Lightning strikes down more people than tornadoes, snowstorms and hurricanes and remains a top offender in storm-related deaths. According to Environment Canada, nine to 10 people are killed and 92 to 164 are severely injured by lightning in Canada each year. And if you’re a guy, the stats don’t point in your favour. NASA says you’re four times more likely to be struck. So here’s how to avoid this 27,760°C bolt and survive a lightning storm.

5 tips to survive a lightning storm

1 Get off the water

Head to shore as soon as you see a flash of lightning or hear a rumble of thunder.

2 Stay low

Avoid being the tallest thing around. Stay away from tall trees, hilltops, cliffs, open water and caves. Find a level spot of terrain.

3 Assume the position

Adopt the lightning ready position. Crouch down with your feet close together, preferably on an insulated Therm-a-Rest or PFD, to wait out the storm.

lightning strikes along the edge of a water body
Know what to do when lightning strikes. | Feature photo: Raychel Sanner/Unsplash

4 Avoid metal

Remove any jewellery and stay away from metal objects—this is not the time to be fiddling with aluminum tent poles.

5 Keep your distance

If you’re in a group, spread out—it’s your best chance of survival.

Cover of Canoeroots Magazine Early Summer 2010 issueThis article was first published in the Early Summer 2010 issue of Canoeroots Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

Know what to do when lightning strikes. | Feature photo: Raychel Sanner/Unsplash



  1. Of course, if you get off the river, you’re likely to be surrounded by those tall trees. That’s why we stay on the water and paddle in “the cone of safety”: 45° from the tallest trees to the water about covers it.


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