*As Spring is all but upon us, this is an important reminder I posted last summer about kids' safety on the water.
It's too easy to make a mistake.
|Type II Child PFD|
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 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.
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 first time I took my eight year old out with me I explained what we were going to do. I said we would jump off the kayak into the water. I instructed him to stay where he was. I reminded him the life jacket will float him and I would come to him once I re-entered the kayak. I was probably over explaining things but he understood. We jumped off and he did great. He watched to make sure he didn't get run over by the kayak. When it got too near him he pushed himself away while I got back on. I scooped him up and he did great! He didn't panic. I had explained everything. Paddling back to the shore I purposefully dug in and flipped the boat without telling him. I watched him calm himself down quickly and take in the surroundings. He assessed the situation. He showed me he was ok and waited for me to get back on the kayak and scoop him up. Another success. You have to do this with your kids. You have to learn how to coach them when on the water. This is how people survive bad situations. Preparation.
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.