Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
Should you bring a float to the beach?

The day begins with the best intentions.

You’ve brought your inflatable flamingo (or unicorn, yellow duck, or inner tube…) to your favorite beach in hopes of getting some much-needed rest and relaxation.

You dive into the water, put on your sunglasses, climb aboard and lie down to sunbathe…

…when you suddenly wake up with a start realizing that you’ve gone underwater into open water!

Your swimming skills aren’t very good and you didn’t wear your life jacket or PFD, so you try to paddle close to land with your arms. But the wind is against.

You wave your arms, trying to get the attention of the people on the shore…

…until you lose your balance and slide off your slippery inflatable friend into the water…

For many park employees, this scenario is painfully familiar.

This is the danger we run when we rely too much on a float while visiting provincial parks.

Lakes are not swimming pools (and should not be treated as such!)

Floats can be great pool toys. Not so much for the parks.

Pools have ladders and steps, and walls prevent you from straying more than a few meters.

Lakes and rivers are unpredictable, with much (MUCH) more volume and murkier waters, not to mention strong currents, waves and breezes.

waves on the lake

This means that people with floats can easily fall to unwanted depths and/or fall off the inflatable.

Drifting into deep or turbulent water (especially in larger bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes) is a life-threatening situation, even for strong swimmers and life jacket/PFD users.

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Floats are not boats

We see many float lovers getting carried away by a False sense of security.

Yes, they float in water, but no, They do not replace the stability of a boat.

Think about it:

The odds of falling off a boat? Low (although not zero; wear a life jacket or PFD).

The odds of falling off a float? Fairly tall!

grandfather playing with floats in the water

If it tips over, it may not be easy to put the inflatable back up, especially for non-swimmers, children, and smaller adults.

And believe us, even for strong swimmers, trying to get back on the float in deep water or inclement weather conditions tires the body quickly, putting you at greater risk of exhaustion.

Besides, The floats do not come with steering wheels or paddles. It’s difficult to keep them on course or propel them back to shore if you accidentally drift too far or get caught in a strong breeze or current.

And floats aren’t tremendously durable. Have you considered what would happen if your float burst or started leaking? when you’re floating in deep water?

Float Lovers: Please Put Your Safety First

Across the province, we are seeing a sharp increase in floater-related incidents.

These incidents often result in a major “all hands on deck” search party by land, boat and helicopter, including professional search and rescue teams, regular and volunteer fire departments, police services and more.

Red sunset over the gray waters of Lake Erie

Many of those incidents end in tragedies, despite the best efforts of some of the best first responders.

Even when everyone returns home safely, these emergency situations are costly and tie up emergency funds and personnel.

Responsible float behavior

Even if you are a “pretty good swimmer” and have no intention of dipping a single toe in the water, you (and whoever is floating with you) should be prepared for the worst.

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Know your location and keep an eye on the weather. Inflatable floats are often a poor choice for Great Lake beaches, especially without a life jacket/PFD and/or for weak swimmers. Currents and sea breezes easily combine to carry your inflatable unicorn to a safe distance. Please make responsible decisions.

Woman standing with feet in the water on the beach.A sea breeze is a breeze or light wind that blows from land over a body of water. This is an especially dangerous situation regarding inflatables. In this situation, the further you get from the coast, the stronger the winds.

Wear a life jacket or PFD. You can save your life. Can’t swim/weak swimmer? It is a must. And even the most experienced swimmers can get cramps or feel exhausted if they swim without being properly prepared for going into the water, especially if they inadvertently float in open water.

personnel with PFD

If purchasing a PFD is out of the question, you can borrow one for free at 70 parks throughout the province as part of our PARKSmart PFD loan program.

And before falling into the water, Consider attaching a non-metallic pea-free whistle to your PFD. It is very convenient when you need to get other people’s attention in an emergency situation.

Stay in designated swimming areas. Staying within them is the easiest way to stay close to shore and out of dangerous areas.

Staff show buoys to family wearing life jackets (PFD)

Consider an anchor. If you have the option of a larger inflatable, an anchor is a great way to keep it from sliding onto the beach or going further into the water than intended.

For caregivers, Remember: Inflatables and life jackets/PFDs are not a substitute for full adult supervision. Stay within reach of your child in or near the water and keep BOTH EYES on him.

Again: put safety first

You and your loved ones matter to us. We want all of our visitors to return home safely after a relaxing day at the park.