The problem I see is a simple lack of folks that are paddling at a level I would trust to handle a problem on open water. Period - with or without certs or a desire to make money out of it.
I am not necessarily talking alphabets or numbers here, just people who are serious about learning skills and keeping them tuned up so they'd be of any use in a pinch. What I see more is that people either decide they don't want to learn the skills to handle emergencies - rescues and paddling in more difficult conditions - or they go to one class but never practice it again. So it isn't really there.
So the conundrum becomes how to paddle safely with a group. For example, I know I cannot handle an unlimited number of panicked paddler emergencies in a timely fashion if shit happens well offshore in open water. It's sheer physics - my own, or lack thereof. So others have to be able to handle problems, or better yet be skilled enough to avoid them in the first place. If we can't find that kind of pod, the choices are either stay nearer shore or pay for someone who has set up a well-supported paddle.
We vacation in a place that is a paddler's dream - uncrowded access to a lot of islands, a lot of choices to stay sheltered or be in more open water. There are plenty of paddlers - we know of and have encountered a decent number. But even on the edge of the ocean, the majority that we have tried to hook up with are not a match for what we want to do. Recreational paddlers in Tupperware who clog narrow channels for the fishing boats, people in sea kayaks who are afraid of using a skirt, folks who will go out in pea soup fog from a working harbor with no lights or fog horn... we are surprised every year that we don't hear of more fatalities or near misses. There are days that it is easy to see why some fishermen hate kayakers though.
If there were a robust supply of open water paddlers who had prudent attitudes about safety, getting a pod together would be easy. But from what we've seen, there just aren't enough paddlers like that. Too many people don't want to learn, or get wet or try to overcome their fears to be a better paddler.
PFD's (Life Jackets)
Canoe / Kayak Anchors
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