Paddlecraft Safety: The Coast Guard Auxiliary's Next RBS Frontier
Paddlecraft are the fastest growing form of recreational boating in the United States. The Outdoor Industry Association reports that about 17.8 million people participated in some type of paddlesports activity getting out on the water more than 50,000 times daily. With over one hundred thousand paddlecraft being sold annually, the US Coast Guard anticipates that by 2020 as many as 47 million paddlers will be using paddlecraft for touring, physical exercise, fishing, hunting or other activities.
With an investment of just a few dollars people can gain access to the nation’s waterways and therein lies the problem. Most of these paddlers lack experience. They overestimate their skill level and fail to properly assess environmental conditions. Worse yet they often lack the proper safety equipment and the training needed to use that equipment to stay safe on the water. Consider as well, the potential for conflict as this multitude of paddlers interacts with all manner of motorboats, sailboats, and commercial vessels navigating the same nearshore waters.
The paddlesports community has become an important constituency for the Auxiliary Recreational Boating Safety program. Unfortunately, the explosive growth of this segment of recreational boating has led to a disturbing upward trend in the number of injuries and accidents. The Coast Guard has found that canoe and kayak fatalities have been steadily rising for a decade. The sad part is that this loss of life could have been avoided with proper education. Most paddlers want to learn to how to be safe on the water, but don’t know where to go to get the necessary guidance and training.
This creates a tremendous opportunity for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Members can engage the paddling community through our Public Education, Program Visitor and Vessel Examination programs. Auxiliary members are undaunted by new challenges like this one. Although the potential audience is quite large there is little doubt that effective safety training and counseling will lead to a marked reduction in the number of paddlesports accidents and fatalities. Initially, the workload will be significant, but remember all of those paddlers have the potential to become members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary easing the burden of this new endeavor.
“If Found” stickers are available from ANSC as item number 2004A. Flotillas may order 200 per quarter.
Story about VHF radio and a rescue:
Paddling Tips: Float Bags: http://theartofpaddling.com/2013/07/07/paddling-tips-float-bags/
The Reading List is a compilation of print and web resources that will be of useful to instructors, vessel examiners and others involved in paddlesports safety. This list is a living document that will evolve as time goes on.
mailto:Don.Goff@cgauxnet.us/ Don Goff, N-PC Senior Advisor for Paddlecraft Safety