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As warmer weather sets in, kayakers remind people of water safety

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 12:03 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found adult men make up an overwhelming majority of drownings.

The study cites “overconfidence” as the primary reason, but the corps says water safety is important no matter who you are – because anywhere there is a body of water, there is a risk.

Now as boating and kayaking pick up with the summer season near, a local kayak company says it is crucial to take steps to stay safe.

Jeremy McRae has been kayaking for more than a decade, and he said over the last few years, more people seem interested in hitting the water.

“It’s taken off pretty good in the last six years, but especially the last two to three years. Especially with COVID, I mean, kayaking just took off in this area,” he said.

But less experience comes with more risk.

“It brings a lot of new people that have never grown up doing this, so they’re not very knowledgeable in the water they don’t know, you know about boats. They don’t know the rules, the regulations out there,” McRae said. “They don’t know safety.”

He advises first-timers to never go alone, but he says no matter the skill level there is one crucial step, bringing a whistle and a life jacket.

”You always want to have a life vest on, it doesn’t matter how comfortable you are at swimming,” McRae said. “If you haven’t done it a lot make sure you put a life vest on.”

And that rule applies to any water activity at any body of water, as David Quebedeaux, a ranger with the Army Corps of Engineers, said there’s always a risk for drowning.

”Drownings can happen anywhere,” Quebedeaux, said. “Could happen in a lake, a river, a pool, could happen in a ditch beside your house.”

Last year, there were 62 drownings in the state of Georgia. Eight of them happening at Army Corps of Engineer parks, with a majority being at Thurmond Lake at Clark’s Hill. And it could be largely due to people challenging themselves to swim out to the buoys.

“If they can, they feel kind of good about themselves, but if you can’t you drown, and if you’re not ready to swim, you’re not ready to survive. Make sure you know how to swim, make sure you have a life jacket on,” Quebedeaux said.

Whether it’s swimming, boating, or kayaking being safe is essential. McRae says accidents are rare, but as the age-old saying goes: it’s better to be safe, than sorry.

“You have to have that life jacket all the way on, it’s all about keeping your nose and your mouth above the surface of the water,” Quebedeaux said.

“At the end of the day, we do this because we love it and we don’t want anybody hurt on our boats,” McRae said.

McRae said there are other steps kayakers can do to stay safe.

Both McCrea and Quebedeaux said there are other steps to take safe this summer when out on the water.

In addition to wearing a life vest, McRae said kayakers should always keep a whistle and cell phone close by. Also, avoid high traffic boat areas, always hit waves at an angle, keep your body straight up and down, stay close to the edge of the water, avoid areas called strainers that are jammed with logs and trees, don’t drink and kayak, and avoid chasing after equipment and wildlife.

Quebedeaux said to always wear a life jacket, bring plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to drink, and don’t try to swim out to buoys, especially not without a life jacket.

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