The Ninth District Coast Guard District is launching "Paddles Up Great Lakes," an educational outreach campaign aimed at raising safe boating awareness among the region's paddlesports community. The campaign begins Labor Day weekend and runs through Sept. 10. "Paddlesports is the fastest growing segment of recreational boating," said Frank Jennings, Jr., the Ninth District's recreational boating safety program manager. "Current economic conditions coupled with the modest entry-level cost of paddlecraft have contributed to a surge in the popularity of this sport," said Jennings.
According to the National Marine Manufacturing Association (NMMA), 2009 sales of canoes and kayaks totaled 343,600, nearly the number sold the previous year, even with the economic slump across much of the nation. The Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary are engaging paddlers and paddling groups in the interest of on-water safety. In 2009, Coast Guard Boating Safety Statistics indicate 255 paddlers either died or were injured (120 drowned) .
Kayakers and canoeists are boaters but they generally never see or get boater education. "Many new paddlers are potentially taking to the water with little or no awareness of required safety equipment or safe paddling practices " said Jennings. The USCG wants to raise awareness for Michigan paddlers.
During the "Paddles Up Great Lakes" campaign , Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary personnel, along with participating federal, state and local partners will be passing out safety and education information, as well as self-adhesive ID stickers to canoe and kayak owners. The self-adhesive ID stickers aid marine patrol and rescue personnel in quickly locating owners of paddlecraft found empty and adrift on the water, potentially shortening the duration of search efforts.