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Popularity of Stand-Up Paddleboards, Kayaks Spurs Harbor Education Effort to Keep Waters Calm

In wake of close calls, Santa Barbara waterfront officials want to teach paddlers and kayakers how to co-exist with motor boats

The Santa Barbara Waterfront Department plans to create an education program to help stand-up paddleboarders and kayakers stay out of the way of boats in the city’s harbor.
The Santa Barbara Waterfront Department plans to create an education program to help stand-up paddleboarders and kayakers stay out of the way of boats in the city’s harbor.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Waterfront Department plans to install signs, hand out lanyards and create an educational plan to soothe tensions between stand-up paddleboarders, kayakers and motor boat users.

Waterfront harbor manager Mick Kronman said the popularity of the harbor has skyrocketed.

“It’s a crowded house down there,” he told the Harbor Commission last week.

 

“We have gotten to the point in the harbor where it is really, really congested with watercraft of all kinds,” he said. “Motor boats, sailboats and especially ... the exponential expansion of stand-up paddleboards and kayaks; it has really become a crowded area.”

So far, Kronman said, motor boat users and paddlers have been able to avoid accidents, but there have been close calls.

“Everyone is pointing fingers at each other,”​ he said.

The educational campaign will be directed toward paddleboarders because “there are far more of them,”​ Kronman said.

The waterfront department studied harbors in Dana Point and Santa Cruz to come up with a template for an education plan.

Harbor officials plan to install several bright green and red signs to warn people to avoid the main channel.

They want paddleboarders to stay on the edges and sides of the harbor, while boats use the middle.

In addition, waterfront staff plan to hand out lanyards with laminated cards, which will include a map and educational reminders about how to avoid contact with motor boat users.

The lanyard will be color-coded to identify which company rented the gear.

The lanyards come off easily when pulled in the case of an emergency, although Kronman said he knows of no problems that have arisen from using them on the water.

“It comes apart very easily if they need to remove it,”​ he said.

“We are confident they are safe, easily released and, if they do fall into the water, they can be picked up really fast.”​

The lanyards also will help harbor officials identify who is renting from a company and who is bringing their own paddleboards.

“I don’t think the problem will be within the rental companies, but it is going to be with the people who bring their kayaks and paddleboards,”​ said commissioner Betsy Cramer, who also suggested an on-site video to educate people. “I don’t know how individuals are going to figure out what to do. People don’t read signs.”​

Garrett Kababik, owner of Channel Islands Outfitters and Paddle Sports Center in the harbor, said the educational program is a great thing for everyone in the waterfront.

“People don’t generally pay attention to what they are doing,”​ he said. “They’re on vacation.”​

Kababik says he does his best to inform people of the potential dangers, and has talked to the waterfront department about hiring a guard to direct paddlers and kayakers in the harbor.

Kronman said the city is considering a part-time position to maintain safety.

“This is a reminder to boaters, too,”​ he said. “Everyone has got to share the harbor.”​

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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