Beginner to expert

On 1-31-2011 in NC on Falls Lake we had a lost a fellow paddler. This gentlemen was a 15 year kayak paddler and was fishing on Falls Lake and some reason as of no known only to God what happened. He flipped over and then for some reason got out of his wet suit and someone from the shore heard yelling for help. By the time emergency 911 response team arrive they only found his kayak, paddle, wet suit, some of the fishing equipment next to the shore line. For 3.5 days they combed the lake and using sonar and dogs an scuba divers. They finally found the family man of 39 years young for some reason wasn’t wearing his PFD as directed by law and common sense. But like I stated earlier only God knows now. So this is a warning to everyone shouldn’t paddle alone and always wear your PFD it will save your life.

Paddle Safe today you my not have a tomorrow


“He Got Out Of His Wetsuit…”

– Last Updated: Feb-03-11 8:41 AM EST –

He actually had it on and then took it off...

And the the lesson to be drawn is what? Don't take off the wetsuit when you capsize? Don't take it off when you capsize and are alone. Have a radio on hand before considering taking it off?

I am sorry... These sobering warnings are getting to me. I am going to lock myself up and not come out to do anything until I am escorted by some certified expert with an aphabet soup organization that s/he paid big bucks to learn and obey at the feet off...

Okay, rant done.

Dennis, sorry, just see too many of these generalized, (non)learning posts over the years.


tragedy, but…

– Last Updated: Feb-03-11 10:48 AM EST –

...that's really weird, if completely as reported. I've been climbing in and out of my wetsuit very week for scuba class and it's a struggle to get the thing off in the relative comfort of a locker room. How and why would/could anyone remove it while immersed in cold water? Of course, hypothermia makes people do stupid things, which might be the case. The first thing I used to teach when I was a wilderness skills instructor was how to recognize hypothermia in oneself and one's companions and how critical it was to respond to and mitigate it.

I read the annual reports my state issues on water-related accidents and the same thing comes up over and over: out alone, no PFD, cold water (and even warm) and often allegedly "experienced" victims. You know, just because someone has been doing something repeatedly over a long period of time does NOT mean they are an "expert" or even "experienced". You can continually do something the wrong way until your dumb luck runs out. I often read indignant reactions on here from people who post what seems to them an innocent question ("but I've always done it this way..."), then they get offended when we grill them about their experience and preparedness.

There is good reason for our paranoia and I feel we conscientious paddlers are justified in cross-examining newcomers about their preparedness. Every preventable accident that occurs by someone PWC (Paddling Without Clues), besides being a personal tragedy to friends and family, has the cumulative potential to affect water sport regulations and restrictions that could effect all of us down the line.

We saw this happen in the 70's and 80's with rock climbing -- a number of prime cliffs locally were placed off limits due to accidents caused by reckless, unschooled and mal-equipped climber wannabees. And over 40 plus years of outdoor recreating I personally have had to interrupt well-planned outings of my own on a number of occasions to participate in rescues of stranded and/or injured fools in the wilderness. Like the ROTC group that was doing "hero" rappels on polypropolene utility rope with seat harnesses made of binder twine (and the battered, concussed "macho man" cadet hitting on me and another female climber as we guided his Stokes litter up the rock face after he crashed and burned. Kinda spoiled our "girl's day out.")

Please don't take this as a personal attack on the unfortunate victim in this case, as I don't know the details, but it's a rant that has been stewing for a while.

So, to anyone out there who gets uptight when we grill you on your gear, skills and planning: we'd rather you be temporarily offended than you be a potential interference to our own paddling enjoyment (not to mention, permanently dead.)

Someone just asked me about it
My co-worker just asked me about what happened to him this morning, and I hadn’t heard yet. Very sad.

Our well below average temperatures had broken, so while we will never know, we can all make whatever assumption we think fits regarding the wetsuit. Fell out of the kayak after removing the lifevest to take the wetsuit off because he got hot, or the same because it was cooling down and he was putting it back on, etc. etc. I try to imagine the most sensible scenario, and have no reason to hold ill-will towards the choices he made.

I will still paddle alone, but it’s a sobering reminder to be prepared. Still, there’s never a guarantee that people won’t be discussing my death on the water for whatever reason. I hope he has moved on to better playgrounds, and his family finds peace with it.

Fell in during the process of taking it

– Last Updated: Feb-03-11 12:25 PM EST –

off seems right. Stuck between half way on and half way off, he continued to remove it. I almost did the same thing until I went to a Farmer John and a Neo Jacket. We need to practice, practice, practice self-rescue in full gear because the neo changes everything, especially in moving water.

makes no sense to me …
… not wearing wet/dry suit in cold water , not wearing a PFD … deceased had been paddling for 15 years . From my viewpoint the poor man HAD TO KNOW the odds . It’s sad though . If he truely was ignorant of such things , that’s even sadder .

My common sense has always told me I’m not very smart and need to be extra careful to weigh out the measures when physical risk are involved .

One would think there’s a learning curve in the practice of applying safety precautions , but wearing a PFD , espeacially in cold water canoe/kayak paddling seems like it’s the 1st rung on the ladder and cold water immersion clothing not far behind . It doesn’t take a paddler to know cold water is “cold” and speaks beware , danger .

There’s always something that doesn’t add up to a bystander’s perspective intellectualizing hearsay … the reason “WHY” such poor choices were made to begin with . I can understand tempting fate to a degree , I can understand the “I am invincable” mindset of a self inflated ego (in specific situations) , I can understand poor judgment for various reasons ranging from lack of knowledge to I don’t give a damn , and I can understand accidents happen .

Is it possible that paddling can “sometimes” seem such a benign activity , that a 15 year paddler can become so very complacent with respect to cold calm flat water paddling ??

Such a tragety for the man’s loved ones as all such losses are and my sympathies go out to them . But I am in agreement with any who feel places like this are a resource for awareness to those seeking such .

Paradoxical undressing
Quite common.

thanks cliff - I was going to mention

I hate these threads because of all the speculation involved. I don’t think the OP meant any harm other than to mourn and warn.

fell in while taking wetsuit off ??
… Do paddlers really take their wetsuits off while in a kayak (or even a canoe) ?? Has anyone here ever done that or know someone who has ?? The water was 38F. , is it possible the deceased didn’t realize how cold the water was ?? I for one don’t think so .

Where was the PFD ?? I’ve not read that he even had one with him . Don’t recall the presence of a PFD even being mentioned . If a PFD was part of the gear the searches found , it’s a sure bet the media would have mentioned that (important object in drownings) … it’s also “almost” a sure bet that if a PFD wasn’t found on the scene anywhere the media would not make any mention of it .

Concerning wetsuit , same thing , don’t recall reading media or Sheriff dept. making any mention of one , did I miss that somewhere ?? OP mentioned the wetsuit , wonder where that info. came from ?? . Not wearing a wetsuit to begin with , testing the waters and maybe thinking I’ll take it along just in case , can always paddle to shore and suit up makes more sense to me if a wetsuit really was there .

Shorts and yellow YMCA T-shirt were wittnessed , 38F. water , no mention of PFD or wetsuit . I make some assumtions but not as concrete assumptions , that’s why the questions are asked and need answers .

paradoxical undressing
Very interesting. I didn’t realized that was such an officially recognized common symptom of advanced hypothermia, though it is among the clues I watch for among people on my cold weather trips (the unzipped parka, no hat, wearing only one glove.) That could explain these mysteriously underdressed drowning victims.

I think it warrants posting here (for anyone who didn’t follow the link.) Cut/paste follows:

Paradoxical undressing: Twenty to fifty percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with paradoxical undressing. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.

Rescuers who are trained in mountain survival techniques are taught to expect this; however, some may assume incorrectly that urban victims of hypothermia have been subjected to a sexual assault

One explanation for the effect is a cold-induced malfunction of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. Another explanation is that the muscles contracting peripheral blood vessels become exhausted (known as a loss of vasomotor tone) and relax, leading to a sudden surge of blood (and heat) to the extremities, fooling the person into feeling overheated.

You are wrong Dennis
"wearing your PFD as directed by law" -Might be your law, but it is not the law’s law!

With that said, my heart goes out to your friend’s family.

jack L


Not to start a stupid argument over this. But check your State law, Local law enforcement, Fish & Game Warden, Marine Police, Coast Guard. You can ask anyone and they will say the same thing. As far as I know in every state has same law about kayak,canoe,and moving motorized boat while underway has to wear PFD. You have a choice of type full chest or auto, manual,etc. so this is all I’m going to say and I did hear that he wasn’t wearing his PFD.

We see this all too often. Why is it that people refuse to wear a PFD? It’s also strange that he removed his wetsuit.

It’s just a shame that a few extra steps in safety could have saved his life.


Depends on time of year

– Last Updated: Feb-04-11 11:37 AM EST –

Personally I disagree with this and think PFD's should be required on a person all the time. But many states have this by season. While those that do all require a PFD December into the spring, a lot (including NY) remove the requirement for a time period like May thru October. And good point others make below, even where required they often don't have to be worn. The CG is trying to change this but they have to get by state legislatures worrying about bottom lines rather than a few folks in paddle boats.

Re the wetsuit on or off part, people tend to forget about how many body parts it takes to perform a self-rescue or stay lucid. I am guessing the water temps were near freezing - at that point if the hands and head aren't also very well covered as well as the core, someone alone in cold water has limited chances of making it.

coast guard requirement
The USCG requires that a boat carry at least one life type I, II, III, or V vest for each person on board a vessel. There is no requirement to wear that vest, unless the only vest available is a type V, in which case it must be worn in order to meet the requirement.

I have no idea what NC state law requires though.

No Dennis
Your state which is the same as my state, does not have that law.

You are misinterpreting the law.

It is that there has to be one for each person in every boat. They don’t have to be worn

Please check and you will see that you are mistaken.

There are a few states like Mass that have a requirement that they must be worn during certain winter month, but most of the states and the Feds allow us to use common sense when and when not to wear them.

Jack L

Problem is for cold water with warm air

… there is no such thing as good common sense. Whatever sense is common or innate, it is pretty much deadly wrong. We are not water creatures.

They don’t wear one…
…for the same reason many otherwise rational people don’t wear a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet. “It’s uncomfortable /it’s a hassle /accidents happen to other people, not me /nobody tells ME what to do, etc.” I have to nag my highly intelligent boyfriend to put on his seatbelt (ironically, he’s been an emergency room doc for over 30 years and knows full well what inertia + glass and steel does to the unrestrained human carcass.) It seems to be a form of magical thinking and/or denial.

I went through 4 PFD’s before I found one that I was comfortable wearing all the time (though I always wore them even when I hated the feeling.) Anyone who doesn’t like their PFD should do the same.

Inherent Libertarian that I am, I am forced to admit that laws mandating personal safety equipment are a legitimate exercise of state oversight. I know studies have proven, in the case of motorcycle helmets, that the majority of medical and rehab costs to helmetless riders with head injuries are borne by the state (i.e., our tax dollars) so we have a common right to demand their usage. OHSA mandates hardhats and other PPE on ALL construction job sites. I got so used to wearing mine during my years in the trades that I would sometimes get home and realize it was still on my head. But I know if it was NOT a law, punishable by fines, that a good many of the workers would NOT wear a hardhat, stupid as that would be (having had many an item dropped on mine over the years, I became quite fond of my hardhats – yet I admit the mandate drove my compliance as much as personal safety awareness.) And I admit it took a fractured skull to get me to wear a bike helmet in my 20’s.

We like to think we know what is best for us and don’t need no stinkin’ laws, but I beg to differ. I’d personally like to see PFD use mandated for anyone in any watercraft (short of a cruise ship) at any time.

not that simple
Whether you wear a PFD has to be left, to some degree, up to the wearer, or the vessels captain. If I’m sailing overnight from Boston to Downeast Maine, in a 40 foot sailboat, do I need to wear a PFD in my bunk while I sleep? How about when I’m riding in my car on a small ferry to one of the coastal islands?

I agree that people are stupid/uninformed about PFDs all the time, but it’s way more complicated than just mandating that they’re always worn on all boats.

You just can’t legislate good sense.

I wonder how many canoe or kayak
racers would agree with you.

Go to a race some day when the temperature is in the ninties and see if it is a USCA insured race how many of the competitors are wearing PFD’s.

It just might open your biased eyes to another danger of wearing one -like heat stroke !

Jack L