While news reports tend to find a local expert to guide them through the sport of SUP, the articles written for the general public by newspapers and local magazines are poorly researched and fact checked and pick stock photos that don’t show how to safely paddle SUPs.
New paddlers who aren’t experienced in the water have no idea what they’re getting into. It starts the first time a new paddler sees the sport and asks, “What is that? Could I do that?” This could be a newspaper or magazine article or advertisement, a post online, or a video. In the majority of the articles in mainstream and local media, the person writing the article or doing the report doesn’t paddle. They are at the mercy of their resources. In some cases, such as this article “Coast to Coast: The Growing Popularity of Stand Up Paddle Boarding” from CapeCod.com
In others, they not only get the facts about sport wrong, but use stock photos of paddlers breaking all the common sense rules and Coast Guard requirements. Stock photo companies not only don’t know, they don’t care, they are simply looking for attractive images that will sell.
This is only one part of the equation, but article after article, the facts are wrong and the photos give the wrong impression of the sport for people who might like to try it.
Take this article “Report: Paddle boarding deaths on the rise” from News 12 Long Island,” which states, “A new report says paddle boarding deaths were up in 2015. According to an annual state report, half of the 16 people who died in boating accidents in New York last year were on paddle boards.”
This is actually false. Half of the the 16 people who died in boating accidents in New York last year were NOT on paddle boards. They were on a Paddle CRAFT. Not Paddleboards. The 2015 report lists 6 kayak-related deaths and 2 row boat-related deaths. No mention of paddle boarders. They also report that “All paddle boarders are required to wear a personal flotation device, a leash to stay connected to board, and a whistle or they could face a $300 fine.” This must be a local law, because it’s obviously isn’t a coast guard requirement. There is no link to their source, the report. Granted, the 2016 report will be different, because of two paddleboard-related deaths in NY state.
When you see articles like this, post a comment. Educate the editors and writers about the sport and safety. They simply don’t know and don’t even know to ask.
The funny thing is this report actually did something really right. They interviewed someone who knows about paddling. One of our favorite paddlers and shops, Karen Martin from South Shore Paddleboards who got them all the safety information and gear.
Let’s look at those NY State numbers:
- 0 deaths in 2015 related to paddleboarding
- 2 deaths in 2016 related to paddleboarding
I don’t think we can do general population statistics because not everyone is at risk of dying via paddleboard accidents. The only way we can truly gauge the danger posed by paddleboarding would be to have accurate numbers of participants and put that against the number of deaths. If we could compare those statistics to swimming or sailing or surfing, it would give us a better perspective on how safe or dangerous paddleboarding really is.
Keep them honest.