Friday, May 25, 2018
Outdoors

Paddleboarders should take boating safety precautions

Those who knew him said was as good as they get.

"He was a very strong paddler," said Darry Jackson, who sells stand-up paddleboards out of his shop, Bill Jackson Shop for Adventure in Pinellas Park. "He was in great shape."

But when Comer, a 50-year-old from Tampa did not return from a stand-up paddleboard trip near Egmont Key last weekend, his friends were left to only guess what happened.

This much is certain: The avid waterman had gone out for a paddle near Egmont Key on Saturday. His paddleboard, along with his wallet and car keys, was found near the north entrance of the Manatee River late that evening. His vehicle was found at Fort De Soto County Park, and Tampa police checked his residence.

"The weather was pretty nice, but later that afternoon a storm came blowing through," Jackson said. "It was probably pretty rough out there."

The U.S. Coast Guard scoured local waters for two days, covering an area roughly the size of Pinellas County, before abandoning its search Monday evening. Comer's body has still not been found.

Inexpensive lifesaver

Even experienced paddlers can fall off their board when the seas get rough. And once you are in the water up to your chin, it is often difficult to see above the waves.

"And when you do fall, you tend to push the board away from you," Jackson said. "And when the waves are big, it can be hard to find the board again."

Stand-up paddleboarding is one of the nation's fastest growing water sports. Paddlers stand atop a board that is similar to a surfboard and propel themselves across the surface with a long paddle. Bill Jackson's sold three times as many paddleboards last month as it did the same time period one year ago.

Unfortunately, many of those who are new to the sport don't think much about safety.

A board leash, which keeps the board attached to the paddler at the ankle, is relatively inexpensive, but it can be a true lifesaver, especially in open water.

"We don't know if Jeff had a leash or not," Jackson said. "But I do know that if I planned to paddle across the mouth of Tampa Bay, I would definitely be using one."

Board leashes cost between $12 and $35. If the water is flat calm, the leash can be coiled up on the deck of the board, where it is out of the way. "But if you are going to paddle open water, you need a leash," Jackson cautioned.

PFDs for SUPs

Many paddlers don't know whether the regulations regarding personal flotation devices apply to paddleboards.

Should a stand-up paddleboard be treated like a surfboard, no PFD required? Or are the oversized paddleboards more like kayaks and canoes, a mode of transportation, and therefore subject to applicable U.S. Coast Guard regulations?

After much discussion, Michael Schenker, a local paddling instructor, put the question to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

"Stand-up paddleboards are classified by the U.S. Coast Guard as a vessel," wrote Brian Rehwinkel, the FWC's boating and safety awareness coordinator. "The only exception would be if these paddleboards were used in a swimming, surfing or bathing area."

As a result, basic boating safety equipment requirements apply, which means one U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket "onboard" for each passenger on the paddleboard. In Florida waters, any child under 6 years of age would have to wear a life jacket while the vessel is under way.

Lisa Novak, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington, concurred: "The Coast Guard has determined that beyond the narrow limits of a swimming, surfing or bathing area, a paddleboard is a vessel, and therefore subject to applicable regulations."

   
Comments
Captainís Corner: Swimmer crabs attract big permit

Captainís Corner: Swimmer crabs attract big permit

The outgoing tides of last weekendís new moon washed thousands of small swimmer crabs, known locally as "pass crabs," out of the estuaries and into the gulf. This suddenly abundant food source offshore works as a natural chum line and draws big permi...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18

Speckled trout are our most prevalent species around the bay area. They spawn year-round, so their numbers are sustained. They are a flourishing species. For sport, trout are easier to catch than almost everything else we have in the Gulf of Mexico. ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Captainís Corner: With full moon, tarpon are on the move

With the full moon this next week tarpon are moving down the beaches and making their way out of the bay and moving out to the bridges and the passes to feed before some of them leave to go out and spawn on the full moon. Early in the morning along t...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18

Captainís Corner: Cloudier water improves the bite

Windy conditions this week have actually slightly improved fishing. The waters of Saint Joseph sound had become so clear that it made finding fish easy, but getting bites very difficult. Snook have been gathering in great numbers all along the beache...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Captainís Corner: Red grouper fishing continues to be good

Red grouper fishing continues to be steady in depths of 100-120 feet. Large bait stacks are holding a fish or two, but larger concentrations are on very small rolls and potholes in those depths. Zooming in on the bottom 10-15 feet of the water column...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/20/18

Captainís Corner: Catching a giant cobia

Cobia is the topic this week. Capt. Tom Markham, aboard the Simply Hooked, was beginning his daily bait routine. It turned out that one of the markers located near Clearwater Pass, surprisingly, had a giant fish waiting for him. The captain slid up t...
Published: 05/16/18

Captainís Corner: Tarpon showing up on beaches, bridges

This week shouldnít be a total wash out. While there is a chance of rain every day, it should only be sporadic. Hopefully it wonít dirty up the water too much. If you are a tarpon fisherman and look forward to their arrival like I do, then you are in...
Published: 05/14/18
Updated: 05/15/18

Captainís Corner: This is best time of year for bay area fishing

Itís the best time of year for fishing in the area. Tarpon can be targeted off of any of the bridges. The Gandy, Howard Frankland and Skyway are my top choices. While awaiting a tarpon strike, I kill time by dropping smaller baits for Spanish mackere...
Published: 05/13/18

Captainís Corner: Change tactics for fly fishing success

Most fly fishers would prefer minimum wind and cloudless skies to increase chances for a banner day. This has been a problem lately. The wind makes casting more difficult, unless very experienced, and clouds interfere with sight casting opportunities...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/14/18

Captainís Corner: Tips on handling burgeoning baitfish

Schools of baitfish have arrived and taken up residence in all depths. Birds are diving on them close to the beach, all the way out to the midwater artificial reefs. Farther offshore, bait schools might not be visible on the surface but can be detect...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/12/18