Inland paddling
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Jay Oram
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Post by Jay Oram »

Can you paddle in lightning?

I had a group of 10 beginners on a lake surrounded by trees and 20 odd sailing boats sailing on another part of the lake. we were out in the centre away from any harm - just wondered if when all the sailing boats got off and the instructor (who is older and has been a coach longer than i have been paddling) told me to come off because of the weather was the right call.

I personally with friends have paddled on the lake in all conditions, including lightning and have had no problems.

Whats the consensus - paddle in lightning or not??

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Post by TheKrikkitWars »

The risk of being hit is still astronomically low, but its all about your risk assement for that place and that day, a long flat lake raised above the ground (artificial sailing lakes) would give you a higher risk, but a normal sheltered bit of flat water ought be safe enough

Joshua Kelly

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Post by trickywhu »

you can do just dont have anything big and metallic hanging off you!

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Post by mole »

NO, no no no no no. Just no.

Lake = large expanse of flat. Paddler = sticky up lump. Not as bad as a dinghy but think about it eh.


Moles stay underground in lightning, much safer.
Sometimes it's just too much effor......aughhh

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Post by MadHatter »

Not to mention that center paddles tend to be large lumps of aluminium!

Jay Oram
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Post by Jay Oram »

But surely lightning would have been drawn to the twenty sailing boat masts, the lightning point on the building or trees around the edge before the floating piece of plastic with plastic paddles??

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Paul Stewart
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Post by Paul Stewart »

We get all users out/off the water where I work and do not allow anyone back on until the storm has cleared. The risk may be low but the implications high if you are unlucky - electricity and water don't mix well!

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Adrian Cooper
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Post by Adrian Cooper »

As Club Chairman I felt obliged to advise all paddlers to swap their carbon paddles for the club plastic ones. They were not impressed. Fortunately it must have worked since no-one was struck by lightning despite it being apparently immediately overhead.

We rescued a mirror dingy which went floating past in the rain.

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Post by Jim »

Yes, although I would probably have called it earlier.

Lightning works in strange ways, it finds the easiest route to ground which is not always through the highest object. Carbon conducts in one orientation and insulates in the other, a carbon paddle shaft has the fibres all neatly aligned making a nice conductor - you could well be an easier route than wooden mast, maybe even an alloy one. The other thing is that with several thousand volts to play with and the ability to bridge large air gaps as a result, it's not all that fussy about which path it takes and some types clearly take more than one path at the same time.


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Matthew Lomax
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Post by Matthew Lomax »

Lighting+centre paddles (metal)=you in court

It's not worth risking the clients and your job.
PS. Sorry for anything misspelled.


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Post by Matt R »

Carbon paddles will act as nice lightning rods, but to be honest, humans are much better at conducting electricity than air, and lightning has no trouble going through air, so your choice of paddles are pretty irrelevant!

A lightning strike will occur between a cloud, and the ground, wherever it can find the easiest path. Air is very resistant, so lightning will choose the shortest air gap possible, to allow it to get to ground. Which means it will strike the tallest object underneath that bit of cloud. However, you don't need to get very far away from a tall object before you become the tallest object, especially on a very flat piece of 'ground', like a lake.

Roughly speaking, if something like a building or a sailing boat is designed to conduct lightning to 'ground' (the water), then it will protect an area of a 45° cone like this picture:
So, if the mast is 20m high, you should be safe as long as you are no further than 20m away from it. If you are any further away than that from your 'tall' objects, you are just as safe as you would be standing on top of a big hill waving a steel tipped umbrella in the air!

some links on lightning:

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