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9th District Great Lakes Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard

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News Release

May 18, 2014

Ninth Coast Guard District

Contact: U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes


Office: (216) 902-6020

Mobile: (216) 310-2608

Coast Guard provides safety tips for fastest growing recreational activity on the water

CLEVELAND — Sunday is the second day of National Safe Boating Week, and today the Coast Guard is focusing on paddle craft safety on the Great Lakes.

Paddle sports continue to be the fastest growing segment of recreational boating, with more than 300,000 paddle craft, primarily kayaks, being sold annually.

Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and various other paddle sports are thrilling, exciting and fun. Paddle craft are affordable and bring their operators closer to the natural environment, two reasons for their popularity.

However, paddle sports present unique dangers. Paddlers are more exposed than boaters to the elements. Eight of every 10 boaters who drowned in 2013 were using boats less than 21 feet in length, a sobering statistic that shows the vulnerability of small craft, including paddle craft.

The American Canoe Association published the top 10 paddling safety tips, which are available on their website.

The Coast Guard presents the following additional safety tips for paddlers:

  • Use life jackets that are inherently buoyant rather than inflatable. This makes re-entering a paddle craft, especially a sit-inside kayak, easier after capsizing.
  • Paddle with a partner or in groups. This reduces risk to an individual in the event of an emergency. Paddling in groups also increases the chances of being seen by boaters operating power and sail craft in the vicinity.
  • Always dress for the water temperature and not the air temperature. Wear the proper personal protective clothing, including dry or wet suits, when advisable.
  • Take a paddle-safety course before heading out on the water. The Coast Guard Auxiliary now offers the “Paddlesports America Course,” a four-hour, classroom-based introduction to paddling safety, techniques and safety strategies. Courses may also be offered by the U.S. Power Squadrons, state departments of natural resources and local commercial outfitters.
  • Make sure you can contact help. A hand-held, waterproof VHF-FM radio or a 406 MHz personal locator beacon are much more reliable than cell phones. Paddlers who prefer to paddle in remote areas should especially consider these investments. 

When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database. This includes the beacon owner's emergency contact information and vessel identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the Coast Guard and other rescue personnel to respond appropriately.

In the U.S., users are required by law to register their beacon to the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at: or by calling 1- 888-212-SAVE. Other users can register their beacon in their country's national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database at

National Safe Boating Week is an annual observance sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council, and endorsed and promoted by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Information on the NSBC can be found at

National Safe Boating Week Topic Schedule:

May 16 Life jackets: There's never an excuse not to wear a life jacket.

May 17 Boating Under the Influence: Boating under the influence of alcohol is just as dangerous as driving under the influence, and just as illegal.

May 18 Paddle Smart: Paddle sports are one of the fastest growing recreational activities on the Great Lakes and the Coast Guard wants your future water adventure to be safe and fun.

May 19 Boating Safety Equipment: Expect the unexpected, be prepared with simple technology that can save your life.

May 20 Water Navigational Rules: Ensuring all waterways users can enjoy the pristine natural beauty of the Great Lakes while minimizing accidents.

May 21 Personal Locating Beacons: Learn how a device that costs less than a smart phone can rapidly notify the Coast Guard of your position when you're in distress.

May 22 Search and Rescue Hoaxes: Illegal for good reason, these bad jokes endanger lives across the Great Lakes.


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