I think we will soon be headed for mandatory training and licensing for paddlers. Regulation and fees are headed our way. The potential for new taxes is too great for our governments to resist.
I feel inclined to blame the huge increase in cheap, short recreational plastic “kayaks” that are sold like sneakers at the big box retailers like Dick’s. I’ve said before that I think the explosion of cheap toy kayaks is not good for our sport. I disagree with those who say putting more butts in boats is a good thing.
I do not blame the paddlers, but rather the purveyors of these cheap ass boats. The manufacturers and retailers of these boats need to take a little more responsibilty for putting so many people on the water who do not understand or are not prepared for the risks. It is so unlike me to say something like that. I’m a strong individualist and believe everyone is responsible for their own actions, but I feel my personal paddling freedom may soon be threatened by the masses who take to the water too casually.
Its the manufacturers and retailers of these floating garbage cans that are profiting from this growth in our sport. I would like to see them held responsible, not the rest of us who paddle seriously with due respect for the waters we enjoy.
Anyone who doesn't see this coming .... well they will soon enough.
.... and double damn the kayker(s) proclaiming a new "PFD optional" paddling ethic.
okay then, I’ll blame the paddlers
got a canoe store that does downriver canoe rentals, and a nearby tube rental place on my local river as well. All the renters are given the safety talk and handed a pfd. On the river it turns into a bunch of a-hole drunks, no pfds worn, with few exceptions. Primarily the worst offenders are the college age kids of course; the families and younger kids are more safety conscious. Several drownings at my local playspot, as recently as last year. I've unpinned canoes, rescued paddles and 30 packs,carried hypothermic paddlers on my back to shore and given them dry clothes and a towel. It's one of the reasons my primary paddling season is thru the winter, when the competent, self sufficient paddlers who understand circumstances are out.
I also remember buying my first couple canoes, and seeing the safety warning stickers affixed to the inside of the hull. Wondering if the rec-yaks get these stickers as well? Of course spelling doesn't matter any more, so comprehension must be optional in present society as well...
Hey envyabull, on a lighter note, if you see a 28' blue sailboat named BLUE MOON (North Cove hailport)hanging off a hook in Napatree's anchorage, swing by and say hello :-). Actually keep her in New London now, but Napatree makes for a great weekend.
I respectfully disagree with you
Although I have been canoeing all my life, I like a lot of other people started kayaking in a little 9’6" recreation kayak.
When I started, there was no way I was going to put a lot of money out for something that I was not sure I was going to persue.
Did you happen to notice in that article thAt the two kayakers were “experienced kayakers” ?
Unfortunately with the growth that kayaking has experienced there are bound to be more accidents, and naturally they make news and with the news comes the outcrys from the non paddling community.
I thouroughly enjoy paddling by someone in a little rec boat and chatting with them as they are just joining our ranks.
My paddling partner and I have rescued several people who were rented a canoe/kayak, given little or no instruction, and then handed the paddles with a “bon voyage” at the put-in. We actually stopped one couple who were literally sitting in a canoe backwards!
Local companies have a resposbility to protect their customers from themselves, just not make money in rentals. And yes, alcohol is a factor in several of the situations that we have provided aid. And this is on a slow, slow river…
big box stores stock these boats because they sell at low price points and good markups for the retailers. When most people go to Dick’s, Cabela’s, etc. to buy kayaks they see rec boats. They are less expensive and touted as more user friendly than the “skinny tippy ones”.
In the exchange of dollars very little good info about boat handling and water safety are stressed. That is where one would hope personal responsibility to learn would kick in but it doesn’t always.
I would not however blame all paddlers who start out in rec boats (didn’t most of us?). Many newcomers strive to be better paddlers whether it be via instruction, safety-minded clubs or paddling with experienced kayakers. Some people self instruct and do it wisely.
These people either have a background of time on the water or come to respect the water via paddling. They are a welcome addition to the sport, whether they paddle that one rec boat or go on to diversify (either is valid).
Lastly, it seems that anything in this country that gets wildly popular inevitably gets dumbed down, which in some sense ruins the experience for those that truly love it.
…that some of us look to blame everyone else but the individual for his or her actions.
Devil’s Advocate Position?
The incident off of Wood Island in Maine last year involved people in better than rec kayaks, and with some time in basic skills work. They weren’t prepared for more serious conditions or to deal with a serious rescue situation, and heck only knows how you’d legislate that.
The folks whose only exposure to paddling is a piece of Tupperware from Dick’s and in a local pond - they really don’t know what they don’t know. You can’t blame someone for being a newbie. It’s also not fair. The majority of paddlers who have ended up swimming or worse in the last few weeks around here have been people with some paddling background who just didn’t think clearly about the state of rivers with a very wet spring. Similar to the Wood’s Hole guys - many were “intermediate” with just enough time in boats to be dangerous.
I’m not a fan of increased regulation, but stepping back a little, I see arguments for the other side.
I was struck by this paragraph - “Some maritime organizations, including the American Canoe Association (ACA), oppose mandatory education for paddlers. The groups say it would be akin to requiring everyone who rides a bike to take a class first. Experts say many people underestimate how easy it is to flip a kayak because the boats seem so simple and easy to use. But “it’s not just a sports activity, it’s a maritime activity, and people lose sight of what happens when you get out on the water and it’s cold,” says Christopher Cunningham, editor of the bi-monthly Sea Kayaker magazine.”
About the bike thing - after a couple of years of suddenly increased bike fatalities around here it’s getting harder for me to argue against everyone having to take a few hour bike safety course to road ride. Would I grumble for days on end if I had to spend a few hours proving that I knew this stuff? For sure. But given that bikes share the road with cars, who do have take tests to be out there, it may not be so out of line.
Paddlers aren’t so dissimilar - we share the water with people driving motorized craft that in some states have to take tests about safe boating and maritime rules. I have argued that it should be the case everywhere. So - it may not be very fair for me to argue that someone in a paddle boat doesn’t also have to spend time demonstrating they understand the same basics.
That said, I am totally opposed to this kind of thing as a revenue grab which is really what most of it is. And proving paddling skills would be difficult at best to manage consistently. But the idea of everyone having to show they have been exposed to the basics of safe maritime operation regardless of craft isn’t without merit.
Given the budgetary strain most states are facing, it is probably inevitable that they will end up finding a way to make more money off of paddlers. It may be worth getting into the fray to push for education rather than waiting for the legislators to do whatever they’d do, which is 99% likely to be awful and useless.
A little competence can’t hurt
It is legitimate to not want to be discriminated against because we are the new kids in the playground. We don’t want to be told that it is our responsibility to stay out of everyone else’s way. On the other hand it isn’t right for us to say everyone else should be regulated, but not us. We should all be operating within the law and in a safe manner. When I’m paddling around yahoos in speedboats and incompetents in large yachts, it occurs to me that there should be a whole lot more regulation of boaters. And it is unfair to say that among kayakers there aren’t a reasonable number of yahoos and incompetents. The distinction is that kayakers are not likely to run down and sink other vessels; we are more likely to sink ourselves. So if there was some level of education and proof of competence among all boaters, kayakers would tend to be the greatest beneficiaries since we are the most likely victims of incompetence from kayakers and non-kayakers alike.
Ask yourself, would I be safer on the highway if there was no licensing or testing requirements to prove some modicum of knowledge about driving laws and how to operate a vehicle? Should it be alright for a 14 year old to hop in a car and just try to work out how the whole driving thing is done? Why doesn’t the same assumption apply to boating?
Whether I am kayaking or bicycling I try to be courteous to other operators, but I also expect to have my rights and privileges respected by other operators. If we as kayakers fail to give way to vessels approaching from the starboard, or we as bikers run a red light, or ride the wrong way on a one way street, we are saying that we are not legitimate vessels/vehicles and are not entitled to be treated as such. I personally believe that bikers that use the highways should be tested and licensed the same as motor vehicle operators. I also think that all operators of vessels (and a kayak is a vessel) should be tested and licensed. There is nothing wrong with trying to limit the number of ignorant fools on both the highways and waterways. Clearly there has to be exemptions for children who ride primarily on the sidewalk and incidental use of small boats in shallow protected waters.
Traditionally the retailers and renters of kayaks have taken some responsibility for educating the people to whom they sell or rent kayaks, and that is commendable, but the efficacy of this system is bound to be somewhat hit or miss. There is no standard for how much information and training is given, and there is no requirement that any of it be absorbed. I think that is the government’s responsibility to require some level of competence by all operators of vehicles and vessels.
interesting point Celia
the parallel betw. sharing the roads and sharing the waterways is thought provoking.
It’s true also that operators of a PWC must take a test… and they share the same waters we paddle.
I am another big advocate/believer in personal responsibility, but to some extent we are all part of a society. What is society’s recourse when individuals consistently disregard their own responsibilities? Can’t just let them crash their cars or drown offshore. It often affects other people. And like it or not, fair or not, it affects the perception of our sport.
My view is that paddlers would be better served being involved in the structuring of any proposed testing or licensing. Not fun to do, and yes it will run contrary to the individualistic tendencies in the sport, but far better than having no say and having it imposed. Or waiting til it happens and then blaming and grousing.
I think back to the
other courses and programs the gov't has forced down our throat, although in this case I'm referring to my state of Ct.. One course requirement is the "Boating Safety course", which my son Aaron will be taking next saturday. This is a requirement for a "safe boating certificate", a requirement to operate any powered vessel on our states waterways. I took this course, actually a much more extensive one, 37 years ago, and this allowed me to get my certificate 9 years ago, when I was required to. I still see the same disrespectful powerboaters and sailors too. Drivers licenses?? Had a girl pass me in the 1/2 a breakdown lane last night, another tailgating while looking in her back seat for something, both in heavy traffic. I'm sure they're both licenced. You can't legislate competence. Laws and fees can't replace intelligence and common sense.
If all the mishaps lead to licensing and more cost to paddlers, the focus of your displeasure should be the government (your government) that jumps at any chance to regulate and collect fees.
People who tend not to learn how to do things safely and put it into practice will find a way to kill or injure themselves one way or another. Paddling, in some areas, is just a currently popular thing that has been discovered by many of these people. In my area, paddles or hulls aren't even required in many of the water-related accidents (inner tubes being quite popular). 'Course - we have all sorts of outdoor-related accidents around here, so one sport rarely gets singled out.
Years ago, motorized all-terrain-vehicles experienced a rapid growth in popularity. There were so many serious injuries and deaths (many involving small children) that the federal government threatened to impose bans and/or strict regulation, and many states threatened the same. The ATV industry's response was to offer incentive for voluntary training. That had a very positive effect - and while you can't teach those who won't learn, the accident rate was improved enough that the regulation threat generally subsided.
Maybe the paddling community and/or industry could do the same?
BTW - IMO, the justification for licensing and required training is the potential to do harm to others. That is why we license motorists, pilots, and guides. Idunno why that doesn't apply to power-boaters, but it should. It should not, however, apply to bicyclists and paddlers.
Liscensing isn’t a magic bullet
I wouldn't argue that. And many of the rescues that have occurred would still happen had those folks gotten a piece of paper because the issue was judgement, not knowledge per se.
But the born idiots out there don't prove that no one is driving or boating more safely thanks to some education. It only proves that it didn't work for them. You shouldn't be able to notice the ones for whom it works.
Also, I am hard-pressed to find this in kayaks or canies, but I think I disagree about the bicyclist not having much potential to do harm on the road. Yeah, a hit on the smallest Hyundai from my bike wheel will not cause the air bag to deploy. But if I ride unwisely in a highly trafficked area, around a blind turn, I could be the reason that a car swerved out and had a head-on collision with one coming the other way.
There are things that can be done
This summer our teaching group is offering quickstart courses with the cooperation of a local sporting goods chain. They provide the boats (and get advertising) and we provide the instruction for free. Anyone who buys a boat from the store is told about the courses. We tried to make a similar arrangement with the local Dick’s and they were not interested.
The article says that 27 people died for 12,600,000 people who went kayaking. While one persons death is too many, I would bet that kayaking would not rate as one of the more dangerous activities when the numbers are compared. I even wouldn’t be surprised if 12,600,000 people sat in an easy chair for 6 hours, the death rate for that activity would be higher.
I was refering to the competence
of boaters, but a little competence on the part of regulators wouldn’t hurt either. I will be the first to concede that you can’t underestimate the ability of the government to enact ineffective regulations, but the alternative of not trying to improve behavior is even less effective.
I also have trouble with voluntary, self-regulation by an industry that is financially dependent on sales of the product. I think the analogy with highway regulation is valid. Do you think the government should get out of the business of regulating drivers? Would we be better off if General Motors and Ford established the safety requirements for vehicles and tested their customers for competence when they bought cars?
Government has some legitimate functions. I don’t think we should dissolve our armed forces and contract national defense out to General Dynamics and Rockwell Aerospace, and I don’t think we should turn over the responsibility for boating laws and vehicle laws over to voluntary industry guidelines.
Yes, there are incompetent drivers who passed their driver’s test, but at least at one time they knew what the laws required and what appropriate behavior was; they simply choose to behave as if they didn’t. There are many drivers who do have a conscience and do conform to the law, at least more so than if they did not know what the law required.
Daggermat - Blue Moon
I will look for your boat off Watch Hill. That is my favorite paddling location, although I am mostly on the outside, around the lighthouse point and over towards Misquamicuit. Look for me in my all-white surfski.
on one of the other sites I frequent. Be interesting to compare…
very good & very telling,
Dick’s was not interested.