U.S. Coast Guard Reports Surge in Water Sporting Fatalities

Coast Guard officials are reminding people to wear life jackets and to dress accordingly

The United States Coast Guard says there is a surge in water related sport fatalities this year.

As sports like paddle boarding experience a surge in popularity, the Coast Guard is reporting an increase in paddler deaths this year.

So far this year, 18 people have died in New England while paddle boarding, kayaking, or canoeing, up from seven fatalities last year.

According to Coast Guard Lt. David Bourbeau, 56 percent of deaths were on paddle boards, and 84 percent of deaths involved a lack of life jacket.

"It's very concerning," said Bourbeau.

In addition to wearing a life jacket, the Coast Guard wants to remind paddlers to dress for the water temperature, in case they capsize. Even on a 90 degree day, the ocean temperature is only about 60 degrees in Maine: conditions that could lead to hypothermia.

That's how two kayakers, including an experienced guide, died in Downeast Maine last month. According to the USCG, they were wearing "summer clothes," and died of hypothermia after capsizing during severe weather.

"I think it's great more people are getting out into the water, but it's important people gain a more fuller understanding of the precautions, and judgment they need to take out onto the water," said kayak guide Henry Austin, with Portland Paddle.

Austin recommends every kayaker have water, appropriate clothing, and a marine radio to call for help. Paddlers should also check the weather and marine forecast before leaving, plan a route and tell someone when you expect to be back, and research how long it will take to paddle for medical attention.

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