DENVER (KDVR) — If you’re planning on heading out onto the water, Colorado officials are reminding boaters and paddlers to prioritize safety. 

“Really since COVID, since 2020 we’ve seen the number of drownings, recreation based, go up in the state,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesperson Jason Clay said. 

According to CPW, 2020 set a tragic record with 34 drownings in outdoor recreational areas. Last year, 22 people died. So far, this season has started with worrying statistics as well. 

“We’ve had eight already this year including four in the last six days,” Clay said. 

On Sunday, two people died at Lake Pueblo after their boat capsized. According to CPW, neither were wearing life jackets. 

“A vast majority of drownings in Colorado could have been prevented with a life jacket,” Clay said. 

When out on the water in Colorado, children 12 and under must wear a life jacket. Anyone 13 years old and older has to carry a life jacket with them on the watercraft but the law does not require that they wear it. 

“A lot of people are experienced swimmers in a pool when conditions are perfect and ideal. If you get knocked off a paddle board or a boat into some very cold water and maybe some very choppy situations because of the wind that could shock you and alter your ability to rescue yourself,” Clay said. 

On Tuesday, the West Metro Fire Rescue dive team responded to a capsized sailboat at Bear Creek Reservoir. Five people, including one child, went overboard and were in the water.

However, according to West Metro, all five people were wearing life vests and were rescued. 

“It could have been life-threatening,” West Metro said in a tweet. “Ambulances provided a warm, dry place for everyone to recover and get checked out while dive team members recovered the sailboat.”

It is unclear what caused the boat to capsize. 

CPW also urges boaters, paddlers, kayakers, and swimmers to “know before you go”. 

“That’s doing your research ahead of time. What activity are you looking to get into and what safety equipment, what required equipment, what locations can you go and have a successful outing on the water,” Clay said. 

A common mistake is not paying attention to the weather. Storms and wind can make it difficult for paddlers to make it back to shore and can cause watercraft to overturn. 

“Conditions might not be the same where you live compared to where you’re going,” Clay said. 

Some recreational boaters and paddlers also get in trouble attempting to operate a watercraft on a body of water beyond their skill level. For example, navigating the water at Chatfield Reservoir is less complicated than at an alpine lake or mountain reservoir. 

“Spinney Mountain and Eleven Mile, in particular, you have strong winds that roll through South Park and so those aren’t the places to really go if you are not experienced,” Clay said. 

With a long summer season still ahead, he urges Coloradans and their visitors to be as safe as possible in and around the water. 

CPW does offer boater safety courses. 

“We’re getting into June here, just about, and it’s a time when a lot of people want to get out and spend time on the water and there’s nothing wrong with that we just want people to get out there and do it safely,” Clay said.