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Paddling Surge Raises Safety Concerns

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The Water Sports Foundation yesterday reported that a record 37.9 million people participated in such activities as kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data from the Outdoor Foundation. The data, from late 2020, also showed 2.5 million new paddlers.

However, the surge of new paddlers also brought an increase in accidents. The Outdoor Foundation reported that accidents in 2020 increased to 331 and fatalities to 202, which accounted for 26 percent of all boating accidents during the period.

“We know from analyzing U.S. Coast Guard data that in 2020 nearly three-quarters — 74.6 percent — of people who died in paddling accidents had less than 100 hours experience in the activity," Jim Emmons, executive director of the Water Sports Foundation, said in a statement. "Over one-third — 38.8 percent — had less than 10 hours experience."

To address the problem, Coast Guard District 1, headquartered in Boston, focused on safety through public outreach, paddling education courses and safety checks, along with enforcement of federal requirements on paddle craft.

The Coast Guard said its efforts contributed to a 34 percent decline in paddling fatalities (19, down from 29), demonstrating the importance of instruction as more paddlers take the water.

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