Can a funny hat reduce paddling risks?
Most people who are new to paddling always ask “but aren’t you afraid of the (insert) – alligators, crocodiles or sharks”. The truth is however, that at least in South Florida the biggest danger by far to kayakers and paddlers are actually power boaters!
OK so most boaters don’t drive quite like in the picture, but there is a significant percentage who do operate their vessels carelessly and sometimes even maliciously. This is based on many years spent paddling and sharing the waterways all around South Florida with all types of boaters. I am of the opinion that you can tell a lot about a person and their character based on the way they drive .. or boat. Also one can tell a lot about a certain location by the way people are driving and boating. It follows then that people tend to operate their boats much the same way they drive on the highway!
I’d say upwards of 60% of boaters seem to be at the very least self-absorbed, inattentive, inconsiderate speeders and a few downright assholes. Another maybe 30% are normal boaters going about their way who just want to be left alone. The roughly 10% left are actually nice and considerate boaters who might even socially engage with paddlers. This percentage breakdown probably also reflects the general nature of the South Florida population at large.
Of course, there are never any guarantees as evidenced by the boat that crashed into a jetty. C’est la vie! 😉
Regardless, it stands to reason that once out on the water, all paddlers should be as visually conspicuous as possible, especially when paddling near power boaters. A bright colored kayak or board certainly helps, as well as clothing and head wear. Kayakers are notoriously difficult to see from a distance because we sit so low to the water. This is where bright color paddles and head wear really matter because often that’s all a power boater will see until they are almost on top of you! I take this up a notch with a bright orange traffic cone like sombrero hat! If you think it looks funny (and it does), so much the better! Why? Because humor really helps to break the ice, so to speak and lets people adopt a more relaxed and light hearted attitude. This helps safety because now you’re a person, not just a random paddling figure in the distance! It’s also of the the reasons why I alternately often wear giant Mexican sombrero hats (other than for the excellent shade they provide).
I’ve found that the sombrero and cone shape is easily seen from a great distance, and always makes people laugh.
Ultimately to be seen is all that matters to me.
Happy paddling! 🙂
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With that said..