Are Lakes Safer than Saltwater?
In monitoring kayak and SUP online groups, one thing I hear a lot is.. “I’m not ready for saltwater, I only paddle lakes.”
Both can be safe depending on conditions and how you approach each.
Last summer WA State had 4 SUP fatalities on lakes in July. All due to no life jackets. Folks tend to let their guard down on lakes.
Some feel lakes are calmer than saltwater. In truth if it’s windy in a specific region, that wind will affect both bodies of water similarly.
Both Puget Sound and lakes have calmer areas depending on the direction of wind – such as protected areas below a cliff or hill (called the ‘lee’).
In Winter and Spring friends downwind Lake WA and get 5′ waves in Seattle!
Seattle lakes can be crazy in summer with wake and ski boat traffic. Armored shorelines means the waves bounce back and fourth like a bathtub. Whereas waves end and don’t bounce back at beaches on the Sound and there’s less small boat traffic.
Lakes are mostly warmer than the Sound now but some parts of the Sound like Warm Beach or the South Puget Sound’s inlets get hot!
For any paddle I use wind apps like WindAlert to get wind forecasts and real time data to help in planning my trip. I always wear a leash and PFD, bring tethered communication, keep within my skill level and file a float plan.