THE AGE OF THE ARMCHAIR PADDLER
There once was a time, not so long ago, that if you were a “kayaker” it meant one of two things – you were either a whitewater kayaker, or a sea kayaker.
Either pursuit was considered rather serious and required a certain level of skill to be considered a safe and competent paddler. Paddling schools, organizations like the ACA, Paddle Canada, and the BCU became the place to go for paddling instruction. Focus was as much about safety and good planning as it was on paddling techniques. Instructors were respected for their knowledge, and their ability to pass on that knowledge to eager students.
Fast forward to present day.
Paddlesports manufacturers have spent the last 15 years or so trying to make kayaking more accessible to the masses. And why not? The more paddlers there are, the more kayaks, canoes and SUP boards they can sell. The problem, as we see it, is that the manufacturers have tried so hard to make the buying public believe that kayaking is “so easy, EVERYONE can do it” that there’s no longer any sort of corporate responsibility for people’s general safety.
Go into your local “big box” retailer and ask for one of their $299.99 special “kayaks”. See if anyone mentions the need for a lifejacket or PFD. See if anyone mentions the need for mandatory safety gear…. Think you live in an area that doesn’t require mandatory safety gear?? If you live anywhere in Canada or the USA, we beg to differ. Think you live in an area that isn’t well monitored, and therefore you can get away without carrying the mandatory safety gear? Seriously? What are you thinking???
Legalities aside, if you are out paddling without the minimum required safety gear, you are TAKING YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND YOU FOR GRANTED!!
There. Did I say that loud enough??
Here’s the problem, folks – people are NOT taking their safety seriously enough! Just because you bought a cheap kayak that is basically a floating pool toy, does not mean that you are not putting your safety at risk EVERY time you head out onto the water…..not to mention that folks are taking these floating pool toys out into conditions that they were never intended or designed for!
If we had a dime for every time someone made an excuse for why they don’t need to wear a PFD (“I’m a strong swimmer”, “I only paddle in shallow water”, (and my personal favourite) “I’ll put the PFD on WHEN I fall in the water”) we would be retired in the Bahamas by now! If you are a PARENT who takes your children paddling and you make them wear their PFD but you don’t, WHAT KIND OF EXAMPLE are you setting??? We see this far too often!
Did you know – our company policy is that customer will WEAR their PFD any time they are on or near the water….Do you know why that is??? Simple – PFD’s SAVE LIVES!
Just as disturbing is the trend away from getting kayaking instruction. People have been led to believe that kayaking is a reasonable safe and passive pastime and so therefore, taking lessons is not important….
Lessons, like safety gear, are unfairly being treated like an unnecessary money grab.
Every kayak we sell has a disclaimer sticker in it that says:
Sound harmless to you?
Paddling is not inherently dangerous if approached with some common sense and respect, but simply ignoring the risks does no-one any good. Consider your family, your friends, and the emergency responders who might be put at risk because of one poor, ill-informed decision.
Do some research, take a lesson. Invest in yourself and your safety.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” said Benjamin Franklin.
The more you know, the smarter and more aware you will be.
In North America every year an average of 1,000 people die while participating in boating activity.
In Canada from 2001-2006 the number of boating related fatalities was an average of 175 per year.
Of these 90% were not wearing a PFD or lifejacket.
Don’t be a statistic.