Continuing the series on How to Introduce Kids to Freediving, I want to address the fourth question I posed to a mother from Colorado seated beside me at a dinner recently. Her 12-year-old son and his friend had been learning how to spearfish on their own with a little motored boat the parents had provided to him.
“Did your son take a Boater Safety Education Course?”
She looked confused. I turned to her husband. He, too, was silent.
“Is that something they need to have?” she asked. “Wow, there’s so much I don’t know.”
“I just thought they could take a boat out and have fun. I didn’t know there were any rules that went with this activity.” her husband explained.
We know boater education can save lives and reduce accidents and injuries on the water. In the United States, 45 states have educational requirements for operating a boat or Power Water Craft (PWC) on state waters.
Boating safety is a concern for everyone on the water. Boaters can keep themselves and their passengers safe by learning about responsible boat operation, etiquette, and the rules of the waterways.
To learn what your state’s law requires visit Boat-Ed. State laws can differ but even if your state doesn’t require you to complete a boater safety course, if you operate a PWC in another state, you may be required to have a Boater Education Card. If you will be operating a PWC in another state, you can view that state’s individual boater law at Boat-Ed.
For instance, Wyoming does not require a Boater Education Card, but you can take their Boater Safety Course and get a card to save on insurance or to boat in other states that require a card. Your card is recognized in all 50 states because the Official Boater Safety Courses and Boater Safety Education Materials offered at Boat-Ed are all recognized by the U.S. Coast Guard and approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and your state boating license agency. NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories.
Prices for the course vary by state, but most run about $29.50. You can take the course online; it typically takes about 4-6 hours to complete the course material, aside from the quizzes or tests and any extra studying you may choose to do. You can take it all at once or complete it a little at a time over several days.
Failed the certification exam? You can retake it immediately and will have unlimited attempts to pass this exam. You must score at least 80% on the exam to pass. Some states allow you to print out a temporary certification and get out on the water immediately. Your permanent card will arrive in 2-4 weeks, depending on the state.
At the dinner I told you about earlier, a couple from Colorado who had never lived near the ocean thought their 12-year-old son was living the life of Riley, out boating and spearfishing with another boy who was new to the area. No doubt he was having a great time, but I was concerned about his safety and so I asked a few questions:
Does he understand the risks in freediving and how to manage these?
Did he take a boater safety education course?
Does he have a Personal Floatation Device onboard for himself and his friend?
Does he have a VHF radio onboard?
Do they have and display a divers down flag when diving?
The answer was no to every question. They had no idea about the whys and wherefores of these requirements, and they were concerned. But in the days that followed they took action to ensure their son was properly educated, equipped, and in compliance with the law.
Chances are you, too, will encounter people from landlocked states who have recently moved into your coastal community who get as excited about spearfishing and freediving and you do and who will want to venture out into the ocean. It’s a good idea to keep an ear out for newbies to the area and ask a few questions to make sure they are educated and properly equipped so they don’t get into trouble.
Take care of the tribe!