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Safety on the Water

By Greg Taylor

SO, now that we are dealing with this lifestyle-changing, pandemic virus lockdown, I’m hearing on the street and in the news that personal watercraft and bicycles are flying off the shelves. Go to any Walmart and try to buy a bike, or Menards for a kayak, or Dick’s for a canoe. These places are making a killing selling them. Tires and inner tubes for bikes are virtually non-existent. I know most of you who are reading this are highly interested in personal propulsion watercraft. So there is now definitely a fairly large new group of paddlers plying local streams, lakes, and rivers. We are now looking at a large potential group of people not following highly suggested guidance on safe paddling, such as not drinking while enjoying their easy going paddle down a wide beautiful river like the Fox in Illinois. I am not going to say it is not tempting, yes it surely is, but two things should make you think twice: first one is about as easy as the second one. First, I wouldn’t want to have to be forced into a decision-defining moment such as a strainer while inebriated. The second is just as easy. I am not driving home buzzed.

Newbies to our time-honored fabulous sport need a tremendous amount of training and time in the saddle to paddle safely. So while writing this article, I was unfortunately disturbed to open my Facebook feed and find a video of a man at Hammel Woods caught in a low head dam. Commentators stated, “he just wanted to go fishing.” Later I opened up Facebook again and a gentleman that I found I’ve met before at PSC training session posted an article about a family of six that were rescued from the DuPage River near Channahon on Sunday. Their rafts became deflated and they luckily found shelter on a tree in the water. Some of the individuals were found with personal floatation devices, others were not. Sorry to be such a downer during an even more depressing social disaster we are all having to live through, but potentially life-ending situations like this are absurd to be happening. I can only fear that they are only going to increase through the summer into late fall. The uninformed in our sport are also creating an unnecessary danger to themselves. I am thinking it is time to make it mandatory that people must pass a test and become certified before buying a canoe, kayak, stand up paddle board, etc. You need a driver’s license before you can buy a car. You have to have a pilot’s license to fly a plane. You need a FOID card before you can buy a firearm in this state. Anyone can discharge a firearm like anyone can successfully paddle a boat? Although possible, not the wisest decision without the proper training.
Editor’s note: IPC has been working with the WSF to address the issue of newcomers to the sport by contacting the big box stores to give out safety information.  Please see more about their latest work here.

The Newest Best Tactic for Reaching the Un-Reachables

Logo of Water Sports FoundationA small non-profit is making bold moves to reduce senseless paddlesports casualties

For more than five years, I’ve been trying to learn exactly how so many people perish while enjoying paddlesports.  According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics report, 613 Americans died while boating.  Of them, 167 died while participating in canoeing, kayaking, standup-paddleboarding, row-boating and on inflatables.  While overall boating deaths have declined for three straight years, paddlesports deaths have increased!  

By comparison, paddlesports doesn’t involve high rates of speed, spinning propellers, dangerous carbon monoxide or flammable fluids like its recreational powerboat cousin, yet horrifically, nearly one-out-of-every-three boating deaths are paddlers. 

With the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Water Sports Foundation determined that, of paddlesports deaths, nearly 75% of paddlers had less than 100 hours of experience (when level of experience was known) and the figure remains just below 45% for deaths where the paddler had less than 10 hours of experience.  

This information supports the theory that the majority of paddlesports accidents and deaths occur with paddlers who have very little paddling experience.  It makes sense, right?  More experienced paddlers understand the inherent risks involved in paddlesports and they mitigate them.   It’s probably also true that, in general, more experienced paddlers visit paddlesports pro shops, are members of paddling clubs and enjoy paddlesports media content. 

But newcomers to the sport who have not yet joined a club or subscribed to paddlesports content are nearly impossible to reach.   In fact, one recreational boating safety specialist refers to them as the “un-reachables.”

Over the past ten years, paddlesports has seen explosive growth, especially in kayaking and stand-up-paddleboarding.  According to the Outdoor Foundation’s most recent Outdoor Participation Report, in 2018, 34.9 million Americans participated in paddlesports.  This figure represents a 26.9% increase over 2010 participants, which were measured at 27.5 million.  

Much of this growth has been fueled by relatively inexpensive kayaks and SUP’s being sold through discount big box and club stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Tractor Supply, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco, just to name a few.  

Earlier in the decade, as manufacturers found ways to mass-produce kayaks at low price points, the big box and club stores saw an opportunity to cash-in by selling them.  It’s not absurd to think that many of these purchases were made on an impulse decision to buy and no research was involved.  

The problem is that millions of new paddlesports participants were fed onto our waterways each year with no instruction on safety such as, understanding the U.S. Coast Guard carriage requirements including the need for an approved life jacket, the importance of taking a safe paddling course or, simply understanding the inherent risks of paddlesports. 

For more than ten years the Water Sports Foundation (WSF) has been a recreational boating safety outreach partner with the U.S. Coast Guard and since 2011, the WSF has received more than seven million dollars in non-profit federal grants.  The funding is specifically designed for outreach campaigns that are designed to increase awareness of safer boating and paddling practices.  During the period, nearly 200 video PSA’s were developed and distributed by America’s most popular boating and paddling media companies producing nearly one billion media impressions. 

Most recently, the WSF embarked on a new safety crusade to invite executives of America’s top retailers to join the conversation on paddlesports safety.  On June 8, 2020, forty-four letters were sent to top executives and board of directors’ members of ten of the nation’s largest re-sellers of recreational paddlesports equipment including stores that you recently shopped.  They include Academy Sports & Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, BJ’s Wholesale, Cabela’s, Costco Wholesale, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunham’s Athleisure, Sam’s Club, Tractor Supply, and Walmart.

The letter was co-signed by five independent recreational safety organizations including the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), BoatUS, the American Canoe Association (ACA), the Life Jacket Association, and the WSF.   

The letter includes a supporting quote from Verne Gifford, U.S. Coast Guard Office of Recreational Boating Safety Division Chief who said, “Our direct-to-consumer outreach campaigns are changing the boating culture and in recent years they’ve helped to reduce the number of fatalities, but newcomers to paddling who have not yet joined a club, an association or subscribed to paddle sports content are very difficult to reach. Having retail partners that are willing to help inform new paddlers of basic safety knowledge would be extremely helpful for our continuing efforts to reduce casualties.” 

The letter goes on to share details on the number of America’s paddlesports deaths and then encourages the retailer to join the safety conversation and to help reduce senseless deaths.  See the entire letter on Facebook.com.

Results of the effort are not yet compiled as tracking notifications of delivery have only recently been received.  The WSF has high hopes that one day, representatives of the world’s largest kayak and SUP retail establishments will get involved and help develop solutions that avoid senseless paddlesports deaths.  The campaign’s internal motto is “Repeat Customers are Good for Business!”  With some luck and a little help from others, perhaps this will be the year that the trend in paddlesports deaths will be reversed.

For more information or to join the fight to reduce senseless paddlesports casualties, please contact Jim Emmons, Non-profit Outreach Grants Director at the Water Sports Foundation, 407-719-8062.

 

Recreate Responsibly on the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail

bow of kayak in waterDuring the past several weeks, we have been advised to get outside regularly for fresh air and exercise while abiding by public health guidelines and logical restrictions to our beloved public open spaces. As these restrictions are gradually lifted, let’s celebrate being able to freely enjoy the outdoors!

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes to our routines and limited our options as we navigate our day-to-day lives. According to the Emotional Well-Being During COVID-19 Pandemic brochure posted on the Kane County Health Department website, there are “normal physical, emotional, mental and behavioral reactions to the abnormal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Being outside can have a variety of physical and mental benefits and help us cope with the “abnormal situation” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we should always focus on our mental and physical health, we can’t forget about the economic health of our local communities! Locally owned businesses recycle a much larger share of their revenue and resources back into the local economy, enriching the whole community.  Support local restaurants and grocery stores by picking up a healthy meal for your trip.  Who isn’t hungry after walking, biking or paddling?  A visit to a historical/cultural site can be a nice compliment to an outdoor activity. There are many businesses and historical/cultural opportunities within walking distance of public open spaces throughout Kane County. So, go outside and give your senses a treat. Watch the seasons change; listen to the birds; smell the blooming flowers; touch the bark on the trees. Smile and laugh as you enjoy the benefits of being outdoors!

One of Kane County’s greatest open space assets is the Fox River. Not only is the Fox River a significant linkage within the green infrastructure network; municipalities have recognized the Fox River as an open space and community amenity by acquiring riverfront acreage and designing river walks to link housing, parks, forest preserves, shops, offices and restaurants in their downtowns.

Stakeholders along the entire length of the Fox River from the headwaters in Wisconsin to the confluence with the Illinois River in Ottawa, Illinois are developing the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail to provide suitable access for the public to enjoy quiet and active recreation, scenic beauty, abundant wildlife, and historical and cultural features. 

In addition to information about safety, paddlers can find printable maps of 14 segments of the Fox River; information about amenities and the over 80 access sites along the River, making it easy to plan a trip.

Consider a paddling trip on the Fox River, but before you venture out, please follow the six guidelines offered by the Recreating Responsibly Coalition:

reminders for safe recreating during pandemicFabulous Fox Water Trail Logo

News Release: New Paddlecraft Safety Effort Starts at the Water’s Edge

stop sign with pfd; always wear your life jacket
USCGA Safety Sign

Canoeists and kayakers may soon see a red safety sign posted at launch ramps and other water access areas across the country. The new safety sign is part of an ongoing effort to reduce the number of paddle sport fatalities.  USCG Recreational Boating Statistics show that, between 2013 and 2018, an average of 133 paddlers died each year – nearly a quarter of all boating deaths.  The vast majority of these paddlers were not wearing a lifejacket and drowned.    

The sign resembles a stop sign and carries a simple message – Stop. Always Wear Your Life Jacket.  “The purpose of this program is to remind paddlers that the single most important factor in preventing drowning is to wear an appropriate life jacket,” said Robert E. Kumpf, of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  

The Coast Guard Auxiliary, the National Safe Boating Council, the Water Sports Foundation, and regional paddling organizations have worked together to promote paddlecraft safety. For more information about the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s paddlecraft safety programs please visit the Recreational Boating Safety Outreach Directorate’s website by clicking the link.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard and supports the Coast Guard in nearly all mission areas. The Auxiliary was created by Congress in 1939. For more information, please visit www.cgaux.org 

Recreational Boating Statistics

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard has released its 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, revealing that there were 613 boating fatalities nationwide in 2019, a 3.2 percent decrease from 2018.

From 2018 to 2019, the total number of accidents increased 0.6 percent (4,145 to 4,168), and the number of non-fatal injured victims increased 1.9 percent (2,511 to 2,559).

Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2019, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 23 percent of total fatalities.

The report also shows that in 2019:
• The fatality rate was 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which tied as the second lowest rate in the program’s history. This rate represents a 1.9 percent decrease from last year’s fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels.
• Property damage totaled about $55 million.
• Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use ranked as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.

Where the cause of death was known, 79 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims with reported life jacket usage, 86 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety at Coast Guard Headquarters, cited one case in November, in which a party of eight in Indiana attempted to cross the White River in a 14-ft boat. Overloaded, it capsized sending occupants into the water. Five perished from drowning as a result, including a 6-year old child. None of the victims were wearing a life jacket.

“It’s critical for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life. Ensure that it is serviceable, properly sized, and correctly worn.” Johnson noted that sometimes victims had not fastened their life jacket properly, or had not replaced the expired cartridge in their inflatable life jacket. In one case, the cartridge had been modified, making it ineffective as a lifesaving device.

Where boating instruction was known, 70 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had not received boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards prior to getting out on the water.

The most common vessel types involved in reported accidents were open motorboats, personal watercraft, and cabin motorboats. Where vessel type was known, the vessel types with the highest percentage of deaths were open motorboats (48 percent), kayaks (14 percent), and personal watercraft (8 percent).

The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober.

“We praise our boating safety partners,” said Johnson. “Together we strive to reduce loss of life, injuries and property damage by increasing the knowledge and skill of recreational boaters.”

Choices on Where to Paddle

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-By Greg Taylor

According to an article in the Ozarks Independent, a 30-year-old man was probably caught up in a “hydraulic” below a dam on Lake Springfield on the James river in Missouri. From reading the article and a few others from other local news sources, he was fishing from a kayak he had just bought and may have gotten too close to the rushing water and fell in. He did not have a life vest on or the ability to swim and it was dark. I am assuming it was below the dam since fish congregate in the aerated water dams create. Unfortunately, humans are also attracted to that and may not understand the dangers dam water spillover create.

I know most, if not all, of you are considerably wiser than this poor fellow – that is one of the reasons you are reading this now. Understand risk management with boating, and you would not make choices such as these. I am sure your immediate friends would not either – that is one of the reasons you associate with them in the first place. You the informed and intelligent public are what I’m banking on to hopefully talk about some of the aspects of these poor choices among your groups to further the reach of safe boating and better choices in enjoying the rewards of our sport. Remember that exponential growth concept? One tells two who tell four who tell eight and so on?

I know you all understand the better choices to be made and you’ve heard this safety message before, as well as those within your individual groups, but there are those beyond your groups that only the people within your groups have influence on. Friends that hopefully will get it from them in a conversation because of this. If you get a chance, please find a way to bring this up in a conversation. You never know how far your influence can actually travel.

We all have heard stories like this one in one form or another, and it is a shame we must repeat them, but by repeating them we reinforce the positives of what negative risk management can cause. So please talk beyond us about this.

River is Up – Let’s Go! (No Don’t)

By Don Mueggenborg

The river is up. Time to go paddling.  Finally deep water.  Good current.

How often have we wished for good, high water on our favorite river? Won’t have to worry about hitting the bottom with our paddles.  The good current will make the trip fast.

Not a good idea.

  1. When the river is in flood stage, there are no banks. Those trees that are along the banks, are now between you and higher ground. If you should dump, you won’t be able to get you and your canoe or kayak to the shore.A few years back, my partner Tom and I were paddling the Des Plaines Marathon. Water was high and we were moving.  (We probably should have called it off, but hindsight is better than foresight sometimes.)

    We heard a cry “help!” We came around the bend and saw two people in the water hanging on to their canoe.  We got up to them and they grabbed our boat and we drifted.  There was no way for them to get to shore.  Finally, after a mile and a half, we found a spot for them to get out.  They were cold and wet.

    Under normal water, they would have swam to the shore and been out, dumped the water from their boat and continued.

  2. The trees can be dangerous.   If you manage to get your boat out of the main stream, with the water flowing through the trees, you can’t get your boat through the trees safely. The current may wrap a boat around the trees or wedge it between the branches. 

    Even think about it if you have a kayak. You can’t paddle through the trees because there is not enough room for your paddle between the trees.

  3. The current can be fast and tricky.   The water is often swirling in eddies, moving you to places you don’t want to be, often fast enough to throw you off balance. Fast current, water pushes you into the trees as you come around a curve. We are not used to having to react so fast or even how best to avoid the trees.As much as I love to paddle, as many hours as I have in the canoe, as much as I think I am a good paddler – maybe the best thing to do today is not paddle or find a place to paddle in the back waters with no trees.

    See you on the river – when the water drops a bit.

Water Sports Foundation Creates New Paddle Responsibly Logo for the U.S. Coast Guard

Orlando, FL February 28, 2017:

The non-profit Water Sports Foundation (WSF) announced today the release of a specialized paddle sports safety logo designed for, and approved by, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety. The Coast Guard has promoted its popular Boat Responsibly logo for many years, but with an extra emphasis on paddling safety, it became apparent that there needed to be a sister logo designed specifically for paddle sports.

For the past five years, paddle sports popularity has grown steadily and so have boating deaths related to paddling. In 2015, according to a U.S. Coast Guard report*, 143 paddlers lost their lives while participating in paddle sports. The trend of increased paddle sports deaths is causing concern amongst the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division and paddle sports safety organizations. This news comes during a period that deaths from traditional power boating actually declined.

Please read the full press release from the Water Sports Foundation, Inc. here.

Water_Sports_Foundation_Releases_New_ Coast_Guard_PaddleSports_Logo

And access the logo (JPG and PNG)

 

 

 

A Fabulous New Paddlesport Safety Brochure and Videos

By Sigrid Pilgrim

As a representative on the Chicago Harbor Safety Committee, I was sent the newly developed Paddlesport Safety Brochure:

http://www.canoekayak.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/WSF_Safety-Brochure-FINAL.pdf

This is excellent, short, visual and to the point. Since it is hard to print out in the format given, I tracked down the origin and suggested that perhaps it could be made available with each canoe/kayak sold. Little did I know the background and what a great surprise

Thank you JIM EMMONS, Non-Profit Outreach Grant Director, Water Sports Foundation, Inc.

A Division of WSIA.net; ACA Instructors and US Coast Guard.

The pamphlet idea was developed during a 2015 safety meeting that I organized with the USCG and the top six recreational kayak manufacturers at the Outdoor Retailer trade showing Salt Lake City, UT.  During the meeting, we got the manufacturers’ attention by sharing the raw data on deaths in America.  Prior to this meeting, the manufacturers had no idea that kayaks killed so many.  Next we asked them to help us share safety messages through their channels, both social media and marketing, like websites and newsletters.  They all unanimously agreed.  At this meeting, we discussed a safety pamphlet that could be attached to kayaks during production and shipped to dealers ready for consumers right in the retail environment.  The manufacturers all agreed to include them and in January, nearly 7 million (a three year supply) were printed by the USCG.     

I managed to get a commitment from NASBLA to help get this pamphlet shipped to nearly every state and territory — about 2 million copies. 

There have been a few articles about this project.  I’ve linked two here.

NASBLA’s Small Craft Advisory

Boating Industry

In addition to the printed pamphlet, we also produced an eight part video series called Safer Paddling, Be Smart, Be Safe, Have Fun.  The videos are all over Youtube, but you can find them on our partner’s website, Canoe & Kayak here. (The pamphlet also has a QR code directly linking to the videos). For 2017, we are producing a series of SUP videos and a pamphlet for SUP manufacturers to attach to the deck of the board.

New IDNR Regulations on Boat Liveries

Below is information that DNR has decided to use as the standard for boating safety:

“The operators of boat rental services shall offer abbreviated Department and National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved operating and safety instruction specific to the type of watercraft being rented to the renter and all potential operators”

Therefore it is NASBLA approved and specific to the type of watercraft.  The website for that education is http://rentalboatsafety.com/, and is on our site at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/boating/Documents/Boat%20Rental%20Services.pdf  We also have the American Canoe Association link on our website as well that people can visit.

Canoe/Kayak Rentals

The specific information pertaining to canoes and kayaks can be found here:  http://rentalboatsafety.com/canoe-kayak.php – the page that has the instructional videos and the test pertinent to canoe and kayak renters.

While there seems to be a conflict with the wording on the page “Approved abbreviated course for watercraft rental purposes”  (rentalboatsafety.com) that references compliance with the Illinois Boating Safety Certificate requirements (checking this out shows that it pertains to motor boats only), this Admin Rule does include renters of canoes and kayaks, too.

The idea behind the legislation is to reduce canoe/kayak accidents involving rental operations where often the renter has no paddling experience at all. It is supposed to work as follows:

  • when a person calls up a canoe/kayak rental place to rent a boat – the livery or rental business needs to tell the potential renter to go to the website, watch the videos/take the test/print out the certificate and then bring that with him/her to rent the boat
  • same day walk-ups can be instructed on site by watching the videos or taking the test