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WA Rep: ‘Our waters are dangerous,’ wants licenses for kayaks, paddleboards

A paddleboarder moves through the wildfire smoke and haze on Elliott Bay off of West Seattle on Sept. 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

There’s a bill in Olympia being floated that would mandate boating safety courses and a license for those who want to use kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards. The sponsor is Rep. John Lovick, who joined the Dori Monson Show to discuss why he feels it’s necessary.

“I wrote the bill as an idea to bring awareness that our waters are dangerous, and the idea being is that we need to educate the public that our waters are dangerous,” Lovick said. “We need to train them, and then at some point, we need to legislate. So that’s where the idea came from. Education, training, and legislation.”

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Dori suggested that the kayak safety bill feels like “you’re going after a fly with a sledgehammer here.” He asked Lovick if it wouldn’t be simpler to encourage kayakers and paddleboarders to wear lifejackets, instead of having to take a course and carry a license.

“I hear that. … I heard those same things when we were trying to legislate other things, like wearing a seatbelt, making it mandatory,” he said. “Washington state is the fifth worst state in the nation for water safety. The only states in front of Washington state are Florida, Texas, California, and Alabama, and we simply can do better.”

“This is an idea, like I said, to bring some awareness to this, to try and train and make us number one at everything that we do, one of the safest states in the nation,” he added. “I spent 13 years in the Coast Guard, and I don’t know how many bodies I pulled as we were out rescuing people. But it’s very tremendously serious when you talk about water safety, so we need to do this.”

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The bill brings to mind the state mandate a few years ago that required those with power crafts take a boating safety course, but, as Dori noted, much of that related to how people in power crafts pass others in the water, and ensure they’re not impacting others’ safety. Kayakers and paddleboarders don’t impact others in that same manner, so why make them take the safety course?

“What you’re saying is pretty much what I listened to in the testimony yesterday, and the majority of the opposition came from experienced paddleboard operators, experienced kayakers, experienced canoers,” Lovick said. “We’re just saying that those people will not have to go through all this training. They can test out. We want those inexperienced people to get this training, and that’s what I hope to do if we get this bill passed.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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