Wednesday, March 6, 2013

TSA permits billiard cues aboard. Why not paddles?

The Transportation Security Administration announced yesterday that beginning on April 25, several items will be removed from the Prohibited Items List. In addition to small knives (with many size and type restrictions), passengers will be permitted to bring aboard billiard cues, hockey and lacrosse sticks, ski poles, and up to two golf clubs.

Now that you can bring hockey sticks on board airplanes,
shouldn't you be able to bring kayak and canoe paddles?
But not kayak and canoe paddles, which are still prohibited. When we plug "canoe paddle" into the TSA's "When I fly, can I bring my..." online interactive feature, it replies that canoe and kayak paddles are "sports equipment that can be used as a bludgeon (such as bats and clubs)" and they are therefore "prohibited in the cabin of the plane and must be transported in your checked baggage."

Wait. Golf clubs are OK but paddles are not? We called for clarification. In response, we received this email reply from David A. Castelveter, Director of External Communications for the TSA's Office of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs:

"Sorry Sharon, but for security reasons we are not able to discuss why certain items remain on the prohibited items list."

Let's see. Golf clubs, which have been used to murder people, can be carried on board airplanes even though they are unlikely to be damaged when checked; meanwhile paddles, which are ill-suited to combat and more fragile, can't be carried on board. (We typed "murdered with a golf club" into Google and got 33,800 results. "Hit with a kayak paddle" yielded just five, and none involved aggression, let alone murder.)

Aggressive canoeists aren't the TSA's only concern, of course. Checkpoint efficiency also figures into these decisions. "Imagine how congested the checkpoint would be if under the existing screening procedures we allowed a broader array of items, such as paddles, oars, ski poles, snow board, water skis and the likes," Castelveter noted.

But again, we find this disingenuous. How many canoeists and kayakers travel with paddles? (Not many per day, we would venture.)  And does it really take longer to scan a paddle than it takes to scan any other carry-on item?

Clearly, the golf lobby is more effective than the paddlesports lobby.

If this bothers you, send a message to the TSA Contact Center at or call 1.866.289.9673 and tell them why paddles ought to be permitted on board. And please post your letter here in comments, too, for others to see.


Sharon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharon said...

Here's the comment I sent today:

Hello. I am writing to ask that the new "sports equipment allowed" list include kayak and canoe paddles.
I travel by airplane with my paddles (fragile, made of carbon fiber) about four times a year. I worry every time I check them because they are easy to damage, and I pay extra each time because they are an awkward shape and must be packed alone (and are therefore an extra piece of checked luggage every time).
I Googled "murdered with a golf club" and got 33,800 results. "Murdered with a kayak paddle" brings up no results about actual murder (only a profane twitter post). And "Hit with a kayak paddle" brings up five results, none of which are about aggression of any sort.
Paddlers aren't a huge part of the population, so checkpoints aren't going to be overwhelmed if we are allowed to carry our paddles on board. And we aren't a violent bunch, either. "Violent golfer" brings up 1190 results, while "violent kayaker" brings up four.
Really, now that golf clubs and even ski poles (ski poles! With pointy tips!) are allowed, can kayak and canoe paddles also be permitted?
Thank you in advance. I look forward to hearing back from you.

jfaust97 said...

Would a 4 piece breakaway paddle get though just based on smaller size? Hand paddles are surely the way to go!! Or just start shipping your paddles UPS before you head to the airport! Probably way cheaper than an addition piece of checked baggage as well as insured!

bpfamily said...

Jeremy, we have heard many paddlers travel with 4 piece paddles. Technically they are not allowed, but with the more compact size they don't seem attract notice.
We have shipped gear by UPS as well, but will say that it isn't cheap either, you still have to worry about damage, and then there's the chance of your gear getting lost. Overall, we prefer to take our gear (including paddles) on the same plane we are on.

Randall said...

Thats suprising, you think a golf club would do more damage.