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American Paddling Association Issue 'Paddle in Place' Order

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Effective immediately, the American Paddling Association has declared a ‘paddle in place’ order due to growing concerns of COVID-19 expansion and contamination. "It was only a matter of time before we had to enforce new regulations to comply with the CDC and law enforcement.” said Richard Johnson, director of the American Paddling Association, in a digital press conference held last night for paddlesports media. The following are not guidelines but temporary laws specifically put in place to ensure the safety of paddlers and non-paddlers. Please read them carefully.

Still Water Paddling Only (Lakes and Ponds)

In order to ensure paddlers are in fact, paddling in place, all moving water (whether through waves, river flow or tides) is to be closed. If spotted on a river or ocean waters (including channels and bays) the paddler may be subject to a $150 fine and confiscation of his/her paddlecraft. Local and state law enforcement have been briefed on this new order and have been instructed to enforce strictly as current public safety may be in jeopardy.

15 Foot Rule

In order to enforce the ‘paddle in place’ order, all paddlecraft are subject to follow the 15 Foot Rule. Similar to the land-dwelling 6ft rule of social distancing, the 15 Foot Rule follows similar restrictions:

  1. To ensure safe social distancing while paddling, your paddlecraft must be contained in your allowed 15ft for the duration of your excursion.
  2. The 15ft rule is measured by diameter and not radius. Unlike the 6ft rule on land, the 15ft measurement does not have the paddler as the epicenter with a 15ft radius extending from this location. A paddler will receive an allotted 15' allotment circle of water in the lake or ponds designated paddling area (Example below).
  3. Any beginner paddlers will be required to leash their kayak to a dock or tree to ensure they ‘paddle in place’.
  4. If you have a boat longer than 15ft, it is banned until after quarantine and the removal of these orders.

Allowed Watercraft

As previously stated, there is a ban of boats over 15ft length as well as a few more restrictions that have been implemented to maintain safe social distancing and paddler safety.

The following have a temporary ban:

  1. Canoes
    1. All tandem canoes
    2. Solo canoes over 15ft
  2. Kayaks
    1. All tandem kayaks
    2. Kayaks over 15ft
  3. Paddleboards
    1. Mega-SUP’s (anything with a capacity of 2-10)
    2. Paddleboards over 15ft
  4. Surfskis
    1. NOT BANNED. All 38 of you that actually Surfski are not affected.

Allowable Paddle Strokes

The forward stroke and backstroke are temporarily prohibited, while bracing/rolling, draw strokes and sweep strokes are still allowed with the following restrictions:


Whether you are bracing or practicing rolling, it is important to always stay aware of your surroundings as these exercises can be quite athletic and easy to lose track of your movements. If you are practicing rolling, we suggest you slow down your roll as long as possible, staying underwater as long as possible. To date, we have no knowledge of anyone being contaminated while being capsized, so being underwater is the safest position to be in. Obviously, this may result in increased wet exits, but this gives you a nice opportunity to practice your open water self-rescues (since you are not allowed to leave your designated paddling area and paddle to shore).

Sweep Stroke

The Sweep Stroke is going to be your primary stroke to use during this time as it is the lone stroke where we have not put any regulations but instead only a couple suggestions:

  1. Minimize the amount of sweep stokes executed on a single side. If you perform continuous sweep strokes on a side, the likelihood of getting dizzy from the spinning and therefore breaching your allotted ‘paddle in place’ location is increased. So we suggest you perform no more than 10 per side without taking a break or switching sides.
  2. It may be important to switch sides periodically and systematically if you are looking to gain symmetrical muscle memory and growth. Sticking to the rule of 10 on each side will guarantee balanced lats, deltoids and triceps throughout these uncertain times.

Draw Stroke

To restrict the amount of movement in a paddle-craft, a maximum of three consecutive draw strokes a paddler can perform on either side is 3. Because of the nature of the stroke, which moves you sideways but parallel through the water, we have put in these restrictions to minimize the crafts movements so the paddler will not break the 15ft constraints.

Closing Remarks

Also, we want to remind you to always wear a life jacket, dress for immersion and take all the appropriate safety gear whenever you hit the water. Although there are new orders in place, that doesn’t overshadow these absolute basics of paddling.

In the closing remarks at the press conference, Richard Johnson, director of the American Paddling Association, concluded with, “Just because there’s going to be new laws in place, it doesn’t mean that we can’t paddle, enjoy the fresh air and seek adventure with safe procedures in place. After all, it’s April Fools.”

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