Many of you in Maine and those of you in the sea kayaking community have probably heard about the paddling fatalities last week in Downeast Maine. I understand Ed was a good man, and I know this loss is felt deeply in Gouldsboro.
I'd like the paddling community to look forward from this incident and consider our own behavior, rather than Ed's. Sea kayaking is an adventure sport where training and preparation are an important part of staying safe. While we can never eliminate all risk from outdoor pursuits, there is a lot that we can do to manage and minimize those risks.
The sea is large, and strong, and beautiful. We can safely have all kinds of adventures on the sea, but we need to be mindful of how we prepare ourselves for those adventures. I'd encourage everyone who takes to the water in paddlecraft - no matter how long you've been doing it - to seek qualified instruction from time to time. (And I include myself in that advice - In addition to running a sea kayak training company and training guides for the tour industry, I seek out instruction every season to expand my own abilities and understanding, so that I can be as prepared as possible for all the adventures that the sea has to offer.)
Check the weather and carefully choose your paddling area. Seek training in the environments you might encounter. Practice rescues in rough water where you have a safety net (with an instructor, or at the very least getting blown towards a safe shore nearby). Dress so that you can function for a while in cold water. Have viable emergency plans for when things go wrong despite all of the above.
Be safe and enjoy this amazing sport!
- Nate Hanson