If the attendance at my talk last Thursday evening is any indication, there are a lot of paddlers out there who are just itching to get out on the water and take a kayaking or canoeing vacation. The topic of the presentation was “Planning and Packing for a Trip/ Places to Paddle” and we had so many people show up that we filled the room and had extras sitting on chairs outside the door listening! I apologize for the cramped quarters. I know how to plan for a kayaking trip, but I have no idea how to guess how many people will show up for a given seminar. I only had five people show up for the last presentation on “Maintenance and Repair”.
While I’m thrilled to see the interest in paddle sports is still very high, a kayaking-related death just occurred in northern Wisconsin this past week. While at this time we have no information on what caused this recent death, perhaps we should be reminded to paddle in a safe and responsible manner at all times in fairness to our family members and the paddling community at large.
Kayaking and canoeing are not inherently more dangerous than most of what we do each day. Riding in a car is probably riskier than paddling a kayak. But instead of giving up our cars, we have learned to follow some rules and behaviors that minimize the risks associated with driving. There are also some unwritten rules in paddling that can greatly reduce the risks associated with venturing out on the water in small boats. Remember that it is your loved ones who will probably suffer most if you ignore these rules and become another boating fatality. Your fellow paddlers may also suffer the effects of reduced public water access and increased legislation designed to protect us from the sport we love.
Rule #1: Always wear your PFD, no matter how benign the conditions may appear.
Rule #2: Always dress for the water temperature since there is always a chance that you may end up capsizing accidentally.
Rule #3: Develop your skills, especially rescue and recovery skills. Canoes and kayaks are not self-righting craft. If you have not learned or practiced these skills, make this the year that you do!
Rule #4: Know the limitations and appropriate uses of your craft. For example, don’t go whitewater kayaking or sea kayaking with a recreational kayak.
Rule #5: Paddling and alcohol do not mix! Save the brew for after the trip.
Let’s make the rest of this paddling season a safe one!