Be Smart, be Safe, Have Fun - A Beginner's Guide to Safer Paddling
Paddle sport fatalities in 2016 reached a new high in the USA, up from a low of just over 60 deaths in 1997 to 167. Canoe deaths peaked in 2009 at near 90, and have steadily declined, whereas kayak deaths are now leading all paddle sport fatalities (American Canoe Association). The reasons are many. A decline in number of canoe participants is one. The most important factor is the sales explosion of low-cost recreational kayaks sold in big box stores and also by general merchandise retailers, whose sales personnel have little, if any knowledge of safe paddling practices. Furthermore, they do not share the carriage requirements and many unsuspecting new paddlers launch without the proper safety equipment, which often results in tragedy. The pamphlet idea was developed during a 2015 safety meeting that Jim Emmons, Non-Profit Outreach Grant Director of the Water Sports Foundation, a Division of the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) and former President of WSIA organized with the US Coast Guard (USCG) and the top six recreational kayak manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Salt Lake City, UT. During the meeting, kayak manufacturers were shared the data on paddler deaths in America. They were not aware that kayaks lead to so many paddler deaths. At the meeting, the companies were asked to participate in sharing safety messages through their channels, both social media and marketing such as consumer websites and newsletters. They all unanimously agreed to help. The idea of a safety pamphlet that could be attached to kayaks during production and shipped to dealers ready for consumers right in the retail environment was proposed. The manufacturers all agreed to include the pamphlets [PDF]. In January 2017 nearly 7 million copies (a 3-year supply) were printed by the Coast Guard. A panel of senior members of the paddle sports safety community including Pam Dillon of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and Chris Stec of the American Canoe Association (ACA) vetted the content for relevancy and accuracy. Mr. Emmons also had a commitment from the NASBLA to help get the pamphlet shipped to nearly every state and territory, which accounts for about 2 million copies. The City of Evanston in Chicago, has paddlesport storage and rental operation on Lake Michigan and requested over 200 copies to hand out to paddlesport participants. An 8-part video series called Safer Paddling, Be Smart, Be Safe, Have Fun was produced. In May, SUP MAGAZINE released a new series of standup paddleboard safety videos. For 2017, a Stand-Up Paddle boarding safety pamphlet to be attached by manufacturers of SUP boards is being planned. Emmons plans to host 3 manufacturers’ meetings at trade shows: (1) Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah (July 27); (2) Paddlesport Retailer in Madison, Wisconsin (Aug. 31); (3) Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida (Sept. 8). All manufacturers of canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are encouraged to attend. Credits for this publication and videos go to: Water Sports Foundation, Jim Emmons; WSIA; ACA, Paddling Instructors; United States Coast Guard; NASBLA; Canoe & Kayak Magazine.
Citation: Emmons, J. (2017). Be Smart, be Safe, Have Fun - A Beginner's Guide to Safer Paddling. In: Avramidis, S. (Ed.). Conference on Near-Death Experiences while Drowning (p. 22). Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA: International Swimming Hall of Fame.