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How To Avoid Crowds When Paddling This Summer

Paddling is an activity you can enjoy in any season, and in most types of weather. With that being said, summer is unquestionably the most popular time to take your paddling vessel out for a ride on the water. It’s a great way to cool off, and the warm summer weather heats the water, making it refreshing to swim in and enjoy. The only downside to paddling in the summer is that once-desolate waters become busy waterways packed with other paddlers who have the same idea.

One of the best ways to avoid crowded waters in the summer as a paddler is to start your day very early. In addition to an early start, scoping out the area in advance can be helpful. Choose your point of entry wisely, and avoid the most popular launch sites if possible. Consider going on a longer paddling trip, as crowds tend to dwindle the further you go. Avoid low tide, as it shrinks the waterway, and ask local paddlers for their expert advice.

Paddling around a bunch of other boats can put a major damper on an otherwise great day on the water. This is especially true when you are dodging a bunch of first-time or amateur paddlers who can’t steer and are unfamiliar with the rules of right of way. The good news is that with a bit of planning you can usually avoid a lot of these headaches. Keep reading to learn some of the best ways to avoid those annoying crowds when you are paddling this summer.

Seven Ways To Avoid Crowds When Paddling This Summer

1. Start Your Day Early

One of the most effective ways to avoid crowds in nearly any situation is to get up very early. The early bird truly does get the worm, and this saying rings true for paddling as well. If you want to beat the crowds, set your alarm for very early.

Remember to pack your bag and go over your checklist the night before. This will save you time in the morning. Leaving early has many benefits. You can usually get a great parking spot, and it will be easier to launch your boat without a bunch of other people around. Just make sure there is enough morning light so you aren’t paddling in the dark.

2. Choose Weekdays Over Weekends

The summertime is known for vacations, but the vast majority of adults (and adult paddlers) still work during the week in the summer. This means the odds are high that paddling during the week is going to be significantly less crowded than paddling on the weekend.

If you are someone who has to work during the week, consider taking a half day, or squeezing in some good paddling after work, as the sun sets much later in the summer. If you must paddle on the weekend, remember early mornings on the weekend are going to be better than later in the day.

3. Avoid Low Tide

Another factor to consider when you are trying to avoid crowded waters this summer is the tide level. If you are paddling in a popular saltwater area, you should take a look at the high and low tides for the area. In many cases, the area you plan to paddle can be completely different at high and low tide.

High tide has several benefits. For one, it offers much more water, and in turn more area to paddle. This means the channels will be wider, and the bays will be larger. High tide also tends to mean cleaner water, which is always nice when you are paddling and sharing the water with others.

4. Select Your Launch Point Wisely

If you plan to paddle in a very popular body of water, remember that there might be more than one place where you can launch your kayak, canoe, or SUP board. The easiest to access is likely the most crowded, but there may be other less crowded places where you can launch your boat.

If you can find a less popular launch point then you can avoid a lot of the most frustrating boat traffic, including the inevitable traffic jams that occur when launching your vessel and attempting to dismount from it. Less popular launch points might mean longer paddles to get to your final destination, but the extra effort is usually worth it.

5. Scope Out The Location Before You Paddle

When you are planning to visit a body of water that is notoriously crowded with boats in the summer, it is often very helpful to visit the spot ahead of time. Visiting a new paddling location before you paddle there has several benefits.

Knowing a place is crowded or busy is one thing, but seeing it in action is another. Take some time to observe the paddling behavior of others, as well as the etiquette. This will make launching your boat and your first hectic moments of paddling a lot less stressful than if you go in with no knowledge.

6. Ask Locals For Advice

If you want to know the best way to avoid crowds when paddling in the busy summer months, there is no one better to ask than local paddlers in the area. Locals tend to become experts at avoiding tourists and crowds, as they are keenly aware of the peak and off-peak areas and times.

If you are visiting an iconic paddling destination, ask a local guide, or even someone at a paddling shop. Message boards can also be helpful, but advice from someone who lives nearby tends to be the most sound and helpful.

7. Consider A Longer Paddling Route

One last way to help avoid crowds when paddling in summer, the busiest season for paddling, is to choose your route wisely. In many cases, there are different route directions and lengths you can choose. If you want to enjoy a day of paddling with fewer people, then opt for a longer route.

Do your research on longer routes that are less busy. In most cases, a longer paddling loop will be far less congested than a shorter one. This is especially true when waters are filled with inexperienced paddlers, as many of them will lack the stamina or interest in a longer paddling adventure. Just remember to pack accordingly if you plan on embarking on a longer paddle.

How To Paddling In Busy Waters When Crowds Are Unavoidable

Sometimes no matter how early you wake up, no matter how much research you do, there is going to be a crowd when you paddle. Certain locations, especially some stunning European rivers near urban centers, are going to be packed throughout the summer holidays.

Just because the waterways will be crowded doesn’t mean you can’t still have a great time paddling. Remember there is a reason there are so many people choosing the same location as you - it’s a great place to paddle. Still, there are a few ways to ensure that paddling in busy waters is an enjoyable hassle-free, and safe experience.

Five Tips To Remember When Paddling At A Busy Location

1. Follow The Rules Of Right Of Way

When you decide to venture out into a busy waterway, you must follow the rules of etiquette and navigation. If you are traveling, make sure you familiarize yourself with local paddling rules of right of way.

Always paddle with caution, and keep a safe distance. Remember that even if you are familiar with the rules it doesn't mean that all paddling vessels have your knowledge. You don’t need a license to steer a kayak, which means plenty will lack navigation knowledge. Stay alert, and make yourself visible with bright colors and reflective clothing.

2. Secure Belongings Bring Your Dry Bags Along

Crowded waters mean an increase in sudden changes in direction, and it can even mean an increased chance of a capsizing event. Make sure you secure everything in your kayak with clips and bungee cords. You don’t want to risk anything falling out (including yourself) simply because you need to make a sharp turn to avoid an inexperienced paddler. Bringing a quality dry bag will ensure that even if things get wet, the important stuff will stay safe and dry.

3. Map Out A Strategic Route In Advance

Another way to stay calm and collected when kayaking in a crowded area is to map out your route and have a game plan in advance. This will keep you on track, and prevent you from feeling lost or overwhelmed around a bunch of people.

When you have a goal and direction in mind, you can tune out the chaos and just focus on your surroundings and where you need to go. Being prepared always helps minimize stress during high-anxiety situations like paddling in busy waterways.

4. Avoid Low Tide Whenever Possible

As mentioned above, it is always best to check the tides before you paddle in a busy location. If you know you can’t avoid a congested paddling area, the least you can do is choose a time when it isn’t low tide.

Low tide can make a congested area downright dangerous. This is because narrow channels can become backed up. Combine busy paddling traffic with currents, and you have a disaster (or at least a headache) waiting to happen. If possible, paddle in a busy spot during high tide to minimize these irritating busy and narrow passages.

5. Know The Currents

Sometimes it is simply impossible to avoid crowded waters, but there are ways to avoid danger zones. It isn’t so difficult to navigate waters with many paddlers, as long as the water is calm. Add strong currents, however, and you have a much more hazardous scenario.

Educate yourself on the currents. Know where they are strongest, and understand their direction. Try to avoid these areas whenever possible. When you can’t avoid them, make sure you give yourself plenty of space between yourself and other paddlers.

Summing Up How To Avoid Crowds When Paddling This Summer

The summertime is arguably the best time of year to take your paddling vessel out on the water. The weather is warm and the water is perfect. The only major downside to paddling in the summer is the inevitable crowds at many popular paddling destinations. Luckily there are several ways to avoid these irritating crowds in the summertime.

Try to wake up extra early to avoid the masses, and have a paddling plan and all your gear prepared in advance. Consider taking a longer route, as the further you go, the fewer people there are likely to be. See if you can launch your paddling vessel from a less populated area, and it might be a good idea to scope out your paddling location in advance to see how the crowds look in advance.

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