Visibility for races and training paddles: How much consideration is this given?

When I was serving in the Coast Guard I had countless search and rescue cases involving people in the water and lost vessels of various sizes. The most challenging cases involved locating boats and people in the water that were the color of white-caps or were the color of the water. The more you or your boat looks like the water or the seas, the less you will stand out and therefor the less likely you will be seen by rescuers. I served on 41’ vessels and various aircraft so I speak from personal experience. A paddler from yesterday’s State Championship race got separated from his boat and although the safety vessel knew he was in the vicinity, it took three passes to find him due to the 10 foot seas and the paddler wearing a blue shirt. With only a few moments between crest and trough for a line of sight, if you do not stand out it will take longer to find you.

My surfski is a bright color and I usually wear a bright shirt for races and training. Does anyone have similar concerns about improving their visibility in case they have a really bad day?


Submitted by RayC on Sun, 04/01/2012 - 5:52pm

So what about training paddles?

I know I should wear brighter shirts and I buy them for the reasons you speak of. But, I really like wearing my black on black outfit. This is a good reminder that fashion should t take precedence over practicality. At work it's ok to wear the uncomfortable shoes that look good over the comfortable ones that don't look as good. But, in the ocean I need a paradigm shift. Thanks for the reminder.

#1 Sun, 04/01/2012 - 9:27pm

Best colors are pink and orange. You could really spot those paddlers wearing the bright orange HCKT World Expo Jerseys on Saturday. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of those bright orange t-shirts for sale on their website? Even those florescent green work shirts are very visible out in the ocean. Forget about your competition being able to spot and cover you, the main thing is safety and keeping yourself visible for the chase boats.

#2 Mon, 04/02/2012 - 12:17pm

All of this season and part of last I've been wearing a red long sleeve Patagonia and my harness with reflective tape for reasons of being seen. Pretty sure most know and have seen it since it forms an "X" on my back. I know just wearing them I have confidence that I'll be seen it puts my mind at ease while paddling during a race or when doing practice runs at Hawaii Kai and where I paddle.

A paddler in the water with only his/her head and shoulders being the only thing visible doesn't have much to offer visiblity when in the rough seas. A bright colored hat/visor will help a little, but only within visible range. If they still have their paddle with them that distinct shape waving above the troughs when the safety craft can be heard nearby would help.

On my waterbladder cover I have a whistle, rescue mirror and small dive knife, but that thing is on my canoe which won't help if my leash comes off/breaks and I'm "bobbing" around. Luckily my leash hasn't failed yet. I may have to re-think on where I can carry them on me without being a hinderance.

This State race I was the last one in and supposedly one of five paddlers that the Officials hadn't accounted for yet. On the way out from Waimanalo, another paddler in front of me got creamed by the incoming sets and his canoe came loose (leash?) and came at me sideways with no where to avoid being hit. When I came up my canoe was apart and the incoming sets kept bashing his canoe into me and my canoe. The other canoe eventually got taken in and I had a hell of a time trying to put my canoe together while avoiding the sets. Didn't see any noticable damage and I continued on with the race knowing the safety craft and the other paddlers were well off in and already past the lighthouse. After coming in I've found damage to the top deck where the other canoe hit along with several other minor dents from the subsequent bashings. My ama got some damage as well and had about a cup of seawater in it. All that seems minor after seeing the broken canoe on the grass and about the missing one.

#3 Mon, 04/02/2012 - 12:55pm

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