Cold Weather Canoe
Credit: Kevin Callan

It seems a lot more paddlers are getting themselves into trouble out there.

Each season there are more drownings. That’s why I spent some time this year giving safety workshops at provincial parks across northern Ontario. The only downfall, however, was that most campers who signed up already had significant knowledge and skill to safely paddle. At the end of the day I was left wondering if I had reached the proper audience. After all, these aren’t the people who usually find themselves in trouble out there.

Then I met my true audience. It was my jerk of a neighbour, who camped beside me one weekend. He was dressed in a tan-coloured safari suit and knock-off Tilley hat. What really labelled the idiot was the laugh he gave out when I suggested he join my paddling workshop. “Yuk, yuk, yuk.” It was a demeaning chuckle, followed up quickly by a snarky comment on how he didn’t need some silly course. According to him, he already knew how to paddle.

The candid notion of who really is the proper audience was emphasized when I met up with Yuk-Yuk Man again. While leaving the workshop, driving down the main highway, emergency service vehicles had blocked off the road. They were pulling my idiot camping neighbour out of the lake. He was alive, barely. The story goes that the man in the tan safari suit—the same one who didn’t think he needed some silly course on paddling—went for a canoe ride on a windy day, not wearing a PFD. He accidentally flipped over in the cold water and the rescue crew treated him for hypothermia.

The incident got me thinking back about the online free quiz organized by (I had made mention of it in a previous blog back in the spring.) It got me thinking. There was some initial concern over the BoaterExam paddling portion quiz eventually turning into a mandatory licence to paddle, just as motorboat operators now require.

I’m not sure that will happen; and I’m not sure if that’s even a bad thing if it does happen, especially when you look at the increased rate of paddlers drowning out there. The question is: will it decrease the amount of drownings? More importantly, will it be directed towards the right audience. Will Yuk-Yuk Man take the course and learn from it?

So, I went off and asked a bunch of motorboat operators. All agreed that paddlers should take a similar online course they have to take, whether it was mandatory or not. They all agreed that there’s an increase in the lack of skill and knowledge out on the water—with both power-boaters and paddlers.

What do you think? Check the new program out and let me know what your views are. Take the paddle course and add your comments. Are the power-boaters right? Should paddlers have to take an online course as well?

Watch the Video Here: