Another death sadly

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Dress for immersion and wear a PFD.


So sad. Thanks for posting. I always hope that something positive can come out of these tragedies. I think that posting/sharing raises awareness and can only help.


Some of the articles refer to the victim as an experienced kayaker. But the boat isn’t appropriate for cold water paddling. Too bad none of them even mention safety precautions, for the information of readers who may well not understand what could’ve gone wrong.

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One article mentioned he was wearing a wetsuit. No mention of a PFD or not. It does sound like he had some experience around the bay. Sad.

The pictures of his kayak were vague. In yours and others opinion what makes it inappropriate? Particularly for cold water.

The pictures are hard to see well, but it looks like an open-cockpit rec kayak with a higher seat back, i.e. one you wouldn’t wear a spray skirt with. You can’t tell what kind of flotation it has. To go out in open water in the winter I think you’d need a proper sea kayak, a spray skirt, a dry suit, a PFD, of course, and the training to get back in your boat in the event of a capsize. The water was in the low 50s and there was a small craft advisory. I’m a (maybe slightly advanced) beginner and would absolutely not go out in those conditions at all, and even if there wasn’t an advisory I’d only go out in that case with an experienced person or people who could help me if anything went wrong.


If it is as Doggy_Paddler said, it would flood very easily especially w/o a skirt. And reflood trying to get back in so nearly impossible to get out of the water after a capsize in warm water. Let alone water cold enough to render your hands unable to grip in as soon as 20 minutes. Brain stops working very well at the same time so alternate problem solving becomes a lost skill.

Add in a small craft advisory, absolutely assuring a flooded boat if it is as Doggy_Paddler says, it is a foregone conclusion that a capsize will happen. And w/o companions to pump out the kayak and help get him back in, inability to recover is equally certain.

It is sad, it always is. But the avoidable ones are also frustrating.

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“Dress for immersion and wear a PFD.”

I would add… and make sure you have the skills needed for those conditions.

I totally get the need for a pfd and a dry suit and certainly the need to heed small craft warnings. Other then being an open kayak if it was equipped with buoyancy bags what makes that more dangerous then another. I would think any kayak would have a good chance at capsize under those conditions. In the event of a capsize what makes re entry harder or impossible. I’m not talking about the training or experience this kid might have had but the boat itself.

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The spray skirt’s function is to keep water from entering the cockpit. Once water starts getting into the cockpit the boat immediately becomes less stable. Also a sea kayak’s narrower shape handles choppy water much better, and the smaller cockpit takes in much less water even if you capsize and have to do a wet exit (remove your spray skirt and swim out.). So a sea kayak is much less likely to capsize in the first place. If you do capsize and have to get back in, a sea kayak will have taken on much less water, thus be more buoyant and easier to re-enter. Probably I’ve missed something that those who know more than I will fill in.

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By the way this article shows the kayak a bit better. From this it looks like maybe it’s a shorter Pelican rec kayak, not suitable for the ocean in general, I would say.



If you see where there were float bags installed in the front of this boat, you are seeing something I am missing.

Doggy_paddler has it on the amount of water that could come in against stability. Any kayak is much more likely to capsize when swamped. But a sea kayak is designed to lessen the volume.

Plus if someone is in real waves a sea kayak is simply a ton less likely to get capsized than a rec boat as long as the paddler does not stiffen up. The hulls are designed to handle waves. Rec boat hulls are not.

A sea kayak also has static line all around that you can grip to help re-entry, no small favor when you are losing function in your hands. All this rec boat had was slippery sides and a couple of bungies that will stretch to uselessness if asked to perform.

Your questions strike me as those of someone who has never taken a self-rescue class. I don’t know of anyone who used a basic rec boat into such a class who did not leave with a far better understanding of the above. I strongly suggest you find yourself one this spring.

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You cannot put flotation bags in the portion of the boat occupied by the paddler, and one look at a boat of that type should tell you that the great majority of the interior volume is taken up by the cockpit and the area the paddler’s legs occupy.

Furthermore, the cockpits on boats of that type are enormous so they are much more likely to ship large amounts of water in rough conditions.

I didn’t say this poor kids boat had boyancy bags but rather if it was equipped with them. I have not taken any kayak classes but then I don’t plan on putting myself in this position either. I have enough experience with cold water combined with rough sea conditions to just prefer avoiding these situations.
My questions are more geared towards trying to have a better understanding of how to explain the limits of these types of kayaks to newcomers. I kayak primarily on calm protected waters however I have been doing this for several years. Neighbors and friends ask my advice on kayaking frequently. Trying to tell them to avoid the cheap Dicks kayak sounds elitist without a firm explanation.
I hate to turn a thread about this poor kids death into one about the merits of Pelicans and equivalents but I’d hate even more for it to happen to someone else.

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There’s no reason they should avoid cheap rec kayaks for safety IF they are only going to use the kayak for situations where rec kayaks are appropriate, i.e. calm water warm enough to swim in, not open water or cold water or rough water. It’s not elitist to point out situations in which certain equipment isn’t safe.

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I agree that cheap rec kayaks have their place. Just looking for a concrete way to explain the reasons for the limitations and I believe you summarized it quite well.


Look for these kinds of events to continue. Cheap plastic kayaks are all the rage. They appeal to people with low skill levels. That lack experience and do not understand the dangers of cold water.

Believe it or not, there are people paddle boarding on Lake Tahoe in the winter with no PFD and no cold water clothing.

buy some float toys(blow up monkeys, pool noodles) and cram them in the ends of the rec boats, they are difficult to wrangle when full of water.

I’ve taught rescues for a number of years and my experience is that some rec boats almost defy any kind of rescue, especially in even moderately rough conditions. Even with added floatation a swamped rec boat has such a large cockpit volume that it will weigh hundreds of pounds. It will often sit so low that a paddlers trying to get back in the boat will cause the cockpit rim to dip below the waterline and waves will continue to wash in even with no one in it. Even in calm conditions it will take forever to get the water out of the boat with a manual pump.

A lack of a well fitting spray skirt does not help. Even a few inches of water make a kayak dramatically less stable and prone to capsize. It is often said that a spray skirt is an essential part of a sea kayak, not an optional accessory.

Lack of perimeter lines makes it much more likely that a paddler in the water in rough and windy conditions will lose hold of the boat. In windy conditions a boat will generally blow away faster than a person can swim.

Add cold water to this situation and you don’t have all day to figure out how to get back in the boat or tow what is now an enormous sea anchor to shore.

A sad but preventable tragedy. He never should have been out in open water in those conditions in that type of boat, especially solo.