Marine Officials Urge Paddle Sport Safety This Summer

Kayaking, along with other paddle sports, may seem idyllic, but it can be dangerous and strenuous. Durell Godfrey

Paddling is one of the most popular ways to get out on the water these days. The East End Marine Task Force unit, along with the Coast Guard, has launched an educational and enforcement initiative this summer to keep kayakers, canoers, and paddleboarders safer. 

According to the Coast Guard, 143 paddle sport enthusiasts died in 2015 throughout the country. In 2016, 28 paddlers died in the Northeast alone. 

The Coast Guard has partnered with the nonprofit Water Sports Foundation to push manufacturers to disseminate safety information. The two entities also teamed up to develop and release an eight-episode video series on paddle sport safety. Each video focuses on a specific safety concern. 

The following equipment is required for all paddlers, according to the Coast Guard. 

• A life jacket. The Coast Guard recommends paddlers use life jackets that are buoyant rather than inflatable, and ones that are brightly colored to increase visibility to boaters in power and sail craft.
• A whistle or other sound-producing device.
• A flashlight or similar lighting device, required if operating after dark.

The Coast Guard urges all mariners to also carry the following equipment, though it is not required:

• A waterproof, hand-held VHF-FM Marine radio. 
• A personal locator beacon, a compact device that is clipped to a boater, normally on the life jacket. In the United States, users are required by law to directly register their P.L.B. in the 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database online or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE. Once activated in a distress situation, the P.L.B. transmits a 406 MHz signal to the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System, which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world. 

A float plan should be completed and left with someone who is not going out on the water to assist with a search for an overdue boater. Information on a float plan and how to obtain a blank float plan can be found online.

The Coast Guard also advises against going out onto the water alone. Paddling in groups increases the chances of being seen by powerboat or sailboat operators in the vicinity. Paddling may seem idyllic, but it can be strenuous exercise, and the Coast Guard urges paddlers to learn self-rescue techniques and how to rescue fellow paddlers.

Operators are also being asked to label their paddle crafts with contact information in case they are found adrift. The operators of such craft must be considered missing until confirmed safe; labels help officials identify whether the operator is missing with the craft or has simply lost their board or boat. “If found contact” stickers can be found at retailers, Coast Guard stations, and State Boating Safety offices.