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Paddlecraft Safety

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.

There are lots of paddlers on America's waterways

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.

In the News

If Found stickers

"If Found" stickers are available from ANSC as item number 2004A. Flotillas may order 200 per quarter.

Reaching Out to the Paddlesports Community

Paddlecraft Resources

Paddlecraft Standards and Best Practices

Auxiliary and General Media Articles on Paddlecraft

Paddlecraft Safety / Educational Videos

  • Life Jackets Float. Do You? (YouTube) [1]
  • Rescue for River Runners - R3 (YouTube)[2]
  • Decide to Return (YouTube) [3]
  • It's Your Turn - A Defensive Boating Primer (YouTube) [4]
  • Coastal Kayaking - National Paddlesport Safety System (YouTube)[5]
  • Whitewater Kayaking - National Paddlesport Safety System (YouTube)[6]
  • Whitewater Rafting - National Paddlesport Safety System (YouTube)[7]
  • SmartStart for Paddlers - A Paddlesport Safety Orientation (Vimeo)[8]
  • Cold Water Boot Camp (NWSC)[9]
  • The Ultimate Guide to Stand Up Paddling trailer [10]

Paddling TV on YouTube channels

Sea Kayaking

Kayak Fishing

  • Kayak Fishing "Golden Rules" of Kayak Fishing (YouTube)[12]
  • Top 5 Shallow Water Kayak Fishing Tips (YouTube) [13]
  • Choosing the Right Fishing Kayak (YouTube) [14]
  • How to Re-enter a Sit-on-top Kayak (YouTube)[15]
  • How to Launch a Kayak in a Surf Zone (YouTube)[16]
  • Top 5 Kayak Fishing Safety Rules (YouTube)[17]
  • How to Choose a Good Kayak Fishing Spot (YouTube)[18]
  • Top 5 Off Shore Kayak Fishing Tips (YouTube)[19]
  • 3 Techniques Every Kayak Angler Should Know (YouTube)[20]
  • Top 5 Ways to Customize your Fishing Kayak (YouTube)[21]
  • Proper Technique for Paddling a Fishing Kayak (YouTube)[22]

Marine Radios for Safety

  • Marine VHF Radios for Kayakers, Part 1 [23]
  • Marine VHF Radios for Kayakers, Part 2 [24]

Story about VHF radio and a rescue:

  • VHF radio saves lost sea kayaker in Puget Sound: [25]

Paddling Tips: Float Bags:



Reading list

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.

The Kayak reader

  • Alderson, Doug. Sea-Kayakers Savvy Paddler. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 2001.
  • Burch, David. Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation. Old Saybrook: Globe Pequot Press, 1993.
  • Diaz, Ralph. Complete Folding Kayaker. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 1994
  • Dillon, Pamela and Jeremy Oyen, eds. Kayaking, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2009.
  • Dowd, John. Sea Kayaking, A Manual for Long Distance Touring. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd, 1988.
  • Gronseth, George and Matt Broze. Sea-Kayaker Deep Trouble and Their Lessons. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 1997.
  • Gullion, Laurie. Canoeing and Kayaking Instruction Manual. Birmingham: Menasha Ridge Press, 1987.
  • Hutchinson, Derek. Eskimo Rolling. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 1992.
  • Hutchinson, Derek C. Expedition Kayaking on Sea and Open Water. Old Saybrook: Globe Pequot Press, 1995.
  • Johnson, Shelley. The Complete Sea Kayaker’s Handbook. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 2002.
  • Killen, Ray. Simple Kayak Navigation. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 2006.
  • Robison, John. Sea Kayaking Illustrated, A Visual Guide to Better Paddling. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 2003.
  • Seidman, David. The Essential Sea Kayaker: A Complete Course for the Open Water Paddler. Camden: Ragged Mountain Press, 1992.
  • Snyder, Rocky. Fit to Paddle: The Paddler’s Guide to Strength and Conditioning. Camden, ME: Ragged Mountain Press 2003.
  • Wyatt, Mike. The Basic Essentials of Sea Kayaking. Old Saybrook: Globe Pequot Press 1990.

The Canoe reader

  • Dillon, Pamela, ed. Canoeing. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2009.
  • Foster, Nigel. Open Canoe Technique. Guilford, CT. Falcon Guide, 2004.
  • Jacobson, Cliff. The Basic Essentials of Solo Canoeing, Merrillville, IN. ICS Books, Inc. 1991.
  • Mason, Bill. Path of the Paddle. Buffalo, NY. Firefly Books. 1999.
  • McGuffin, Gary and Joan McGuffin. Paddle Your Own Canoe. Ontario: Boston Mills Press, 2005.
  • Ray, Slim. The Canoe Handbook. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1992.
  • Rounds, John, ed. Basic Canoeing. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2003.

The Stand Up Paddleboard reader

  • Burgoyne, Nate. The Stand Up Paddle Book. Lava Rock Media. 2010.
  • Casey, Rob. Stand Up Paddling: Flatwater to Surf and Rivers. Seattle: Mountaineers Books. 2011.
  • Marcus, Ben. The Art of Stand Up Paddling: A Complete Guide to SUP on Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans. Falcon Guides. 2011.

Paddling groups

Paddlesports events are great places to recruit paddlers for the Paddlesports America course and Paddlecraft Vessel Safety Checks

Keeping current

Don’t just take your lifejacket with you, wear it!

Contributed by

[26] Don Goff, N-PC Senior Advisor for Paddlecraft Safety