You’re loading up the truck with a kayak or two and that little voice rings through the garage, “Daddy, can I go?” You may have planned on her asking but did you really plan on her going?
According to the CDC, 350 children die every year in boating related drownings.
How do you prevent that?
It’s human nature to think that would never happen to you. You can protect them. You will hold them on your lap. The water’s not that deep. I’m a great swimmer.
I’ve heard them all. The plain and simple fact is no one plans on disaster happening to them. With a little planning, a little awareness and some ground rules, most of those 350 would be at home with their parents instead of living only through the emotional scars their parents now bare.
I know it feels like I am preaching, and maybe I am, but this is IMPORTANT.
Here are the steps I have taken and believe you should too to ensure safety for every child that gets on one of my kayaks. This may not be the end all be all list but you need to have some list of rules and know it by heart. And then, once you have the rules, don’t make exceptions. Again, these are my rules, not Texas State Law except where noted.
Any child in a kayak must have a proper life jacket on and secured properly.
Texas law states “Children under 13 years of age in or on vessels under 26 feet must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable PFD while underway.“
Get a life jacket that is weight rated for the child and fits properly. A Type II is better than a Type III because it will, under most circumstances, float the child face up. PFD Types Click Here.
Children under 12 cannot ride alone in a kayak until they have met my adult qualifications. (My Rule)
It seems archaic and overprotective to some but, using a boat that can flip on top of you, weighs more than you do and is not an easy re-entry if you fall out are recipes for danger.
All paddlers must go through an orientation with the boat.
It only takes a few minutes but it is important to know safety on the kayak, regardless of age, but children especially need to know what to do.
Open water re-entry experiences are a must.
The water is warm now. Do this now. Don’t wait until winter. Don’t wait until the water is cold.
This all takes some time and preparation but if it saves just one life next year that is one more child who gets to become an adult. One more set of parents who aren’t grieving over a simple mistake. Take the time to be ready for when that little girl or boy asks to do what you are doing. When they ask to go kayak with you, have a life jacket, have a plan and have a blast making memories that will last forever.