Safety is job number one
As evidenced by this report, safety has taken hold in the industry,
as reports of injuries and fatalities have risen in the mass
media. To this end, both industry groups and the United States
Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary have stepped up their
efforts to reach out to this extremely large and diverse group
of [paddle-] boaters, and stress the need for boating education.
Another trade association, TAPS - the Trade
Association of Paddlesports, has created a series
of guidelines. These guidelines relate to operators, retail
and touring establishments and give advice on everything from
lesson plans and areas that should be taught and/or covered
during operator instruction to the types of equipment that should
be provided by rental companies.
Safety is big business. On a review of available on-line versions
of Paddlesport Magazines, safety is definitely given its due.
In every picture shown, a padldler is wearing a PFD. In one
from the Feburary/March 2002 issue to the April/May 2003 issue,
a total of sixteen (16) different articles appeared that were
related to some aspect of safety.
On a search of Canoe
& Kayak Magazine web site, thirty articles
appeared when searching for the term “safety”. Articles
run the gamut from properly choosing the right paddle to first
aid and safety signals.
Given the logarithmic explosion of the paddlesports, recreational
boating safety, specifically education has become paramount.
How many paddlers go paddling without a PFD? How many go without
any means of attracting attention, should they get in trouble
(signal mirror, whistle)?
More importantly, how many of these boaters know, care or realize
that they should, that they are boaters and need to know about
navigation, safety equipment, and rules of the road? This is
why the Coast Guard Auxiliary, through its Boating Department
has stepped up efforts to educate these “non-traditional”
Just as the United Safe Boating Institute (www.usbi.org), an
association of boating organizations, (the US Coast Guard &
Auxiliary, US and Canadian Power Squadrons, the Red Cross, NASBLA,
and US Sail) has targeted such diverse boating groups as Safe
Boating Tips for Anglers, Hunters & Campers
pamphlets, the paddlesport industry needs to band
together with the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary and
offer such educational opportunities.
Recently, I attended the New York Boat Show, where over 225
vendors displayed their wares. What was missing from this show
was a concerted educational effort to include these “non-traditional”
boaters. Educational material abounded at the Auxiliary and
Power Squadrons displays, as well as the law enforcement displays.
However, even the Auxiliary and Power Squadron have no literature
that specifically targets this large group of boaters. Although
the New York Boat Show had only a few vendors showcasing canoes
and/or kayaks, they too, had no educational brochures on paddlesport
Worse of all, missing from every vendor was some type of hand
out extolling the needs for their customers, new and old to
become better, more knowledgeable and safer boaters.
While brochures, pamphlets, and other traditional methods of
getting any message out, is still an important part of outreach,
the Paddlesport market place needs a change in paradigm, at
least in as marketing of the recreational boating safety message
goes. The reasons are part in parcel of the sport.
Traditional boating starts at one of several places. The boat
ramp. The marina. The waterfront dock. Paddleboaters start -
well frankly anyplace they want. The portability of both kayaks
and canoes, as well as inflatable rafts, make them relatively
easy to transport.
The inaccessible beach front., the small lake or stream - these
are all areas where a Paddleboater may well begin his or her
journey. This is not, for the most part, where we, as an industry,
attempt to reach. Other traditional methods, for the most part,
also don’t reach this marketplace.
Examples that fail us with this large number of boaters are
trips to the boat store, the gas pumps, and state boater’s
registration office. In fact, this group of boaters - boats
without propulsion, is exempt from boating registration and
licensing laws in many states.
Fortunately, there are ways to reach this wide audience. Again,
with a little leg work on the Internet, we can find large numbers
of local organizations geared toward the Paddlesport marketplace.
We find, what is in effect, their version of the “traditional”
Canoe & Kayak Magazine, for instance
lists thirteen clubs, from the ACA to the Washington
Water Trails Association. They also have a partial
listing of approximately 50 clubs sorted via the States. A little
more searching and you’ll also find clubs listed on the
ACA web site. Wavelengths Magazine lists 91 clubs in the US,
and 44 in Canada.
Outreach is possible, and it is incumbent upon all the members
of the Recreational Boating Safety community to reach these
boaters. USCG statistics for 2002 provide a backdrop of why
further outreach and education is necessary. In 2002, it was
reported that 113 people lost their lives on Paddleboats (kayak,
canoe and rowboats), with another 85 injuries reported. While,
the Coast Guard reports an improvement in kayak/canoe safety,
most of the deaths occurred from drowning.
According the study issued by the ACA, 74% of the 399 fatalities
based on data from 1996 – 2000, were not wearing life
jackets (PFD’s). In 2002, if we were to apply this same
percentage, 83 people died, simply because they didn’t
wear a PFD.
You reach your own conclusion as to whether a stronger marketing
campaign to this “non-traditional” boating group
could increase PFD wear?
Paddlesports is the fastest growing aspect of the boating industry,
and we, as the providers of information to the general public
need to impress upon all those who venture upon our rivers,
lakes, streams, bays, and oceans that they are all boaters.
Hunter, fisherman, kayaker, canoeist - they are all boaters
who need to be as educated about their particular slice of the
greater boating sport, but also about the sport itself.
Navigation, rules of the road, safety equipment, etc. are all
part and parcel of this great sport, and all boaters, traditional
or non-traditional need education.