The body of a missing man was found near Fort Myers Beach over the weekend. Jerry Conti, 62, of Naples was reported missing in the water while paddleboarding with his wife the morning of July 9, just two miles from a fishing pier. After falling off the paddleboard because of a heart attack, the man did not resurface.
“He was paddleboarding, something happened and he fell off,” Shae Currington, petty officer first class with the U.S. Coast Guard told News-Press. “He was not wearing a life jacket.” Another beachgoer saw the couple and noticed there was a problem when they turned to head back to their initial starting point.
This is not the first time that Florida has seen such an accident. The Coast Guard recovered the body of 59-year old Kenton Miller earlier this year in St. Augustine after a paddleboard accident that led to his death. In light of the weekend’s events, here are five paddleboarding essentials that could keep you safe while out on the water.
1. Life Jacket
A life jacket, also known as a personal flotation device, is likely the most important piece of equipment used in any water-related sports or activities. There are various styles, models, and sizes of life jackets, according to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association. Choosing the best one always depends on the individual. But when you decide on one, make sure to look for the U.S. Coast Guard approval number on the inside flap before purchasing.
Any PFD can be worn while paddleboarding, but because this sport normally takes place in calmer waters, you may want to opt for a type II vest, or near-shore buoyant vest. These PFDs turn an unconscious wearer face-up in the water and is less bulky and more comfortable than foam off-shore life jackets, or type I vests.
Stand-Up paddleboarding, or SUP, has exploded over the years. With thousands of people taking to the water with their boards, the second-most important safety equipment that they should be aware of is the leash. A leash, like in surfing, connects the paddler to the board and can mean the difference between life or death, according to Standup Journal. If you have become exhausted while out and you’re suddenly hit with windy or stormy conditions, the leash will keep your lifesaving board tethered to you. Even with a gentle breeze, the board can travel out of your grasp in a matter of seconds.
“I don’t care how experienced you are, never go paddleboarding without those two things,” Heidi Fizer of Paddleboard SW Florida, told News-Press of life jackets and leashes. Make sure your leash is about a foot longer than your board and choose between a straight or coiled leash. Leave your leash attached to your board at all times and wrap the Velcro cuff around your leg securely before setting out.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends that all paddlers carry a sound-producing device, such as a whistle or a horn, that can be heard at least one-half nautical mile.
This will allow any paddler to inform other boaters of their presence and help in an event of an accident. A simple referee-type whistle or a similar device that can be attached to your life jacket works.
FWC also requires paddlers to use a flashlight or lantern that produces white light if they are operating a paddleboard in limited visibility or at night. The light must be displayed to any approaching vessel in time to avoid a collision, but it should not be continually displayed.
You will also need to equip yourself with visual distress signals if you’re using a paddleboard offshore or on certain coastal waters in the nighttime, the FWC says.
5. A Buddy
Various paddleboard stores and clubs suggest using the buddy system when you head out to the water. Having another person or a group of people around could prove helpful during an emergency situation, according to the News-Press.
If you find yourself solo on the water, make sure you have informed a family member or friend of your plans, not unlike filing a Float Plan.
These five techniques and essentials can prove life-saving in any paddleboarding situation. However, if you take all these precautions and utilize all this safety equipment, but still get struck by a boat or get into the accident with another vessel, you may want to seek legal action. Our attorneys at Morgan & Morgan are knowledgable and experienced in handling boating accident claims. Visit our page to learn more.