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Tips for being safe as paddlesports gain popularity in Arkansas



Rogers, Arkansas – In Northwest Arkansas, canoeing and kayaking have grown in popularity since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have had a large increase in personal watercraft, you know, recreation vessels, like kayaks, paddle boards, just with the influx of folks to Beaver Lake or to Northwest Arkansas. You know, it’s natural that everybody wants to come out to Beaver Lake,” said Beaver Lake Park Ranger Kieran Bowe.

But, as these boats get more and more popular, the number of accidents also rises, so before you get in one, there are a few safety precautions you should take.

“One, whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, paddle, stand up, paddle boarding, all of those are considered vessels under Arkansas state law, all of them require you to have a U.S. Coast Guard life jacket approved, properly fitted life jacket for everyone on board you,” Bowe added.

Always make sure you have an experienced individual with you when you are just getting started.

“Of course, if you can, if you know someone that has been doing it for a while and got some training in water safety and that kind of thing, it’s always great to go with someone rather than just trying to figure it out on your own,” said Rick Spicer, partial owner of Pack Rat in Fayetteville.

You may also learn how to be safe on the water from some excellent organizations.

“A really good place to start would be with an organization like the Arkansas Canoe Club. They do some educational events like canoe school and things of that nature, where you can go meet people and they can show you some of the proper safety skills that you need to,” Spicer said.

Bowe urges people to use caution when consuming alcohol while on a boat.

“Drinking and any sort of boating activity is never a good mix, you know, just with the sun being out on the water, it drains you a lot quicker, you know,” Bowe said. “And if you’re, if you’re operating any sort of vessel, including canoes and kayaks out on the water, sometimes it can be choppy, with larger vessels going around, you know. Maintaining your safety by staying away from large wakes and keeping yourself as sharp as possible is always important.”

Make sure you secure all of your possessions to keep them out of the water in order to preserve the Natural State natural.

“Because we have such pristine water here in Arkansas, you want to make sure that everything is tied down really well in your boat.
Thus, you don’t have your equipment, trash, or other items flowing down the river if anything like that flips over,” Spicer added.

If you do end up in the water, Bowe has some advice.

“In the off chance that someone potentially does fall in, goes overboard, on a vessel, or falls off a dock. We like to preach talk reach, throw row, go,” Bowe said. “So talk them into a safe spot or a ladder if you can reach from the safety of the vessel or the dock. If you can do that, then you want to potentially throw a device out to them, a throwable life safety device, or something you might have that’s buoyant, like a cooler or something, to help them out. Then potentially get into a vessel and row out to them. And finally, if none of that’s possible, go for help.”


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