How Paddlesports Retailers Can Help Keep Paddlers Safer

Water Sports Foundation encourages retailers to remind customers to take a paddlesports safety course

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The Water Sports Foundation, a U.S. Coast Guard non-profit boating safety grant recipient, just released a new video featuring Paddling Business publisher Scott MacGregor. Recorded with a local retail shop background, MacGregor presents the Coast Guard’s message encouraging retailers to be vigilant about safety subjects when communicating with paddlers.

Safety is your responsibility as a paddlesports professional

In 2021, 190 people died while paddling and most of these incidents were preventable. Basic paddler education remains as the most important subject, but also life jacket usage and knowing your limits and the limits of your vessel remain as critically important elements to a safe paddling excursion.

overhead view of one sea kayaker instructing another kayaker in paddlesports safety
Your responsibility as a paddlesports professional: keeping paddlers safe by encouraging them to get the proper safety training. | Photo: Andrew Martin/Pixabay

Jim Emmons, Nonprofit Grant Director for the Water Sports Foundation said, “Too many paddlers are senselessly dying while enjoying this great past time. Retailers are trusted sources and as such, they can have a huge impact on the paddling public’s attitudes towards paddling safety.

Our goal is to educate retailers—selling kayaks and canoes—to become more vigilant about sharing basic safety recommendations with their customers. We are encouraging all retailers to include a safety discussion during every consumer engagement.”

Engaging retailers in paddlesports safety

The Water Sports Foundation, a non-profit grant recipient since 2011, has been creating and delivering consumer paddle safety messages for five years. The most recent U.S. Coast Guard grant awards include funding for a project called Retailer Targeted Paddling Safety Awareness.

This project intends to make retailers more aware of basic safety such as taking a paddler education course, increasing life jacket wear, understanding the dangers of cold water immersion, knowing your limits, being aware of changing weather conditions, filing a float plan, and avoiding impairment while paddling.


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  1. If anyone has done a study of where the 173 people who died in 2018 purchased their boats, I’m pretty sure that big box retailers would figure highly in the list. Chances are that in a big box environment the only interaction between the store and the purchaser was the cashier and the guy who assisted then to the car with it. Manufacturers should be more choosy about who the allow to sell their boats as sooner or later, this will end up blowing back on them.

  2. The Illinois Paddling council has long urged big retailers to inform buyers about the wearing of PFDs and has urged retailers to include a printout to that effect.


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