BRITISH COLUMBIA

Stand-up Paddlers Stirring Up Vancouver Water Traffic

08/02/2012 02:05 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT
AP
Stand-up paddleboarders catch a wave at the Battle of the Paddle race at Doheny State Beach on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011, in Dana Point, Calif. Competitors paddle through the surf, run a beach course and paddle around buoys during the race. More than a thousand people participated in the weekend race series. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
A new arrival to B.C. shorelines is creating extra traffic and sometimes bringing confusion to Vancouver's busy boat harbours.

A decade ago, few had heard of the sport of stand-up paddling, but in 2012, paddleboard rental shops are buzzing with demand.

But with fishing boats, ferries, pleasure craft and now stand-up paddlers — or "SUPers" as some call them — users of Vancouver's False Creek say there's accident just waiting to happen.

Ian Wood, who works for False Creek Ferries, said he sees a lot of people on paddleboards in the middle of the channel.

"The paddleboarders are quite oblivious to the rules of the road," he said.

Wood says his small passenger ferries are able to turn and dodge quite quickly, but he's still concerned about close calls.

"The paddleboarders sometimes look quite unsteady and fall off. We're always aware, but were worried other boaters aren't aware, and bigger ships that aren't as maneuverable."

Paddlers advised to be prepared

Jillian Glover, a Transport Canada spokesperson, said that stand-up paddlers are considered human-powered vessels and, like other waterway users, they are required to keep a proper lookout and abide by traffic rules.

She also said that according to Transport Canada rules, a paddler is required to wear a personal flotation device with a whistle.

"With any new sport that comes up there's going to be some confusion around what the regulations are, so we certainly do our part and also work with our local enforcement agencies like the Vancouver Police Department to get the message out there about what the requirements are," Glover said.

Jeff Hunt, an instructor with Vancouver's Ecomarine paddling centres, said that rental companies recognize the problems and do what they can to prepare paddlers.

"We make sure we give our safety talk on the dock when we're renting, and make sure that everyone that sets out knows the minimum — that everyone else has the right of way — that it's like riding a bike in traffic," Hunt said.