3 children on kayaks ; one wearing a PFD.

Images of people on kayaks without life jackets. I’m sorry that was not spelled out more in my post.

@RussSeese said:
No one can really tell about a person’s skills, experience or judgement from a photo; but you can see the lack of a life jacket.

This is my point. It’s the low hanging fruit. No one bothers to ask questions beyond this.

I don’t know the right answer but it makes one wonder what could be done to help protect people from themselves. Maybe there should be a mandatory driver’s education class for paddlers like there is for cars. I remember hearing years ago that 90% of motorcycle deaths are first year riders and that’s easy to believe and I’d guess that the majority of paddler deaths are also inexperienced people.

Interestingly, the Coast Guard Auxiliary was at my local lake (Lake Lansing) Sunday doing vessel safety checks. I was running late for a rescue class (planned & notified) but did go through the check & passed. Of course, I was in full immersion gear with PFD, tow rope and had a 17’ sea kayak with bulkheads & hatches and a spray deck. On the list with N/A or no was "Attended Safe Boating Class - I’ve taken many kayaking & canoeing classes but never an explicit Safe Boating; navigation Lights, and Visual Distress Signals.

A good time on the lake even if it was only for the last hour or so.

  • Paddle Float re-entry
  • Paddle Float re-enter & roll
  • Bow rescue
  • Rafted tow - this was somewhat necessary as tow completing a tee rescue were being blown towards shore & a dock.

While plugging away about wearing life jackets may seem a waste of time to most, over in the thread about “too hot kayak seats” is a classic example of a kayaker who has been going on paddles with his young family already and just found out through this website that life jackets are required gear for those trips. Kinda cool that the collective may just have saved some lives!
“I was not aware that rule applied to paddle craft. I’ll have to stick something in the stern from now on. Thanks.”
“I wasn’t aware they made a jacket specifically for paddling.”
So, yeah, WE have seen the news about life jackets a ton, but some can still learn.

I began kayaking in 2006 and have always worn a pfd and will not paddle with someone who doesn’t, because I spend all my time worrying about that person. Nevertheless, at age 15 I began canoeing in the Boundary Waters (back in 1956). We did this year after year, through high school, college, and beyond … until I left Minnesota. We were unsupervised and completely clueless. We had no pfds (couldn’t even spell pfd) and were unaware of the dangers of hypothermia and so on. Permits were not required, we paid no attention to the Canadian border, and we typically saw no other people after the first day. I am smarter now, but those were really good days.

@TomL said:
I don’t know the right answer but it makes one wonder what could be done to help protect people from themselves.

Good question with no easy answer. Eric Fryman, his wife and three kids all wore PFDs last September when paddling in the Apostle Islands, but he and the children died. Miraculously, the wife survived in spite of being in cold water for hours. According to news reports, the couple did paddle often but as the adage does, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Maybe the Deep Trouble books should be required reading.

@Rookie said:

@TomL said:
I don’t know the right answer but it makes one wonder what could be done to help protect people from themselves.

Good question with no easy answer. Eric Fryman, his wife and three kids all wore PFDs last September when paddling in the Apostle Islands, but he and the children died. Miraculously, the wife survived in spite of being in cold water for hours.

Ok, but think of it this way…it makes it easier to find the bodies. Without up in those cold water the body sinks and might not be found for years.

This weekend we were paddling the Salt Springs run and a couple in our group were paddling without pfds. Which was unusual for them…till I noticed they were wearing the new inflatable waist pfd.

This thread started talking about what seemed to be one of those casual for for fun paddle events where everybody including the family dog gets to participate Happening in what would normally be deemed a low risk paddling environment, in a state where per one reply above the only legal sin was that for that state there should have been a PFD on the boat for every person.

These events have a pretty thin relationship to the more serious paddling that some above are talking about. No direct relationship at all to the higher end of activities like USCA races and people trying to do significant crossings in the Great Lakes except that something which floats was involved.

But per usual the above escalations got added on in this thread. And there is a reason. Newer or casual paddlers often assume that what is OK in a family and dog race with rubber duckies can carry over to paddling in bigger or more dangerous waters. I expect that the family who succumbed to hypothermia in the Apostle Islands had paddled that same configuration a ton on small ponds around home. Maybe in a family event like the one that started this thread… It wasn’t a problem in those situations and they flat out did not understand about cold water and bigger conditions. It may not excuse the fact that the parents did not research the paddling situation in the Apostles before taking the kids out. But that was really their major sin, not lack of precautions within what they understood.

So back to the posts by Sparky, RussSee, Overstreet and others… the value of a PFD alone is always mitigated by other factors.

IMO a PFD alone can make a difference when other risk factors are low - for example if a parent and two kids and Fido all end up in the water several feet away from shore on quiet water and one of the kids is not yet a confident swimmer. The PFD makes it easier for that kid to get to shore as well as for a parent to grab them. If the situation is higher risk, bigger water, cold water etc, a much bigger set of considerations come into play. I doubt anyone disagrees with that.

Backing out to the question of educating paddlers, which also climbed into this thread (and always does) - requiring PFDs in these basic family events can help educate new paddlers about both the overall regard for PFDs and maybe lead them to find comfortable ones. Comfort is an oft-cited excuse for not wearing a PFD by folks accustomed to just the Dick’s basic versions. These are both nice outcomes.

One thing this thread has in common with the thread about the Aposlte Islands tragedy is that it stimulates discussion, allows us to learn from each other’s perspective and focus or even modify our own thinking, and put some of us in a better position to help others. I learned from both threads.

I was surprised by rival51’s reply and never knew anyone was ever checked for attending a safe boating course. I never knew there was any consideration of age with PFD requirements anywhere.

In the Apostle Island’s case I wondered about better signage and the possibility of renting small self-inflating rafts which can be purchased for about $300. In this case I wonder about simple/bold signs or 1 page handouts with a few basic pointers like what to do if you end up in the water and also wondered about organizers supplying loaner PFD’s to those that may realize they want one before they launch; I have several PFD’s that I could loan and risk losing to a local event.

Here in Pennsylvania all children under 14 are required to wear a PFD when out on ANY watercraft at any time. But I see this law constantly ignored when I am kayaking, both in canoes and kayaks and on board power boats.

The stupidity of the “must have PFD on board but not worn” regulations is so obvious that I don’t understand why they are so common. It’s equivalent to saying you must carry a helmet strapped to the back of your motorcycle but not wear it or that it would be OK to drive a car without fastening the seat belt as long as there is one in the car. I say, either require that they be worn or don’t require them at all (for adults). The idea that you can grab the PFD and safely put it on when you suddenly need it is ludicrous. We lost a water trail volunteer (also a husband and father of a young son) a few years ago when he capsized in the flood-swollen Monongahela near shore while trying to retrieve a trail sign that had fallen into the river – he was wearing a PFD, but it was not zipped or belted – the force of the current ripped it off his body and then sucked him beneath the surface and eventually under a parked barge, where he was trapped and drowned.

I read the annual water sports accident reports for our state. MOST of the deaths every year tend to be in calm rivers and ponds and involve quite young or middle aged men who are found submerged or floating without a PFD. Often alcohol is a factor, as well as lack of swimming skill or confidence in deep water and/or poor physical condition or frail health. All of those issues could be mitigated by just wearing the damned PFD.

Though I wonder why I hector people about this. There are too many of us on the planet and if there are those who want to volunteer for a Darwin Award to thin the ranks, who am I to protest?

I have a 3.5* expierence level of my own params, but I’m not academically “certified” in course kayak safety functionality. It is sweet to paddle sans PFD, but being a bit of tech nerd and an academically certified nicotine fiend, I love the feature set of the sea kayak PFD. Saw newbies out earlier this spring, not dressed for immersion but had decent PFDs. And I didn’t say this first… PFD’s make it easier to “recover the body”. My 3.5* experience level allows me to quickly ascertain if my fun meter would get pegged and I could become one of the aft mentioned.

100% of the people with me, friends, wife, kids, always 100% without fail wear a PFD. Not only do we strictly live by this always wear a PFD rule, but I have a semi dry suit for myself as well as pretty warm 2 piece “wet” suits for everyone. Those also always get worn no matter what until the water (not air) is warm enough that I could swim in the water for an hour. So when that point in the summer that I start enjoying 60 minute swims in the water comes, then no warm water wear, but the PFD remains on 100% of the time.

Compared to what we’ve spent on the kayaks these things are rounding errors in terms of cost and it takes a moment to put them on. They are not onerous to wear either. In this day and age there is no reason not to wear this stuff, ever whether you’re in a smaller pond or doing a world class paddle across big water. It’s really like wearing a seat belt, same with the PFD.