SALEM, Ore. - You see them all over. Kayaks, canoes, even stand-up paddle boards. Paddlecraft are becoming more affordable and available at almost every retailer these days, and many vacation destinations rent paddlecraft for day use.
But there's more to it than just trying out the activity and deciding to buy a paddlecraft. Each year, thousands of people flock to the waterways with little knowledge about their boat, where they're operating, what the legal requirements are, and the skill needed to avoid an accident.
The Oregon State Marine Board now offers a great introduction to the waterways with a free online paddling course, approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
The Online Paddling Course, offered through BoaterExam.com, covers state boating laws, rules of the road, how to read the waterway, what to do in case of an emergency, and other tips to enhance boater's knowledge base and operating skills.
"There are so many boating opportunities in Oregon on all kinds of waterways. We're so fortunate to have great public access to rivers, lakes, bays and the ocean," says MariAnn Koloszar, Boating Education Coordinator for the Marine Board. "Paddling comes in a lot of different forms. There's a huge interest for people to connect with nature and stay fit at the same time. Learning how to paddle is a great way to get your feet wet in recreational boating."
In 1999, the Legislature approved the mandatory boater education law requiring operators of motorized boats over 10 horse power to take an approved boating safety course and carry a boater education card when operating their boat. This program was phased in based on the boat operator's age and in 2009, all boaters were required to carry their card. The Marine Board has issued nearly 300,000 boater education cards since 2001 and has seen a decline in reported boating accidents.
"Education had a direct impact on making the waterways safer. When everyone knows how their own watercraft handles, know the rules of the road, as well as being prepared for emergency situations, everyone wins," Koloszar adds. "Everyone can co-mingle safely and enjoy Oregon's beautiful waterways."
To take advantage of the free Paddlesports Safety Course and more information about boating safety and education, visit www.boatoregon.com.