Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shame on Visit Florida.com - No PFDs!

I just received my March 2011 issue of Canoe & Kayak Magazine... and turning to page 61... I saw this advertisement for Visit Florida.com. Something is definitely "unleashed" in this photo and it is that (at least 3) persons are NOT wearing PFDs! :-( What a poor oversight on the part of the Florida tourism industry to market in a paddling magazine and forget all about kayak safety!

Always wear your PFD when paddling! Lots of unforseen things can happen while you are on the water. Weather and water conditions can change rapidly. You can accidently hit your head during a "going duck" incident. Your kayak can strike underwater obstacles or you can slip into very cold water where hypothermia becomes a real danger. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) reports that in 9 out of every 10 recreational boat drownings, the victims were NOT wearing PFDs. The USCG recommends that anyone operating a human-powered watercraft wear a PFD and all children under 13 wear one at all times while in a vessel.

I promptly fired off an email to Visit Florida.com... pointing out their PFD omissions... and asked that they do a better job in the future to highlight safe paddling practices. Hopefully the message gets through to them.

Mike, a fellow yaker who maintains River Bottle Blues - a blog devoted to helping clean up North Carolina's waterways, made the following excellent comment on the importance of wearing PFDs:

"You can be the best swimmer in the world but nothing will save you if you hit your head on a rock or your kayak while tipping over. So do yourself, your family and the Search and Rescue Team a favor, wear your PFD. " - Mike, - River Bottle Blues

Thanks Mike!

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  1. Neither the guy in the photo by the canoe, nor your "mascot" has a PFD anywhere near them. While I agree with you about safety, I think it is each person's responsibility to decide what's best for them. I always wear a PFD and think laws that force children to wear them are just, but I believe others should make that choice for themselves. And your mascot should reflect your positions if you're going to be jumping all over someone else about it.

  2. In my Reflections section, the guy enjoying his coffee, is sitting on the shoreline and NOT paddling in open water. Bucky, my mascot is wearing a PFD under his jacket (note how bulky it is) and in nature, beavers' tails are used by these animals as a buoyancy aid (among other uses). Now, let's get to your real argument - personal choice and wearing a PFD. I agree with you! A person can choose to mitigate the risk of drowning by wearing a PFD and adopt safe paddling practices. Or not. However, when it comes to a corporate entity like Visit Florida.com, I believe they have a responsibility in their marketing and advertising, to demonstrate safe paddling practices - especially when that advertising appears in a paddling magazine. And in regards to me, I have been consistent in my stance on always wearing a PFD and promoting paddling safety. Check out the labels "PFD" and "personal flotation device" for nearly a dozen posts that highlight wearing PFDs and paddling safety. Bottom line - I believe paddlers should always work to minimize their risk while paddling and that means always wearing a PFD. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Good for you for pointing that out Mike. Would be good to contact them and let them know. Sometimes the tourism people aren't kayakers in the know.

  4. Note that the girl is wearing a sports-bra, so it must be warm for the Florida advertisment. Water temperature should be one controlling factor in whether one should or should not wear a PFD. Knowing how to swim should be another. How deep is the water being paddled is yet another deciding factor.

    Wearing a PFD is not always the proper thing to do. In the heat of summer, when the water temperature is close to 90 degrees, you don't need a PFD to keep your body core warm if you fall in. Actually, wearing a thick PFD can contribute to heat stroke during the heat of summer.

    Summer is the time to wear as little clothing as possible - in Florida. The Florida ad could have chosen to show more skin than that. It appeared to be an appropriate ad.

  5. I think wearing a PFD is important, but my husband does not-- so you will see photos on my blog (http://quietkayaking.blogspot.com/) of him without a PFD. I encourage the use of a PFD. Everyone has to right to use their own judgement, (except where there is a law-- see below) but remember that unforeseen things can happen. My husband is a fish in the water, so he isn't "concerned." I try to point out the slim, but possible, situations that could mean a PFD would be helpful, even life-saving. I live in Northern New York and the law in NY state is that you must wear a PFD when in a vessel under 21 feet from Nov. 1st to May 1st. A NY state DEC officer told me it was because of the water temperature. This is a separate issue than that of the ad for VisitFlorida.com It seems to me that Visit Florida should be a bit more responsible and use the opportunity of an ad with kayakers in it to promote water safety.

  6. I found an interesting URL link: http://www.wearitflorida.com/Wear_It_Florida.htm that paddlers and organizations like Visit Florida.com should visit. Wear it Florida is a Florida-based group that promotes the wearing of PFDs at all times while on the water. Here is a quote from their Web site that caught my eye:

    "Several trends come to the surface when you look at boating accident statistics. It is easy to identify the most likely victims: they are men over 30 years of age who have plenty of boating experience, who know how to swim, and who are in boats less than 20 feet long in fairly calm weather conditions. They usually go overboard unexpectedly for any variety of reasons, and in most cases they swim for a while until they become exhausted. Unfortunately, these incidents are much more common than most people would imagine."

    Wear it Florida goes on to state that most boating drownings occur on calm, inland or near shore waters with inattention being a key factor. It also mentions that there are between 65 to 80 fatal boating accident victims annually in Florida or an average of one person each week. Sobering statistics indeed.

    For me, I believe all paddlers should work to minimize risk while on the water and essential gear to minimize such risk is wearing a properly fitted PFD.

    Bottom line - The Durhamblogger is one yaker who will ALWAYS wear a PFD while paddling and my hope and prayer is that ALL paddlers will "err" on the side of safety and wear their PFDs too!

  7. You can be the best swimmer in the world but nothing will save you if you hit your head on a rock or your kayak while tipping over. So do yourself, your family and the Search and Rescue Team a favor wear your PFD.


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