CLS Summer Youth Paddling and Water Safety Program


Purpose: Teaching water safety, competence while swimming in lake and open water, basic paddleboard, kayak and canoe paddling skills, beginning skills in singles and K1s, discipline around boating equipment, problem solving and teamwork.


Skills and Competence to be achieved in the program:

Open Water Competence: swim variable distance (head down), tread water, swim in weeds, open eyes in water, dive down for sand/mud in a low visibility lake, swim under paddleboard in deep water, take life jacket on and off in deep water, take bulky clothes on and off in deep water, basic water polo ball passing in deep water for leg strength and treading stamina.   With the exception of the K-1, every boat a student enters the first time will be entered by swimming at least

30 yards to the boat and climbing in.


Boat Handling: Boat handling discipline, there is a correct way to carry, launch, and store each type of boat.

Paddleboard siills: swim under paddleboard in deep water, fall off/get on paddleboard in deep water, paddling stopping and turning board, knee paddling, covering long distances, flipping and righting, turtling, duck diving,  “lifeguarding” swimmer while paddling and clearly learning the discipline of “buddy system”. 

Canoes: hold paddle correctly, fall out/ get in boat in deep water, paddle stop and turn solo and double, J-stroke, paddle straight, bow and stern commands, teamwork,  and responsibilities.

Kayaks: hold paddle correctly, use paddle to balance boat paddle stop and turn, fall out/ get in boat in deep water, cover long distances, paddle straight, paddle at controlled speed, line up and do sprint pieces, paddle stroke technique and proper body mechanics for powerful and efficient strokes, paddle different types of kayaks (recreational, surf skis, k1)

K1: Get in/ get out of boat in shallow water, balance using paddle, procedure for swimming tipped k1 into shore, flip k1, drain boat, paddle straight and at controlled speed, line up and paddle sprint piece.   Patience, relaxation, focus on paddle technique.


Sculling: knowledge of basic boat components parts and handling, hand placement on oar handles, row flat slide/ square blade, row forward, back, turn boat, stop boat correctly, row straight. (all done flat slide/ square blade).

All skills learned results in paddler comfortable and competent in the water, able to switch boats with other paddlers in water, competent in a wide range of boats, introduced to more advanced boats and able to enjoy the lake in a unique way to the county. 


Beginning Paddling:

The two-week beginner sessions focus on gaining and assessing skills and comfort in the lake, teaching beginning skills in paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing, and putting these different skills together to help students achieve a base level competence and safety in the lake.    At the end of a beginning session, a student who began as a poor swimmer should be able to tread water comfortably for 15-20 minutes at a time, has learned to relax and enjoy falling out of boats and climbing back in, and will have gained some skills manipulating lifejackets and heavy wet clothing in an open water situation.    


Advanced Paddling:

The advanced program picks up where the beginning program ends, continuing with water safety skills and paddling. The program delves more into technique, stamina, and strength  of the different boats, introduction and a certain level of competence in K1s, introduction to sculling, using paddling as a means for fitness (long distances covered, short sprint pieces) and learning how to use teamwork and problem solving in race-situations/ under stress. 


6 Session  Beginner Program Schedule:

Day 1: Assess swimming skills: Students  swim out to buoy and back (no more than 100 yards total). Bring students to shallow end, have them open eyes in lake water, dive down to retrieve sand and put on head, grab weed put on head. Move them out to deep water treading, feet-first surface dive to bottom, swim through weeds, throw water polo ball while treading. Then, depending on time, number of students, nature of group, etc., continue either swimming (water polo type game), show the types of boats in the yard and introduction to boat handling, or (if fewer students and they are competent swimmers) introduction to paddleboarding.


Day 2: At beginning of each lesson, begin with swimming. Make students swim out to buoy, then throw waterpolo ball while treading water. About ten minutes of swimming before each lesson helps students get used to/ comfortable in the water before beginning with boats. Teach paddleboarding: all skills can usually be learned in one session. Initially, students should swim to the boards, climb on, roll off, climb on and roll off.    After teaching basic hand paddling skills of propulsion, stopping, steering, and turning , either play a number of games with the boards (combination of swimming and paddleboarding) or take students on a long paddle stopping every once in a while to practice stopping, turning, falling off board etc.    There is a definite method taught in falling out of or off of a board or boat.    Student is taught to hit the water and recover themselves in a relaxed matter, to put a hand up to shield the head,  and then to take a deep exhale before trying to return to boat.     This prevents the panic response of jumping immediately back to a boat where other objects may be coming after the fallen boater, and hit them in the face or head.  


Day 3: Start with swimming. Teach either kayaking or canoeing. In both, begin initially with students swimming to boats to climb in them.  Have them hand paddle the boats to propel initially, fall out and get back in.   Go over all basic skills, and then take them on a paddle to get used to handling the boats. Make sure to cover proper boat handling (on and off the water) on these days.   It should be noted that a solid 1/3 of students will not be able to get into a canoe from water for a while.    They should be given  a few chances to try,  then encouraged to just get into shore and launch from shore.    Use those students to demonstrate how to get in from shore, there should be only positive encouragement  to do this and an emphasis to learn this over time.   Some students simply need to build fitness and strength over time, certain skills should not be barriers to this achievement.  


Day 4: Swim for 10 minutes. Teach either kayaking or canoeing (depending on what was taught the previous day). Doing an obstacle course is also a good way to enable students to practice skills like stopping, turning, paddling straight, falling out and getting back into boats.


Day 5: We usually take this day to practice all the skills we’ve learned. Start with swimming, then assign students different types of boats (make sure there are enough boats of each type), then take students on long paddle stopping at regular intervals to make them switch boats. Every student should paddle each different type of boat. Make them take lifejackets off and leave them with their boats. Then they swim over to the next boat. Leaving their flotation and swimming through open water (often through weeds) to another boat is a good way to help students gain more confidence in the water.


Day 6: On the last day, do something fun such as relays. Swim, then bring down all boats. Divide students up into teams, where there is one swimmer, paddleboarder, kayaker and canoer (or two). Teams rotate so each student gets to race everything. 



Advanced Paddling Activities:


Use paddleboards and pair up with a swimmer. Send paddleboarders and swimmers on a course, paddleboarder “lifeguards” the swimmer. When swimmer gets tired, they switch. Make sure paddleboarder uses proper stopping/ turning skills when switching with swimmer and instructor focus should be on proper communication between the teammates, and proper concentration by the paddling buddy on board distance from swimmer.    The board should be paddled to the rear and to one side of the swimmer, no closer than a body length and no farther than a board length.   This drill is good because the student will be tired from swimming when the switch is made,  and there’s an immediate tendency just to rest and relax and forget about swimmer in water.    Swimmer signals desire to switch by taking stroke on back and waving to buddy or call out “switch” then continues swimming.    The paddler paddles past the swimmer and glides so that the swimmer approaches the board from behind.    The swimmer grasps the board over the stern and either taps the paddler’s foot or says “go”.


The new swimmer slides off board to the same side as the buddy approached  and to the front,  so that any reaction movement of the board by the new swimmer  will be away from the fatigued one.    The new swimmer swims away, the former one is now the paddler and watches new swimmer as he/she positions on board and begins paddling.  


Same idea as above, but swimmer treading in open water. Paddleboarder some distance facing opposite direction. Swimmer yells “abalone” (in lieu of help) Paddleboarder must turn board and sprint to save swimmer. Must sit up and stop at swimmer. 


Take students on a long paddle into the middle of the lake (their choice of boats). Before turning around, have students jump out of boats and tread in open water for a couple minutes.


To teach K1s: Have students paddle around right in front of yard. Students will flip, and if they don’t fall out accidentally , have them then do so purposely. When they flip, they may take lifejacket off, put paddle and lifejacket in boat and swim boat in pushing it in front of them. When students can paddle around consistently without flipping (will take a few sessions) line them up and do practice pieces (paddling straight, consistent speed etc.) By the end of the season, make a point to simulate a K1 race.


On relay days, have one leg of a relay be swimming with clothes on. Make students swim out to a buoy, put bulky clothes and lifejacket on in the water, swim a distance and take off. Teaches problem solving in stressful situations. Another way to show this is to make students fall out of a boat and climb back on in race situations.     When students are problem solving, putting on lifejackets, removing or putting on clothing,  instructor should note students who, even in the haste of a race, stop to think first and plan what they’ll do rather than rush through things.    A good example is fitting a lifejacket, that the student first  loosens all strap adjustments before trying to put it on,  rather than hastily putting it on and trying to squeeze it around, or try to adjust straps blindly while jacket is in way.     Including these skills in a relay is an excellent lesson in thinking one’s way through an emergency situation.




A primary goal of this program is to teach water safety and should as a result be taken seriously. We had a number of ‘rules’ that had to be striclty enforced to drive home the importance of safety and also to make sure our program was safe for the students and instructors. For most people (not just students), water can be a very dangerous thing, especially around boats. It is our job to teach practices that make our program safer, but can also be applied in other situations and recreations on the lake.

Safety Rules and Practices for Instructor:  

·        Two people are present to watch students. One can be instructing, but one person should always be there with the sole purpose of lifeguarding.   Lifeguard should have a clear view of all students.  When students are diving it should always be one student at a time, and when falling out of boats, they should be doing so in the same field of vision of the lifeguard.      In boating only situations where there is no in and out to the water,  lifeguard can trail group.

·        While students are in open water, there should be some flotation device  within reach of the students.   Any students that become fatigued while doing swimming activities should swim easily to shallow water and stand to rest until rejoining activities, rather than resting on the floatation.   Floatation should be used where there might be a problem reaching shore.

·        Boats are handled properly, and boat handling is always supervised to insure this. This means that off water, they are carried correctly, launched and stored properly, and docked properly among the weeds when unattended in the water. 

·        Boats are handled properly in the water. No “bumper boats.” Boats should not be paddled around where students are swimming, and swimmers should not be hanging off onto boats while being paddled unless explicitly part of an exercise.

·          No standing on paddeboards unless explicitly told to do so by the instructor as part of a drill.   Standing on the boards is wonderful for a preview of someday learning to surf and is a fun skill for the students.     When they can stand up, boards should be at least two board length’s away from any other board/ dock/ swimmer.

·        Lifejackets are to be worn on all boats except paddleboards.  Much of the activity in the classes is in going in and out of water where swimming skills are very useful.   Students should swim enough in lifejackets to learn how to adjust their technique, but in the switching drills, students will use that as an opportunity to manipulate the jacket in the water, and place it back with the boat they left.

·        The instructor should plan and organize in such a fashion so as not to be shouting.    When students get into boats, they should have a clear idea where they will go and when.   Circle patterns in front of the yard are useful to have some students practicing while instructing the others.     Students who horseplay or will not listen to instruction will be disciplined by having them sit on the shore in the shade until the instructor calls them back.   If the student does not respond to this,  the instructor should talk to the parent and explain why the student will be removed from class, and the terms for them to return.