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Do you wear your PFD (open water)



  • The decision isn't hard
    No need to make a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Always wear a pfd and it saved my life
    Ended up in the water in a cold Atlantic ocean and unable to re-enter because it had gotten too rough. After nearly exhausting my energy in trying to re-enter multiple times, I was just barely able to stay functional long enough to swim the kayak into shore against an out-going tide (while my buddy was in the same situation out of sight 1/4 mile away.) Without the flotation of the pfds to help conserve some energy, I doubt either of us would have made it to shore. Stupidly, we both had VHFs but had them stashed in drybags in the hatches, which made them impossible to get to. (“If we need them we’ll just raft up and get one out.”) Ever since, my VHF goes on my pfd every trip, even on glassy August days. It’s been years since I capsized unintentionally, but a heart attack could come any time.
  • He's right
    This is an important point. If you have on your PFD and someone in your party doesn't - if something happens, all of a sudden it's your issue...and you are at risk for someone else's poor decision.
  • Always
    It keeps me warm in spring and fall and, interestingly, keeps me cool in the summer. If you get one with the right cut around the chest it doesn't interfere at all with paddling. So there's really no reason not to wear one.
  • No agony involved
    -- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 12:33 AM EST --

    The only reason it takes longer to write why they sometimes don't wear the PFD is that they need to describe the benign conditions involved. If you wear it always, no matter what, there's nothing else to write. In any case, when you state that such an explanation indicates an agonizing decision-making process, it shows you are missing something.

    As just one example, I've paddled for miles without a PFD on a creek that's only one foot deep. I may need to explain to you that walking the creek is as easy as walking on a sidewalk so that you'll have some chance of understanding why not wearing a PFD doesn't put me in grave danger, but that doesn't mean I needed to spend any time analyzing the situation to reach that conclusion for myself. The things other people write about this are just other examples of the same idea.

    And for what it's worth, most people who know me have probably never seen me paddle without wearing a PFD.

  • I wore a life jacket and, much of the
    time, a helmet while wading and swimming the 25 miles of the Chattooga Headwaters. As it turned out, I never had a serious fall, but even though the river was very low, there were pools that were over my head.

    But in extremely hot weather, and in very benign conditions, I used to leave my life jacket in the boat. Now, in old age, my heart can have fibrillation episodes, so the life jacket stays on.

    Decades ago, a competent paddler died on the class 1 Lower,lower Toccoa, probably because he had a seizure condition and wasn't wearing his life jacket.
  • Hope you never show up at..
    a USCA sponsored race with that attitude!

    Jack L
  • Of course exceptions
    Some races and our FreeStyle exhibitions Which are ACA sanctioned do not require PFD wearing.
  • I don't know Kay
    Go back and read all the responses.
    Most of them want a PFD on if you are in a foot of water.
    Most who think and decide for themselves will not post here because they know they will get jumped all over by some of the ding bats that post here.
    Come down to the Florida Keys, and see for every paddler with a PFD, there are ten that don't wear them.
    When I use the term "ding bats" I am not refeering to the ones who are safety conscience and just answer the OP's question. I am refering to those that have to belittle those of us that wear one when we deem it necessary, and not every time we step into a canoe or kayak.

    Jack L
  • It's a Habit!
    -- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 9:30 AM EST --

    The hallmark of a habit is that one (almost) automatically performs the action as an integral part of whatever larger activity is involved. So somebody with the habit of "always" wearing their seatbelt in a car just automatically begins to reach around and grapple for the belt and click it into place. Something just feels wrong if, for some reason, they've neglected to do this. Now we all know and understand (don't we?) that we need not attach our seatbelts while sitting in the driveway or garage washing the inside of the windows or fishing for something in the glove compartment. But if we're driving our vehicles, we wear our seatbelts.

    The PFD situation is just the same for those who have developed the habit--the PFD goes on as an near-automatic response to getting ready to launch. It does not need to, nor does it usually, get worn while sitting in the kayak on the grass at home, say, while first testing out the latest backband or seat adjustment--we'll probably put in on later, though. But if we're paddling, on water yet, we wear our PFDs. This is what is meant by developing the PFD habit, the seatbelt habit, the tooth-brushing habit, etc., etc.

    I offer this explanation for those who have difficulty understanding what habits are and how they work, and find that they must "decide" these simple things every time the situation presents itself. The safety and health statistics will easily demonstrate that good habits result in better outcomes for those who acquire good habits.

    Hope this helps!

  • And there you have it...
    Conditions and health change. Ever been paddling with someone who gets injured (person complained about elbow pain early in paddle - an hour later, they are incapacitated)?

    I admit that I seldom paddle in Florida or shallow water, but I have seen people who were rendered unconscious (overheating), suffered injuries (tendonitis, hit by powerboat, and can imagine lots of conditions where not having a pfd increases risk significantly - lightning is virtually non-existent where I live, but there are areas, Florida comes to mind, where it is remarkably common. I've been a paddler who went out on a calm day and found that an hour later, it was raining and blowing 25 knots, even though the weather report indicated that conditions would be mild that day.

    If you paddle for enough years, you experience these types of things. Yes, the odds go down when conditions are good and the water is warm, but they do not disappear. Most hypothermia issues occur in water between 62-72F because people don't think they need thermal protection.

    I'm not trying to be the "police," but I do want to raise awareness that there are non-zero increases to risk when basic safety equipment is ignored.

    There is nothing I hate hearing about more than deaths resulting from easily avoidable situations (such as the couple who lost their 3 YO son on SF Bay because they seemingly didn't even consider that he could fall off the sailboat). Fortunately, he wasn't uncomfortable in the PFD he didn't want to wear, right?

    Do or don't, that's fine and your choice. If you paddle with me, you do. If not, I probably won't say a word, but I will go my own way. Personally, I feel that paddling solo is safer than paddling with someone who exercises what I consider poor judgement.

  • Maybe those who have gotten into.....
    trouble while wearing their PFD need to get into the habit of staying off the water if there is ANY chance of them being in conditions they cannot handle!!!! Or are they willing to take the risk that they like those who sometimes don't wear their PFD's are willing to take?
  • The habit of thinking
    One-size-fits-all rigid rules do not require any thought. Your blowing up the decision to make an exception for the few times they occur suggests that you are the caterpillar who suddenly cannot walk because he doesn't "understand" how his legs work.

    I actually do have the habit of wearing the PFD, as you would "understand" if you'd comprehended my first post. There are exactly two sentences there describing the times when I choose not to wear the PFD on a given outing.

    Since you brought up the example of brushing teeth as a habit, here's a different example: A driver takes the same route to work every day, requiring the same turn or exit. That turn becomes habit. When he has to go somewhere else requiring a different turn or exit, he robotically takes the work-bound turn instead. Brain is on autopilot.

    Habits are OK to break sometimes. Not hard to understand.
  • I Do Now on the Advice of my Doctor
    Because too many elderly paddlers like myself collapse, for some reason or other, while paddling out on the ocean, and on a surfski, it's instant immersion. So I listen to my doctor. Sure, there's no guarantee that I'll survive, but at least I'll float?

    Prior to the doctor's advice, I didn't wear them, for they were a hindrance and a detriment to my style of paddling.

    Wearing a PFD is a personal decision, and I respect your decision to either wear them or not.
  • Always.
    -- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 3:10 PM EST --

    My wife and I are both beginners when it comes to kayaking but we are highly trained and experienced scuba divers and value safety. We do wear lightweight inflatable PFDs on flat water in hot weather (and full sized ones the rest of the time) but neither of us would get in a boat without wearing one.

  • My Best Example
    -- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 7:26 PM EST --

    Pikabike, your first post cements firmly into place exactly the nature of the "deciding" syndrome that developing a robust PFD habit can help you overcome. You will be free of needing to again and again travel the decision tree: Are we on a lake? How big or small is the lake? Is it small and/or sheltered? How big is "big"? How sheltered is "sheltered"? Or are we on a river? Are we on the ocean? If so, how warm is the air? the water? Am I in a sheltered bay? Will I stay in that bay? Faced with all those factors and variables, a caterpillar would have trouble figuring out how to walk, let alone whether or not it should wear a PFD.

  • So what your saying c-runner is ....
    -- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 9:24 PM EST --

    you just throw on your pfd and go because thinking about water temps, conditions, size of the body of water are to time consuming or takes too much thought?
    Your just a pfd covered accident waiting to happen!!!!

  • Good grief!!
    Are you serious? If it's an attempt at humor, it's just, well, strange, though it IS funny in a different kind of way. If you are serious, and if this is how you interpret Pika's and others' remarks about recognizing benign conditions, surely it means you must go through hell yourself when deciding between wearing a winter coat or just a long-sleeved shirt, as dictated by the weather outside. Maybe even deciding between a winter coat and a swimsuit is enough to drive you bonkers. It appears possible.

  • Reading the responses here.
    I think three quarters of you are so paranoid about it being a must to wear your PFD, that you would be a lot safer if you gave up paddling and just never went near water.

  • Paranoia?
    Paranoia doesn't come into it. Safety, common sense and intelligence does.
  • Inevitably these "discussions" rot
    into stupidity and silliness.

    I think I will go paddling. I will be putting on my PFD without a second of thought.
  • Kayaking, PFDs, and Non-Sequiturs
    Jaws, I'll reply to your question with one of my own: Do you expect your non-sequitur "question" to be taken as serious argument? Please try again. Ditto Guideboatguy and Roanguy (are you twins?)
  • I missed the ritual part
    Candles, prayer, maybe some trail mix?

  • what is clearly most important here
    ...is finding crap to pick at in the people whose opinions oppose yours.

    Good grief. The OP asked a simple question.
  • S'cuse me
    I know and have paddled with pikabike, and in some interesting conditions. Suggesting that she is somehow paralyzed from making decisions because she might leave the PFD off to laze near shore in quiet water on a hot day is about as far from reality as you could go.

    I am guessing you are either an engineer or an academic. Both seem prone to hyperbole when they try to summarize grand thoughts online.
  • Good Gracious.......
    The thought that a serious discussion of an issue should break out! To wear or not wear a PFD while paddling open water (Always), and then to discuss all the infinite gradations and variations of when to wear or not wear the PFD--what if (horrors) there should be differing opinions on a serious matter?

    There is a powerful case to be made for developing a strong PFD habit, and it rests upon the well-understood and recognized utility of other good, strong habits such as wearing seatbelts while driving, brushing one's teeth, etc. I hope we can all understand that, by climbing into our cockpits with our PFDs on, we have thus short-circuited out almost all of the possibility that we will come to fatal harm from lack of sufficient buoyancy. We will also be protected to a certain extent against impact injury, and, should the worst happen, the CG or Marine Police will have better luck retrieving the body. Against these strong arguments, supported by just about every group or association or body involved with boating, we have "I don't feel like it." or, "I've given the situation a lot of analysis, and I'm sure I'll be just fine.", or, "Nobody tells me what to do!"

    I think these things are worth discussing.
  • An academic, right?
    Gotta be...
  • It's just an analogy
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:33 PM EST --

    I can't understand how a choice that can be made in a moment's application of logic needs to be seen as such a crippling process for the person involved. Your escalation of this is pretty amazing.

    You like that seatbelt analogy, so consider this. If I'm driving a big truck in a very low gear through a cornfield and I don't wear my seatbelt, does that mean my seatbelt habit isn't well enough established for me to be safe while driving? (in actual fact, I'd probably wear my seatbelt at least sometimes in that situation because "something doesn't feel right" when it's not buckled, but sometimes I wouldn't, because the thinking part of me knows perfectly well that there is NO way that not wearing it can be considered a safety issue right at that moment since a person can walk twice as fast as what the truck would go even if the gas pedal were accidentally floored). In this case, would you do the same as you did with Pikabike and say something that implies that surely I wasted unnecessary time and went through some degree of mental anguish deciding whether or not the belt was necessary at that moment? My point, which somehow you missed, is that you are making this much harder than it needs to be. No one agonizes over the decision in the way you say that they do.

    Oh, and here's a perfect analogy that everyone here can relate to. When walking in the woods we wear shoes to protect our feet (not just a comfort issue but one of safety as well). If I wake up in my tent at 3:00 am and need to take a pee, I might not to put on my shoes. I won't be walking that far and need not worry about hurting myself, so why bother. To you, such a decision would be a "ritual" and habits are preferable to rituals. To me and anyone I know personally, not only is it not a ritual, it's not even something to dwell upon, much less turn into a major discussion.

  • Always....
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:19 PM EST --

    An' yer reckon why? Cuz, ah's gots "heavy fat" an' sink like a lead bag full o' Kryptonite - dats why! Even a standard 16.5 lbs. lifevest ain't 'nuff ta keep dis varmint afloat.

    Waan me carries a VHF radio (required fer National Canoe Safety Patrol duty on de Upper Delaware River) it's in me lifevest pocket.

    Ah' poysonally dun't do much "open water" me'self. Mostly rivers an' kreks an' ah' dun'y care iffin' it be 1" or 100' deep, hot or cold, miserable or not - ah's always waars it an' zipped up.

    FE -

  • Ritual reserved for prepping trailer
    I have two rituals (PLEC and BATHS) when using the trailer, both intended to prevent creating a hazard for anybody else:

    Place (coupler securely on ball)
    Lock (coupler's latch--another way to ensure that the placement is secure)
    Electrical (connect the trailer's wiring to the truck's)
    Chains (hook them up)


    Bearings check (for signs of grease leakage)
    Air pressure check
    Tread wear check
    Hatch covers secure
    Straps check

    The acronyms help me go through the list systematically.
  • Making mountain out of molehill again
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:37 PM EST --

    Apparently, you have chosen to target my posts, perhaps because they are articulate?

    You're repeating yourself, so I'll repeat myself: the decision to make an exception is not hard nor does it take "agonization."

    Not everybody dithers over these kinds of decisions. If you do, you've found YOUR solution, so your continued harassment of other people's decisions reeks of an agenda tied to business interests.

    If you truly find it so laborious and slow to make these kinds of decisions, I hate to think what you're like when something unexpected happens on the water. Yikes.

  • No Cigar
    Some responses to my posts I can easily dismiss, not as replies, but rather as involuntary spasms. Others, though, become so tortured as to cause actual pain, probably both to their authors and to the readers. Guideboatguy, I suggest that you carefully re-read your post--talk about crippling decision/indecision syndrome! Why not just buckle your seatbelt or put on your PFD and cut the Gordian Knot. Break Free! But it may be that "What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach."
  • well when you're ready then lead the way
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 2:36 PM EST --

    ...because most of your posts have obsessed over people who make different decisions than you do, and ridiculed and misrepresented simple decision-making on the part of those who decide not to wear a PFD. Even after they tell you it's a simple decision.

    I'd cite more needless mudslinging but despite your feigned indignation, I trust you can probably find it for yourself.

  • Disappointment!
    Slushpaddler, I'm disappointed by the thinness of your skin when it comes to discussing this PFD issue, one you wholly agree with me on. You and several of my other critics flail away at me with ad hominem nonsense, rather than robustly defending your various points of view. I've actually been called an "academic", an "engineer", somebody with close ties to the PFD industry--Oooo, the pain! Of COURSE I have opinions about PFD wearing that are at variance with some of your friends (not you, as you well know), but I thought, obviously wrongly, that you were up for vigorous discussion. I was wrong.
  • Options
    I carry an inflatable as a spare NM
  • Options
    I always wear
    my PFD. Despite being a good swimmer and having never capsized in a multitude of years of shoreline paddling, I always wear it to avoid the most certain overzealous torrent of wrath and judgement to ensue.
  • Very much my thought...
    -- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 10:39 PM EST --

    the rescue part - where flexibility is often the key. I just failed to say it earlier.

  • I always wear a PFD
    Everybody I paddle with always wears a PFD, and there is never any discussion about it - everyone just puts it on. Fortunately for me its not an issue.
  • I sincerely hope
    the Groundhog does not see his shadow tomorrow.
    This pack can't stand another 6 weeks of winter.

    In answer to the OP question, yes, always. Sometimes just an inflatable, but always.
    When I first started paddling, I never did. Now I always do.
  • Ya think? :-)
  • "PFD industry" does not equal "industry
    If you're going to argue, at least get your quotes correct.

    Judging by your failure to pay attention someone actually says, it is no wonder that you have adopted the solution that requires no thought.

    No point in any further debate with someone like you...
  • No one posting here has drowned
    So, whatever the current posters here are doing with PFD's, it must be working so far.

  • It is probably because....
    those of us in the north have had limited chance to actually get on the water outside of a pool since the launches froze over. Though people have drowned in a bathtub, so maybe it is just luck. :-)

  • The ones who drowned
    would be posting: Wear your frackin' PFD!
  • Most of the time
    The only exception is if it is really hot and humid and I start sweating underneath it and it gets miserable I will take it off and put it under the deck bungees.

  • We Both Failed.....
    -- Last Updated: Feb-02-14 7:40 PM EST --

    Pikabike, we've both failed miserably to address the really important part of this whole thread, don't you think?: Whether I misquoted when I used the term "PFD Industry" (I did), and then whether your own posting of "Industry" was a misquote (it was). We both know, or should know, or should have remembered, that your original accusation was that my posts "reek of an agenda tied to business interests." Yes, you actually posted that--go check. You are so cruel, so mean! And it hurts so much!!

  • Options
    It isn't entirely clear

    whether the lack of a PFD is truly causal to their demise or whether is more indicative of a greater problem, namely inexperience.
    As consequential with regard to inexperience are insufficient skills and lack of knowledge. Furthermore, those deficiencies would lead to poor decision making and a lack of situational awareness that substantially increases risk.
    The paddler that ventures into the sea without sufficient understanding of the weather, tides, cold, and "sea states" probably both lacks the skills to deal with the situation and lacks a PFD (as well as other requisite gear).

    A quick google...

    There's a few that were wearing...

    But most did not.

    (It is arguable this could have been much more gory if the paddler was still floating after the swans continued to maul the lifeless body.)

    It's hard to say where the statistics come from, but it is pretty clear.


    So what to do? Perhaps more education would be beneficial. None of my boats came with links to "getting started" videos.

    Although most new paddlers buying rec boats to paddle around the bay aren't likely to sit through "Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown" or read Franco Ferrero, a basic instructional on currents, wind, consequences of capsize, cold, basic gear, etc... could go a long way toward prevention.
  • Speak for yourself (nm)
  • how long does your VHF last?
    how long does your VHF last like that on the shoulder of the PFD?
    I mean, before salt corrosion kills it?
    I see people having theirs inside a see-through clear bag, despite the VHF being labelled "waterproof".
  • The other 20% - good article
    -- Last Updated: Feb-03-14 6:19 AM EST --

    I have no data to support it, but it makes sense to me that entrapment, unconsciousness, mouth immersions would be the critical risks once you get beyond not having a life jacket.

    Based on my limited experience (fortunately), entrapment is probably the critical hazard. There have been a couple of entrapment fatalities in my area since I started paddling. While everyone I paddle with does wear a PFD, I do know a few people who don't wear a helmet, so they could easily be knocked unconscious. I've also been stuck in a hole, and have bobbed down some long rapids, so I can also see mouth immersions being an issue.

    Unless an inexperienced paddler does something really stupid, though, these are risks that effect a limited number of paddlers (whitewater and advance sea kayakers). I would also add hypothermia to the list since there have been a number of cold water paddling deaths in my area recently.

    With so many other things to worry about, putting on a PFD seems like a no brainer.

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