How to have a safe summer on the water

June 30, 2020

As British Columbians begin to plan their vacations close to home, many people will be excited to take to the water on the hot summer days to come. From tubing and water-skiing, to wakeboarding, windsurfing and boating, water sports are a fun and active way to spend your time. 

Before you set out to enjoy the province’s scenic lakes, river and oceans, be sure to read these tips to make your day on the water a safe one. July 6 is National Injury Prevention Day, and being aware of the risks of water-related injuries will keep you and your loved ones safe this summer. 

According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, there are 76 drowning deaths per year in the province, and an annual average of 38 near-drowning cases that result in hospitalization. The majority of these take place during the summer months.


Be sure to know your swimming ability, and stick to areas where you know a lifeguard is on watch. Be sure to swim with friends, as you are more likely to remain safe in a group. If you are going to be supervising children in the water, it’s important you know the first aid steps to take in case of an emergency. If you’re not a confident swimmer, many community centres run beginner swimming lessons for adults. 

Boat Safety

Know how to stay safe on the water before you even board your boat. 32% of water-related fatalities in BC occur while boating. Before you get started, check out Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide, which tells you everything you need to know about inspecting your boat, emergency procedures, and other important information. Find out the weather conditions before you head out, always obey speed limits and rules of the waterways, and if you are tubing or water-skiing, make sure there is a spotter on the boat in case you fall into the water. 

Life jackets 

Even if you are a strong swimmer, wear your life jacket when on a boat, canoe, or other inflatables. Be sure it fits correctly, and ensure that children are wearing a life jacket specifically designed for them. Water wings are not adequate safety protection.

Keep an eye on children

Whether you are boating, or spending a day at the beach, supervising children in the water is key to keeping them safe. According to the Lifesaving Society, supervision was absent or distracted in 92% of child deaths by drowning. It only takes seconds for a child to submerge, and strong currents can easily pull children into open water. 

Many backyard pool accidents happen when children are able to access a dangerous area. Pool fencing or barriers should be four-sided and at least 1.2 metres high, and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. 

Watch your alcohol intake

Alcohol and water don’t mix. Drinking impairs judgement, reduces coordination and can increase risk taking behaviours. According to the Lifesaving Society, alcohol was a factor in 40% of swimming-related deaths between 2009-2013. Never operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Be sun safe on the water

A sunny day spent on the water can be great, but protecting your skin is paramount. The sun’s rays are reflected by the water, so sunburn can be more severe. Be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin, and reapply every two hours. Read our sun safety tips here. Sunglasses and sun protective clothing are also recommended to reduce sun damage.