Dangerous sport

Since getting our current boats (a NDK Explorer LV & Valley Aquanaut) non-paddlers upon seeing them most often comment as to how dangerous they look and kayaking is as an activity. Every instructional video has opening warning that sea kayaking is an inherently dangerous sport.

However, all my kayak related injuries, of note, have happened when I am not in a kayak. The two most notable being the time when loading my Elaho onto stackers in subfreezing weather the boat fell over hitting my brow and causing much bleeding, and the other evening when I slipped getting out of my boat towards the end of a pool session and did a face plant on the deck of the pool which is to result in a few payments for my dentist’s new Lexus.

My experience is that the danger of sea kayaking is being out of the boat. Do others share this experience?

Saying It’s "Dangerous…"
is like saying it’s “not dangerous…” It’s saying nothing. All matter of who, when, where and conditions.


Saying It’s "Dangerous…"
makes you more macho, so go ahead and hype the danger.

But seriously, EVERY activity (or non-activity) has some level of inherent risk associated with it.

Being an accident prone person in my
younger years, my friends used to say i should take up a safe hobby like knitting. Then they would say, “No, wait. Don’t do that. You might fall off the couch and stab yourself with a knitting needle.” So I don’t knit and all my paddles have rounded edges. ;]

there’s an old saying…
goes something like:

“the sea sea is quite a safe place–it’s the hard stuff around the edges you have to be careful about…”


– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 5:01 PM EST –

The hazards that one faces on the water are potentially very serious, but the probability that a careful, well-equipped paddler will get into serious trouble is low. On land, the hazards are less dramatic, so we're a lot more likely to do dumb things and hurt ourselves. I think a lot of us -- myself included -- tend to let down our guard when we're not on the water.

Dropped our 72 lb. tandem
from the car roof about 5 times this year. The water was much safer for us.

I Have a Few Kayaking Scars…
I have a few kayaking scars from whitewater and surfing.

Scars are like tattoos, but with better stories!

don’t feel bad
i am capable of hurting myself making toast.

I can surf between rocks at 45 mph without a problem, but then slice my hand open trying to open a hatch on a trip.

I gave myself a horrible 2nd degree burn from swatting at insects and tipping over a campstove on one trip.

Some Pain And Hurt Are

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 3:30 PM EST –

not equivilent to danger. Heck, I have a pretty high pain tolerance. I have cut my hand, and my face twice now in the surf and didn't even know until someone pointed out the blood. Just last week, The paddle blade smack right back into my face when I was playing too close to the vertical face of the wave and paddle bounced off. I didn't notice 'til I got home and saw the long thin bruise that went from right over my eyebrow down to the side of my nose towards the mouth.

The times that I was in danger, I was in no pain but know that I was not in a good situation.


Not worth it if no seeking being alive

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 3:33 PM EST –

If I get your drift, there is no sense of it being worth it to have teeth knocked around if one is not engaged in an activity that provided us with the pleasure of seeking risk and adventure. It is a different story if we get the teeth knocked in the middle of a sudden strom that snuck over the mountains and we could not manage the conditions. You might view it as worth the pleasures kayaking affords. My sympathies!!!

We do tend to assess and manage conditions in which we are focused and understand the risks. I have slammed myself at pools also! I was not paying attention, did not realize how slimy the surfaces get, and did not appreciate how hard they were until I did a face plant!

Actually pools and swimming and kayaking are very similar. They are two sports with LOW apparent danger. People think top roped rock climbing is dangerous, i.e., high probability of severe consequences, but it is quite low real danger actually. Kayaking and pool use are low apparent danger situations. But really they are low to moderate probability danger low consequences in some conditions only, with abrupt and even for experts sometimes unpredictable lethal changes in conditions. That is why I think we go round and round about this here. It is hard live a dynamic balance of acceptable risk with a sport with low danger most of the time with the possibility of lethal stuff.

Just look how nuts we are as a society with our cars? Huge number of accidents, one in four people over a lifetime will be in a serious if not lethal crash, etc. We drive very very inconsistently, not paying attention, cells, eating, talking, speeding, etc.

Hey at least we are living the full life and have the privelges of time money and supportive family to do so.

Potential for rapid escalation of danger
What is basically pretty safe most of the time can rapidly spin out of control from a rather minor screw up.

This is true for most water based activities, and made even more so by compounding factors like hypothermia that can radically increase the risk of drowning.

WW and surf look more risky, but people engaging in these activities tend to treat them with the proper respect by preparing adequately. Sea and especially rec kayaking are more deceptive. They look quite peaceful, yet share many of the same risks - plus the added risk of complacency. Of course ignorance can be found anywhere, but that gets back to the personal differences in “danger”.

Riding a bicycle on the road puts you at more risk in my opinion.

Like a Chineese Jet Fighter Pilot…
You don’t get hurt you either live or die.


I agree that cycling is more dangerous. I’ve had 2 serious injuries riding a road bike and none in 40 years of canoeing and kayaking.

I wonder ?
I wonder what the ratio is between people who die as a result of falling off their couch, and those that die while canoeing, or kayaking?

Me, I choose canoeing. Told a friend just last year while out on the river; this would be my choice of the " the way I’d like to go":

It’s sunny; water level is good, river is not crowded, I’m with good friends. I just did a drop over a good class 3 ledge. I ran a perfect line, little or no correction strokes need, took on a pint of water. Adrenaline is pumping, smile on my face, I eddy out, boat bumps shore, buddy standing by with throw rope says, “nice line Bob”. I look upstream where I just came from, undo my thigh strap, lean over the gunwale, and am dead before I hit the water.

Sure beats the hell out of falling off a couch!


Sounds nice Bob
But actually seeing someone you know die doing something you love is a bitch. It’s ok for the dude going out but for us watching it it’s not a good day.

But I do like a Clint Eastwood line: when holding a gun to the head of a bad guy. The bad guy says, “I don’t deserve to die like this”, Clint says, “deservin’s got nothing to do with it” - bang!

airwave …
Understand what you mean…

I don’t think I’m gonna have a choice about it anyway…

But, having paddled with the guys I’d probably be with for over 20 years, I think they could deal with it. They’d be on the same river, the next year, sitting around the campfire after a day of paddling, drinking a cool one, and laughing about it, while they “retold the tale” to anyone who would listen.


Yeah I know Bob,

– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 7:10 PM EST –

I think It wouldn't be such a bad way to go either. It's just that a couple of friends and a few acquaintances have been killed hang gliding and many others I thought were going to die (my brother included) right in front of my eyes. One did (very violently. Watching someone fight for their life and then just hit the ground at 70mph is hard to watch) and one good friend died making the same mistake (just a few months ago) but luckily I wasn't there that day.

I was flying when I saw one of my closest buddies fall out of the sky (paraglider collapsed) and somehow hit a set of stairs (130' of stairs) and tumble down into a heap of broken body parts. He made it through and we do laugh about that one. It seemed so cartoonish.

Then there's two others that have broken their necks and lived. The saying's true, "it's all fun and games 'till someone gets hurt". *L* But it hasn't stopped them or me from flying, though.

Jeez now that I'm thinking about there were many other incidents that I don't have time to mention (about 12 years worth) - damn, glider pilots are a bunch of idiots, LOL.

But I still think I'd rather die trying to save someone's life (maybe even my own!), with my boots on. Hopefully my buds will be able to laugh about it too. I guess it would have to be something purty spectacular.

I don't mean to be a bummer nor change your mindset, just thought I'd interject.



– Last Updated: Feb-14-05 7:08 PM EST –

we can all paddle in a 4' deep pond, with 75 water temps and 80 plus air temp. Pretty safe, eh? Pretty darn boring too. ;)

Of course, there is an "element" of danger in this sport. Why all this obsession with gear, skills and whatnot, if not to deal "appropriately" (individual assessment). And, of course, we have the total "newbies" who are blissfully unaware of any danger and think all is swell. In the meantime, a total non-kayaker may look at we do as being "awfully dangerous." Some other kayaker may look at what go out in as being "insipidly boring..."

Eyes of the beholder again, and again, and again...