That is the question… posed by this year’s wonderful summer!
I have to admit that historically I’ve definitely been in the ‘thou shalt wear a Buoyancy Aid’ camp; I’ve always felt underdressed without one whenever I’ve been out on or even working alongside the water. But this summer I’ve found myself going afloat without one and enjoying the freedom that going BA-less brings.
Whenever I’ve been coaching then the BA has still been going on, but for recreational paddling here on the Thames it was increasingly discarded as the temperature rose. Perhaps it was because I’ve spent a lot of time on a paddleboard this summer. Using a leash to keep you attached to that large floating platform that is a SUP is common practice and makes perfect sense in summer conditions, particularly when paddling with others to help in case of difficulty. If I’d been paddleboarding at a lifeguarded beach the decision would almost certainly been the same.
So when I’ve been out recently in the canoe, the temptation to paddle without a BA has sometimes been too great to turn down. On the Thames where the chances of a capsize were very low and there were others around who could help it has seemed a natural choice.
Each decision has been based on a risk assessment made on the day and if I’d been playing on or shooting the weirs I’m sure I’d have thought again. When I’ve been out training on my own in a race boat the BA has gone on. In the canoe, as the weather cools and river flows increase the BA will be back on, but it seems the growth of SUP has led me to question its necessity in all situations. An unexpected outcome, but one I’m comfortable with.