breaks and you lose your boat (you were wearing a leash, right?). Having a whistle can also help you communicate with somebody else in distress, if they have a whistle.

    Protocol for whistles in an emergency situation is:

    • If you are in trouble, give three quick, loud blasts.
    • If you hear three quick blasts from somebody in trouble, give three long blasts in response, so they know you heard them. Get help if you cannot safely reach the person in distress.
    • If you're the one in trouble and you hear the three long blasts response, respond again with three quick blasts to help the responder locate you.
    • Keep up this three blast conversation until you are rescued.
    If it's not an emergency situation, and you're just trying to locate your buddy to discuss where to eat lunch (check out our restaurant sponsors), use a single blast instead of three blasts. Three blasts always indicates an emergency.

  3. Personal Locator Beacon. A PLB or EPRIB is by far the most reliable means of emergency communication. They are designed solely for reliability. The difference between an EPIRB and a PLB is that an EPIRB floats, but as such is usally a lot larger. There are a couple models of PLB that can fit in the pocket of your board shorts. Some people also tuck them into the thigh of tight-fitting paddling shorts (which has a side benefit of making your quads look really ripped).

    A PLB transmits your GPS location to a satellite that is dedicated to Search & Rescue and is monitored 24/7 by NOAA. There is no subscription fee whatsoever.

    Note that a Personal Locator Beacon is not the same as a "Personal Tracker" or "Satellite GPS Messenger." Those are cool devices but are not nearly as reliable. They may also seem cheaper up front, but there is usually a monthly fee so they end up being more expensive than a PLB after a year.

    The two Personal Locator Beacons current on the market that are small enough to fit in a pocket are the McMurdo Fast Find and the ACR ResQ Link. They can be ordered from or REI for around $250 with free shipping. Is your life worth $250?

  4. Cell phone. Waterproof cases for cell phones are getting better and more popular. A cell phone is a great tool, but remember, you can only call 9-1-1 if you have reception, battery power, and your phone stays dry. Also remember, in the situations where it's needed the most, it may be because you lost your boat (see leash rule above, but leashes can break), so it's best if you can have your communications device on your person instead of on your boat.
  5. Marine Radio. A marine radio is generally more reliable than a cell phone (but try to get one that's waterproof, there are a couple cheaper models that aren't). A marine radio requires somebody to be listening, but around here it would be rare to not be able to reach the Coast Guard or another vessel on channel 16.
    Marine Radios tend to be bulky though, so they are difficult to carry on your person, although having it on your boat is better than nothing. Some people carry them in a CamelBak.
  6. Life Jacket. There are life jackets that are designed for paddling, and they come in bright safety orange so you can be spotted in an emergency, and have pockets for you to store your whistle and easily access your gels. There are also inflatable life jackets that fit in a packet around your waist.
  7. Streamer. You can get roles flagging tape at most home improvement stores. Wad some up and stick it in your pocket or shorts. Unravel the streamer and you'll be a lot easier for Search & Rescue to spot, especially if you lost your boat.
  8. Glow Stick. If you haven't been rescued yet before it gets dark, a simple glow stick will help you be spotted. A Black Hawk pilot once gave me a tip:
    Tie a glow stick to a string. Spin it around in a circle (don't drop it). From the air, it looks like a huge glowing disc that they can see from milest away. This might be hard to do if you're in the water, but may be doable sitting on your canoe.
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