Safe Paddling During the Pandemic

Alan Bergman – If you’ve already returned to paddling – kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding – or, just really, really yearning to get back on the water, you’re hardly alone!

Locales across the country have witnessed a huge uptick in the number of people venturing outdoors, even with social distancing guidelines in place.  Whether on land or water, people want to be outside communing with nature and need to feel safe and secure doing so.

National health experts are not telling people to avoid exercising outdoors – even if under a shelter-in-place edict.  They are well aware of how important physical activity is to our well-being.

In fact, across the big pond, in jolly ol’ England (which has experienced a high incidence of COVID-19), Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urging Brits to get outside.  His office issued the following statement:  “It is very important for people’s mental and physical well-being that they should be able to go out and exercise if they possibly can.”

We couldn’t agree more.


Here, in the beautiful Lakes Region of New Hampshire, we are proactively responding to COVID-19.  All rental equipment – from paddles to kayaks to standup paddle boards – are disinfected according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines; and, on-line reservations and delivery of equipment can be accomplished with zero direct contact.  Our staff wear masks and we’ve moved our rental operations outside to minimize access to our store.

We are doing everything that we can to make your rental experience, and your time on the water, as risk-free, hassle-free and enjoyable as possible.  Paddling is the perfect opportunity to shed some anxiety and worry, while simultaneously getting some exercise, and we are fully committed to helping the local paddling community achieve this.


One question on many paddlers’ minds is . . . to mask or not to mask?  The CDC recommends wearing face coverings in public settings.  Paddlers should determine just how public a place the entrance to any waterway is, be it dock, beach, or boat ramp.  It is probably smartest to arrive prepared, whether launching individually or as a group, with a mask available for each paddler.  At the Wild Meadow launch point, we ask paddlers to mask until they are on the water.

Paddlers who do expect to come in to close contact with others should be masked accordingly.  As far as wearing a mask while on the water, again, this needs to be an individual decision, based on prudence and common-sense.

It could prove annoying wearing a mask on sweltering days, as it may make breathing a little more of a chore.  Again, plan and pace yourself accordingly.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, up to 50% of the population who have the virus may be asymptomatic.  Thus, paddlers who feel absolutely fine, could still possibly spread the disease to others they come into contact with … whether at the launch site or even on the water.


Generally speaking, staying a minimum of six feet apart is not terribly challenging when out for a paddle.  It is just a matter of staying conscious of this distance.

However, there are two social distancing situations to be aware of.

As mentioned above, care should be taken to not congregate at the launch or put-in site.  A “suitable” amount of time/distance should be allocated for each person to get their paddle craft into the water, preferably alone, and successfully launched.

Secondly, tandem kayaks or two individuals in a canoe put the two paddlers in rather close proximity to one another.  A tandem trip should be avoided, at this time, unless the two paddlers are family members and or have been living together.


Wilderness Systems, a long-time supplier to Wild Meadow Paddlesports and one of the premier kayak manufacturers in the U.S., has compiled the following list of guidelines for paddling during the Pandemic.  Many of these apply to paddling throughout the year, not just now during this health crisis.

  • Abide by all instructions, regulations and restrictions from international, national and local authorities.
  • Keep paddle distances short.
  • Keep at least 6-feet distance from others, on and off the water.
  • Avoid crowds and take turns at put-ins and take-outs.
  • Plan your route appropriately and be mindful of conditions, weather, etc.
  • Bring and wear the appropriate safety gear and clothing.
  • Bring a charged cell phone or communications device.
  • Inform someone where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Upon returning, make sure to clean gear, clothes and yourselves.

Go paddle, be safe and cautious and have a fantastic time out there!!