One of the silver linings of the pandemic was more people connecting or reconnecting with the outdoors.
Bicycling, simple walks, gardening, visiting parks, bird watching and other outdoor activities have surged.
Paddle sports were no exception. A record 38 million people took to lakes and rivers to kayak, canoe and use stand-up paddleboards in 2020, according to the latest data from the Outdoor Foundation.
The number includes 2.5 million paddlers who were new to the sport.
But the increase has also led to an increase in accidents. There were 331 accidents and 202 fatalities, also a record. Paddling-related fatalities accounted for about a quarter of all boating-related fatalities in 2020.
The US Coast Guard said virtually all fatalities were among less experienced paddlers: 75% had less than 100 hours of experience in the activity and 39% had less than 10 hours of experience.
Most accidents happen in calm water due to falling overboard or capsizing. Untrained paddlers generally don’t know how to get back once they’ve fallen, don’t wear a life jacket, and aren’t prepared for cold water exposure.
The increased traffic of motorized boats and jet skis and ever larger boats, including wakeboard boats that create massive waves, only increases the risk of capsizing.
Those into paddle sports or with little experience can protect themselves by taking advantage of the many free or low-cost safety training resources, including many online safety training programs.
Paddlers should also remember that they are subject to boating rules which require them to follow boating rules and carry the required safety equipment for their size and type of watercraft.
Experts say paddlers can also minimize risk by wearing a life jacket, dressing for the weather, checking the weather forecast and paddling sober.
Of course, there are risks involved in jumping into the water. But paddling is a wonderful, accessible and inexpensive experience. Getting your craft in the water is easy, no license is required and excellent exercise is required.
— Mankato Free Press