Expert shows how to safely paddleboard after recent fatalities

SEATTLE - Western Washington has seen three deaths involving paddleboarders recently. All three men died after falling off their paddleboards; the most recent incident happened Thursday and involved a man in his 50s who drowned in Spanaway Lake.

Q13 News went to an expert on Friday to learn about the proper ways to paddleboard.

Blaine DeWalt makes the balancing act look so easy.

“It’s very quick to get your paddleboard from your car and get on the water,” DeWalt said.

The logistics to get the paddleboard on the water are easy, but Seattle firefighters are asking that you don’t underestimate the dangers of the water.

“Falling into the water can cause immediate shock, can cause muscle spasms that can cause you not to tread water safely,” Seattle Fire Spokesperson David Cuerpo said.

Seattle Fire says the water may feel warm on the surface, but most area lakes are often 60 degrees or less underneath.

“It’s extremely cold, especially in Elliot Bay,” Cuerpo said.

That’s one reason why DeWalt, who owns Ballard Kayak & Paddleboard Tours, will not let people go without a life vest.

Besides a life vest, experts say take a whistle and your cell phone in a waterproof bag.

Once you are on the water, DeWalt says always use the ankle leash attached to the board.

“It’s easy to fall back and kick the paddleboard away,” DeWalt said.

It’s hard to catch up to the board sometimes, and DeWalt says two or three failed attempts to get back on the board can lead to exhaustion.

It’s also important to know how to properly get back on the board.

DeWalt says always pull yourself up using the middle of the board and rather than vertically pulling your body up, stretch your legs out and get your feet on the surface of the water.

“So that way you can pull the board underneath you and swim over the top it,” DeWalt said.

You also have to look out for waves in the water and other objects you could collide with.

“There have been common collisions with paddleboarders with jet skis and boats,” Cuerpo said.

If you see a boat, rock or dock near you DeWalt says kneel on the board.

“You can hit your head and injure yourself in a fall so what we say is if you around docks, rocks or boats get back on your knees,” Dewalt said.

If you follow the safety guidelines, paddleboard experts say the recreational activity is relaxing and fun.