Saturday, February 18, 2012

Placing a value on kayak instruction

CASKA night at the UIC pool.
Earlier this week, we organized an evening of instruction for CASKA, the Chicago Area Sea Kayakers Association. We are board members of this club, which has a mission that includes promoting safe paddling.

An excellent recent article by Howard Meyerson in the Grand Rapids Press demonstrated the need for more general awareness of the connection between instruction and paddling safety. Meyerson reported about a novice paddler who purchased a 12-foot boat and set out from Glen Haven to South Manitou Island, unprepared in every way for the challenge of an open crossing in cold weather. His adventure ended in a Coast Guard helicopter rescue.

Stories like this vex sea kayak coaches because they are so familiar. We've all met plenty of people who don't see the need for instruction--people who have too much confidence in themselves and too little respect for the value of training. They get themselves in trouble and also endanger the people who have to rescue them. And they give paddlers a bad reputation.

By contrast, the 14 people who came to the pool for instruction earlier this week demonstrated a respect for the sport, an awareness of the risks, and a willingness to pay money to improve their skill and knowledge. It was a great fundraiser for the club, but also a morale booster for all of us who have spent time and money to become skilled paddlers and coaches, and who are committed to helping others paddle safely.


Adventure Otaku said...

Ya know, the upside of Kayaking is the ease of access. You can go into a store and get a kayak, a paddle, and a PFD and go paddling and have a pretty good time. The downside of kayaking is that you can go into a store buy a paddle, a kayak and a pfd...... Most people don't seek instruction, because most people don't know they need instruction.


jfaust97 said...

It seems that some effort should be made to educate the retailers. I certainly hope that paddle shops are promoting classes to inexperienced paddlers. But are REI, Dick's, Cabela's, etc doing the same? Maybe the paddling clubs in the area should be making a bigger effort to help the employees of these stores aware of the training options in the area? If we as a community can help educate the retailers about where to find training and how deadly paddling without proper instruction can be... we will find the missing link between retailer and coroner? I'm sure we can get a flyer put together that represents all the clubs in the area and who to contact for instruction. If each person buying a kayak is given a flyer... our chances of seeing that person on the nightly news decreases!!