6 safety tips for paddlers

National Safe Boating Week is here! Compass is sharing important safety tips throughout the week and today’s is on the fastest growing segment of recreational boating – paddling!

Paddle sports continue to be the fastest growing segment of recreational boating, with more than 300,000 paddle craft, primarily kayaks, being sold annually.

Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and various other paddle sports are thrilling, exciting and fun. Paddle craft are affordable and bring their operators closer to the natural environment, two reasons for their popularity.

However, paddle sports present unique dangers. Paddlers are more exposed than boaters to the elements. Eight of every 10 boaters who drowned in 2013 were using boats less than 21 feet in length, a sobering statistic that shows the vulnerability of small craft, including paddle craft.

This Paddle Smart sticker can assist rescuers in finding those who are in distress and save rescuers countless resource hours.

This Paddle Smart sticker can assist rescuers in finding those who are in distress and save rescuers countless resource hours.

Here are some safety tips for paddlers:

1. Wear your life jacket.
Use life jackets that are inherently buoyant rather than inflatable. This makes re-entering a paddle craft, especially a sit-inside kayak, easier after capsizing.

2. Check the weather. File a plan.
Check the weather forecast before paddling and always file a “float plan.” Information on a float plan, including templates, can be found on the Coast Guard’s boating safety website.

3. Paddle with a partner.
Paddle with a partner or in groups. This reduces risk to an individual in the event of an emergency. Paddling in groups also increases the chances of being seen by boaters operating power and sail craft in the vicinity.

4. Dress for the water temperature.
Always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature. Wear the proper personal protective clothing, including dry or wet suits, when advisable.

5. Take a safety course.
Take a paddle-safety course before heading out on the water. The Coast Guard Auxiliary now offers the “Paddlesports America Course,” a four-hour, classroom-based introduction to paddling safety, techniques and safety strategies. Courses may also be offered by the U.S. Power Squadrons, state departments of natural resources and local commercial outfitters.

6. Make sure you can contact help.
A hand-held, waterproof VHF-FM radio or a 406 MHz personal locator beacon are much more reliable than cell phones. Paddlers who prefer to paddle in remote areas should especially consider these investments.

When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner’s emergency contact information and vessel identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard and other rescue personnel to respond appropriately. In the U.S., users are required by law to register their beacon to the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database or by calling 1- 888-212-SAVE. Other users can register their beacon in their country’s national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database.

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