Stand up for safety on a paddleboard with a life jacketFive out of 16 boating deaths this year have involved small paddle-type boats.
By: By Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, Superior Telegram
Conservation Warden Amie Egstad has been greeted with dropped jaws, bugged-out eyes and various reactions diplomatically classified as honest skepticism. Yet, the Bayfield-based warden whose beat includes Lake Superior is quoting the law when she tells the growing legion of enthusiastic stand-up paddleboarders they need their life jackets.
“I am being inundated with paddleboarders up here on Lake Superior. And, everyone thinks I am nuts when I tell them they need to have a life jacket on their person or on the board,” Egstad says.
Well, Egstad may be dizzy over what the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is calling the “fastest growing water sport in the world” and she is witness to the stand-up paddleboard explosion on Lake Superior. But, she is not nuts.
Roy Zellmer, a conservation warden himself and also Wisconsin’s Boating Law Administrator, says the paddleboards fall under the same law as the also highly popular kayaks and canoes. Zellmer says Wisconsin law – as well as the U.S. Coast Guard law – requires vessels to be equipped with a personal flotation device, also known as a PFD or a life jacket. “This means there must be life jacket for each person on board,” he says. “The best way to obey this law and the best way to ensure your safety? Wear the life jacket.”
DNR records for the 2012 boating season to date show 16 deaths. “And five, about one third of that total, have involved the smaller paddle boats – kayaks, canoe, rafts,” Zellmer says. “It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to wear your life jacket – no matter the size of the vessel but especially in these smaller boats and on the stand-up paddleboards. It also is worth noting that 13 victims of these 16 fatalities were not wearing their life jackets.”
The DNR also offers a free online paddling safety course for new paddlers to learn the basics and as a great refresher for experience paddlers. The course does not certify a person to operate a motorboat but is a great learning tool. To locate the online course http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/. and click the paddling safety link below the “Before You Boat” tab.
The U.S. Coast Guard offers these tips for the novice and seasoned paddle boarders. But these also are good to know for as a vessel operator or passengers.
Wear a lifejacket and carry a whistle.
Be a competent swimmer.
Know how to self-rescue.
Know how to tow another board.
Know the local regulations and navigation rules.
Understand the elements and hazards – winds, tidal ranges, current, terrain.
Know when to wear a leash.
Be defensive – don’t go where you aren’t supposed to be and avoid other swimmers, boaters, paddleboards.
Use proper blade angle to be the most efficient paddle boarder
Take a safety course.
For more information about how to prepare yourself for fun and safety on your paddleboard or other vessels, visit this website to learn about safety courses and more: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/boat/. Or, go to the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov and search keywords ‘boat safety.’