Paddlesports popularity increases

United States Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor Bill Fink teaches a Paddlesports America class Thursday at the Yacht Club. The class featured an in-depth presentation about kayaks, canoes and water safety.

Tellico Village residents gathered Thursday on the top floor of the Yacht Club to take part in the first Paddlesports America class of the year held by the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The focus of the class was on kayaks, canoes and the emphasis of water safety when out on the lake or river.

“Primarily, we start with describing the physical characteristics of a kayak,” Dennis Beard, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor, said. “There are such things as freeboard, which is the height above the water line to where the water would spill in. Some people also may not know other parts, such as the stern. Then, we go into the different types of paddles you can use and different kayaks for different circumstances.”

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor Bill Fink led the class and provided detailed instructions for residents who may have been interested in learning about paddlesports.

“This is a great resource for people in Tellico Village,” Fink said. “I do the paddlesports class, and it’s always a fun time. We go through and try to hit on as much as possible when it comes to different types of paddlesports, like kayaking, whitewater rafting and even paddleboarding. It’s just a great way for people to get out on the water and have fun.”

Paddlesports America is a course provided to communities around the country by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and with an increase of residents in Tellico Village, the Coast Guard wants people to have fun while staying safe.

“Safety is always the most important aspect,” Beard said. “It’s just like with regular boating — be safe out there and have fun at the same time. Our job is to ensure that people are being safe and smart while out on the water.”

According to statistics from the United States Coast Guard, 30 percent of water-related deaths in 2017 were from paddlers.

“Paddlesports is technically designated as a high risk and high priority for us in the Coast Guard,” Fink said. “The Coast Guard pretty much said, ‘Wait a minute. We need to improve safety here.’ So, they mashed up with the America Canoe Association, which is a very strong lobbying group and came up with these programs to educate the public.”

In addition to kayaks, the Coast Guard has seen an influx of different types of paddle boats.

“There are actually quite a bit of different types of paddle vehicles nowadays that a lot of people don’t know about or aren’t quite sure how to use,” Beard said. “One of the most popular right now are paddle boards, which are like sail boards, but just you stand on there and paddle. It’s like what the old, ancient war Hawaiians had. Across the country, it’s becoming very popular.”

“There are just a lot of different types out there that people can choose from for different reasons,” Fink added. “When you’re out on the lake on a nice day, it’s probably best just to use a standard recreational kayak or paddle board. But there’s also some sleeker, faster ones that glide easier on the water, as well as some with the assistance of a rudder or sail. Really, it’s more of a preference thing.”

The Coast Guard Auxiliary has seen an increase of paddle craft on Tellico Lake and expects there to be more this spring and summer.

“It’s really becoming a bigger thing here in Tellico Village,” Beard said. “It’s kind of indicative, but the POA has created a covered shed here at the Yacht Club on one of the docks that accommodates up to 32 kayaks. There’s also a proposal to build a second, 32-kayak shed due to the increasing popularity around here.

“A lot of the people here in Tellico are very active,” he added. “They’re seniors, but they have a very active lifestyle, including those that are now retired. It’s just now February, and we’ve already had over 15 people sign up for this one class. We’re expecting an increase in the number of paddlers out on the lake this year.”

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