For those of you in the Maryland SUP community I am sure you heard all about the news from this past Friday. Anytime a paddler see the words ” Paddlers missing” come across your news feeds your heart sinks, and when it is people you know its even worse. That is how we felt this past Friday when the news came in, our phones were going off the hook with people asking if we heard anything.
We know all the paddlers who went and even talked to one of them right before they launched so we were very relieved when we found out the true story and everyone was ok.
Now that we know everyone is fine and that we heard the paddlers side, we feel the need to share it. The paddlers are taking A LOT of heat online, people calling for their heads almost and all from news that was not even accurate.
For those of you that do not know what a downwinder is please watch this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv9lqGtlFJs This video is from one of the board manufactures that makes boards designed specifically for this. It also happens to be the brand of board that two of the paddlers were on. We will not mention his name as the media has been really harsh but he also sent us pictures from his Gopro camera that was on board. Does this look like a paddler in distress?
Downwinding is a lot of fun, its essentially like surfing but a smaller/longer wave. We also want to say ALL 5 paddlers are very experienced paddlers, they all had thick wetsuits on, pfd’s, leashes, and cell phones. And told multiple people their route plan. So they did take a lot of precautions. They were doing a 9 mile paddle and had finished 5 of those miles before being stopped.
So long story short is, a bystander on shore saw them out on the water and thought they were in trouble. They called 911 to report it, now we can’t blame the onlooker and in fact we give them credit, had something actually been wrong and they did not call it could have ended bad. The problem is the sport is so new and the downwinding side of it is unheard of for people who do not follow the sport. Had these paddlers had sails or a kite like windersurfers the onlooker may not have even been worried.
After the call according to the paddler we spoke to the Coast Guard arrived and actually pulled up next to him and talked to the him. After seeing that everything was ok the coast guard left and let them proceed. However shortly after down the river DNR showed up and it was a different story. This is where the story on the news is not accurate to what the paddlers are telling us! DNR pulled next to the paddlers and told them they had to get off the water immediately. The paddlers listened and boarded their boat, they were then dropped off on a random beach (far from their cars) and hit with a $320 each fine for “Negligent Boating” and also an $80 fine for “not having a whistle”. $400 in total!
They were never in distress, they were never rescued, and they never asked for help. The report of 3 being found and 2 missing is just plain false.
Now we get that people are angry and are saying they should have never been out there. We get both sides of the argument and this is not a post to determine who is right or wrong, we just wanted to post the TRUE story behind it and show people what they were actually doing. It was not 5 drunk people who said lets go do something crazy, these were 5 strong paddlers who do this every time the wind is blowing.
The paddler we spoke to said if there was a wind restriction on SUP he would follow: “If there was a max wind threshold for windsurfing or downwind paddling we would respect it. But there is not one published. Due to these factors, I feel we were not negligent and should not have been cited”
The argument on if they should have been out there or not is a whole different topic. Both sides feel very strongly about their opinions and neither side will change the others thinking. All we want is the news to report it accurate
Stay safe out there paddlers