IMG 7058Paddle sports are becoming increasingly popular in Lucas and Wood Counties due to the efforts of many organizations, such as Wood County Parks, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Maumee Bay State Park and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There are a growing number of public entry points being created along the Maumee River, Swan Creek and within local parks, such as the Blue Creek Nona France Quarry and Wiregrass Lake, where people can bring their own registered paddle craft and enjoy cruising around. River Lures kayak rentals are also becoming popular and relaxing activities to take part in during the weekends for those who don’t have their own boat. With this surge in water recreation, it is important to make sure that everyone remains safe while out paddling in our beautiful rivers and lakes.

Life jackets, also known as personal flotation devices (PFD’s), are a time tested and proven method for remaining safe while out on the water. It is also the law to make sure that canoes, kayaks and all boats under 16 feet in length are equipped with wearable PFD’s for each person on board. Children under the age of 10 must wear a PFD on any watercraft under 18 feet. More important factors to take into account are making sure that your life jackets fit properly, that they are in good working condition, that they are U.S. Coast Guard approved and that all life jackets are easily accessible to all persons on board the boat. If you decide to bring along your pup, they even make life jackets dogs! For more detailed information on life jacket laws, please click here.

All boating professionals suggest that life jackets should be worn while paddling, because all it takes is one mishap and you can become unconscious and in risk of severe injury or death. PCS reached out to American Canoe Association (ACA) certified instructor Bill Hoefflin on just why life jackets are so vital to a safe paddling experience. Here is what he had to say about life jacket safety:

“Drowning remains the number 1 cause of on the water boating deaths. In the most recent U.S. Coast Guard report, 428 drowning’s were reported. Of those, 352 (82%) of victims were not wearing a life jacket. Life jacket design and technology has come a long way. Today there are many life jackets that are extremely comfortable. Most boaters don’t plan on going into the water. If they are not wearing a life jacket when they do, the odds are high that the jacket will not be accessible to them after they are out of their boat. I encourage everyone that plans to be out on the water to go find a life jacket appropriate to your activity and to buy something that is comfortable and that you will wear every time. I also invite you to come and take a safe boating or paddling class at Metroparks of the Toledo Area, to be a responsible boater and to enjoy and support our local waters!”

To learn more about what you can do beyond bringing along a PFD to remain safe out on the water, please visit the ODNR Where to Boat page.