USCG Air Station Traverse City Sees Spike in Kayak, Paddleboard Cases

Summertime fun on the water in Northern Michigan, but the Coast Guard says more people are getting into trouble in kayaks and paddleboards.

They’ve been called out to help more often in the last month for kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming incidents.

9&10’s Caroline Powers and photojournalist Harrison Light explain how the US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City is dealing with it.

As summer continues, and people get out on the water, the US Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City is getting more calls for help.

“50% of our search and rescue cases for the month of July have been paddleboard and kayak related, or personal watercraft,” says LCDR Rocco Franco. “80% of the cases with fatalities they didn’t have life jackets on.”

The Coast Guard says that wearing a life jacket is the most important thing you can do when going out on the water.

“That’s probably the single greatest asset to your survival, is the ability to stay afloat,” LCDR Franco says.

Putting on a life jacket is quick and easy. You secure the straps and make sure that it fits properly. A simple process that many people don’t take the time to do before going out on the water.

“I think a lot of times people just assume the risks are less without being on a power vessel,” LCDR Franco says. “They think it’s a kayak, I’m under control, I’m just going 100 yards off shore, and before they know it the environment of the conditions change on them.”

But having a life jacket isn’t the only life saving device you can have with you.

Backcountry North in Traverse City says they make sure every customer that comes in their store leaves prepared.

“We try to make sure that every PFD, or PFD and kayak leaves with a whistle,” says Cory Smith, general manager at Backcountry North. “That’s something that if you’re out in the water you have the means to communicate to the coast guard or a passing by vessel. The paddle float is a piece of safety equipment. It’s what allows you to get back in the kayak should you fall overboard. Get out there, have fun, but a little bit of common sense goes a long ways towards preventing incidents and towards keeping everybody safe.”