Summer is here, and watersports are where it’s at.
While running my charter boat, WaveWalker, I spend a great deal of time at the Santa Barbara Harbor — a wonderful place to recreate and a great little community unto itself. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen paddleboarding escalate like crazy.
It’s great because standing up and paddling a board gives a person time to look about and actually see things, talk to people and enjoy the wildlife. My favorite part is that while paddleboarding, people do not have their noses glued to their smartphones or iPads. They are actually engaged in the world about them.
The activity looks very casual, but be advised that it is a great core exercise. You have to use core muscles to move the board.
I see individuals enjoying some peaceful experiences with nature. I see couples out having fun together. I see groups of friends and relatives sharing a great experience. It is all quite wonderful.
But, I saw some safety issues developing, and much of it has to do with safe navigation in the restricted waterway of the harbor. At one point over the weekend, there were better than a dozen groups of two to eight paddleboarders spread out all over the navigation channel of the harbor. Some were being cautious and considerate. Too many, though, were paddling where boats must travel and making unannounced turns right into the path of oncoming vessels and without even looking around before turning.
This navigational safety issue can have dire consequences. I’m thinking about when the Seashell sailing boat trainers and small personal sailboats crowd the waterway this summer and several dozen paddleboards are added to the mix. Sailboaters tend to think they have the right of way no matter what (which is not true), so they often create unsafe situations.
If paddleboarders turn out to be oblivious to navigational safety issues, we’ll have some tough realities to face — such as a collision between a boat and a paddleboard, which isn’t going to go well for the paddleboarder. My advice is, watch out for those sailboats and leave powerboats room to do what they have to do.
I think paddleboards are wonderful, and I sincerely want to see them take their place in our on-the-water sports activities. Safety is key. Be watchful and respectful of what others need to do in order for everyone to be safe. I hope we don’t have to staff up on Harbor Patrol officers to keep the waterway organized, because that will make our slip rents go up again. Or perhaps it would be necessary to slap a $20 waterway safety enforcement fee on paddleboards. I hope not.
Let’s be careful out there!
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.