Bad Paddling Press in USA Today

Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Biddeford Fire Chief Robert Fournier, right, consults with Coast Guard personnel before looking for a lost kayaker May 9. The body of Tim Gutmann was found that day.
Biddeford Fire Chief Robert Fournier, right, consults with Coast Guard personnel before looking for a lost kayaker May 9. The body of Tim Gutmann was found that day.
Kayakers have been getting a lot of press lately but not the good type. USA Today has an article explaining about how beginner paddlers are keeping the US Coast Guard really, really busy this spring.

So busy in fact, that John Fetterman who is a member of the Maine Marine Patrol and president of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators said, "Paddling represents our greatest risk in the recreational boating community. For rescue teams, it's become a huge drain."

"People go to big-box stores like Costco and Sam's Club, buy a kayak, and, boom, off they go," says John Malatak of the Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division. "They don't take a boating course, they go into an area that's remote, they don't know the No. 1 thing to do, which is wear a life jacket, they turn over and there's no one nearby to assist them."

With all this negative talk by rescue professionals, there is renewed interest in looking to stem the increase in Coast Guard calls out to kayakers. Many rescue professionals are calling for legislation to require kayakers to take safety/rescue courses.

Throughout the years the American Canoe Association has been opposed to mandatory education for paddlers. They feel that it would be similar to making everybody who rides a bike take a safety class.

I'm not sure what to think about it. On one hand, I don't see the big deal requiring people to take a 1-day safety course when they purchase a new boat. As an industry, we seem to always say that safety is our number one concern. If safety is so truly number one, wouldn't we want to make sure that new paddlers get educated and learn the rules of the road? Isn't that safer?

On the other hand, it would be very difficult to regulate. The only way would be to move canoe and kayaks into the same class as powerboats and require operator licences. That would lead to higher fees and make purchasing more difficult and renting nearly impossible. A similar example here in Canada would be when the government required operators of Personal Watercraft to be licensed. It made PWC operators safer but it virtually killed the PWC rental industry.

What do you think about the issue? What can be done so that kayaking doesn't get the flood of negative press it has been receiving lately?

More info: Kayakers keep rescue crews busy
Rescuers cite need to regulate kayaking

Biddeford Fire Chief Robert Fournier, right, consults with Coast Guard personnel before looking for a lost kayaker May 9. The body of Tim Gutmann was found that day.
Biddeford Fire Chief Robert Fournier, right, consults with Coast Guard personnel before looking for a lost kayaker May 9. The body of Tim Gutmann was found that day.
Kayakers have been getting a lot of press lately but not the good type. USA Today has an article explaining about how beginner paddlers are keeping the US Coast Guard really, really busy this spring.

So busy in fact, that John Fetterman who is a member of the Maine Marine Patrol and president of the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators said, "Paddling represents our greatest risk in the recreational boating community. For rescue teams, it's become a huge drain."

"People go to big-box stores like Costco and Sam's Club, buy a kayak, and, boom, off they go," says John Malatak of the Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division. "They don't take a boating course, they go into an area that's remote, they don't know the No. 1 thing to do, which is wear a life jacket, they turn over and there's no one nearby to assist them."

With all this negative talk by rescue professionals, there is renewed interest in looking to stem the increase in Coast Guard calls out to kayakers. Many rescue professionals are calling for legislation to require kayakers to take safety/rescue courses.

Throughout the years the American Canoe Association has been opposed to mandatory education for paddlers. They feel that it would be similar to making everybody who rides a bike take a safety class.

I'm not sure what to think about it. On one hand, I don't see the big deal requiring people to take a 1-day safety course when they purchase a new boat. As an industry, we seem to always say that safety is our number one concern. If safety is so truly number one, wouldn't we want to make sure that new paddlers get educated and learn the rules of the road? Isn't that safer?

On the other hand, it would be very difficult to regulate. The only way would be to move canoe and kayaks into the same class as powerboats and require operator licences. That would lead to higher fees and make purchasing more difficult and renting nearly impossible. A similar example here in Canada would be when the government required operators of Personal Watercraft to be licensed. It made PWC operators safer but it virtually killed the PWC rental industry.

What do you think about the issue? What can be done so that kayaking doesn't get the flood of negative press it has been receiving lately?

More info: Kayakers keep rescue crews busy
Rescuers cite need to regulate kayaking

David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

Site Sponsors

P&H  Logo Werner Paddles Kokatat Logo North Water Aquapac Logo Seals Logo