A first for me, but there was little chance of drowning.
In my zeal to get out on the water to enjoy a sunny 78 degree day, I failed to check the bottom of my big duffel bag before leaving the house. At the car trunk: Helmet, drysuit, all other gear and aqua-paraphernalia.
So where was it? Oh that’s right, still hanging up on the outside line.
“Looks like Mister Extreme Geezer had a Senior moment,” said my wife.
“No. Just a bit of leftover Winter rustiness.”
Anyway, levels were low at the chosen stream. And there was only one serious standing wave I wanted to practice with the iSUP on(But of course, a trout fisherman was casting at the bottom of it and he weren’t giving up that spot for nothin’.)
I settled for testing out the new seat I attached to explore transitioning from standing to kneeling/sitting during longer river trips. This meant a double-blade instead of an SUP paddle.
–And no, it was not a low-head dam.
And even though a good swimmer, who worked as a lifeguard in my younger days, I made an exception to the rule as the place was quite familiar to me with little/no current to speak of (and only 6/7’ at its deepest).
I mainly very much LIKE wearing my PFD. Aside from its buoyancy aspects, I like keeping my wp wallet, river knife, and spare car key fastened into it…Not to mention a camera and place to attach a paddle leash when using a board(I’m not really an “ankle” leash wearer.)
Now the water temperature there was a whole 'nother story–But there’s other posts already on that.
I’m a big believer in individual freedom and do what you like as long as it’s not endangering someone else. We canoe a good deal on our lazy river and there are many miles at a time where the water is less than a foot deep. Then there are other areas with deep pools. I see lots of folks without a PFD on or unzipped and I figure they know what they are doing.
What I think I would be reluctant to do is start a thread about forgetting my PFD and justifying assuming the risk. Especially this time of the year with water temps still very low. I understand you were dressed for immersion and have adequate skills to be safe.
I just think the forum is read by way too many new paddlers that maybe it sends the wrong message. When I first read it I was kind of waiting for the part like @szihn said he drove home and got the missing PFD.
Well as Dirty Harry said;
“A man’s got to know his limitations”. Swimming well is one of mine.
I am an avid outdoorsman, big game hunter, kayaker, martial artist and a former, US Marine, contractor/military instructor, sky diver, rock climber, Ice climber and body guard. So I am not a timid or fearful person.
BUT I am a sinker I swim about as well as a brick.
I know that, so I ALWAYS wear a floatation vest and wet suit doing anything in water. ALWAYS!
The problem I’ve seen in many fields of endeavor is the fact (which IS a fact) that those that get too comfortable in a hazardous activity are the ones that often make a small mistake that BECOMES A BIG MISTAKE. Familiarity breeds contempt. I did that myself. I have a foot that is surgically reconstructed because I didn’t double check one time, and that lack of precaution cost me dearly. I still limp a bit from it and it happened 1/2 a lifetime ago.
I survived my mishap, but I learned something I have taught every single class I have been an instructor in, for the last 35 years. No dangerous job or sport can be made 100% safe, but all can be made worse then they need to be.
If doing anything that may tempt the Grim Reaper to visit, don’t dare him to make the point.
Make things as safe as they can be practically, and if that’s still too dangerous, don’t do it.
Never let fear block you from living or enjoying liberty, but don’t let foolishness punch your ticket out early, simply for lack of easy precautions either.
Fire Extinguishers, guns, seat belts, safety lines and life vests all fall into the category of better to have and not need then need and not have.
You raise valid points. Hopefully, “new paddlers to the forum” can read and make wise determinations for themselves.
But would you have me pull/delete the post on behalf of a potential uninformed novice getting the wrong idea?
I also clarified to the previous commenter (szihn)you sighted, what is my "usual"policy in regard to PFD wear. But I’m not going to get defensive or get on any trip about personal/individual/libertarian rights. I only make my own decisions and am willing to live with the consequences. What others decide is their business.
But I will point out a couple additional things:
I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t a time delay/remote control/drone that took those pictures of me from the banks.
I’m a member of the local fire and rescue squad in the bordering town. This was what’s known in whitewater as a “park 'n play” day; and not some extended harrowing river trip of any miles. (In fact, my practice session all took place within one mile.) Granted, none of this excuses my actions. But historically how far back does the “required” wearing of life vests go over the centuries of boating? Not very far. The only other spectator around, outside my camera pal, was one lone fly fisherman. So no wannabes watching me be a bad example. And although out of the pictures framed, the fisherman himself was within about 25 feet of me at times, up past his waist in moving water. (Didn’t I mention he was taking up the very surf wave-spot I had coveted?) And oh yeah, he was wearing waders, a fisherman vest and absolutely no PFD at all! Shocking, I know. Sorry now we didn’t get a pic of him as background beside me. But thought others here would be more interested in the paddle side of things.
There was much more inherent danger out of the water, even given the cold temperature it was, when I returned to my car parked on the shoulder of the town road. The speed was marked 35 mph, which it seemed just about every other passing motorist ignored while zooming by. --I kept my helmet on, until I got in behind the wheel to head home.
I actually agree you were likely much safer than the fly fisherman or even your friend on the bank taking photos. As szihn points out all of life is to a large degree calculated risk/reward. No one but each individual knows their limitations. The guy fishing has likely done just what he was doing his whole life and maybe he’s lost his footing a time or two and went for a swim and managed to get out with the hip waders not being a sea anchor. It is his risk/reward to take and he didn’t have backup.
I do wonder why you picked the title for your thread to be about forgetting the PFD rather than just I went out on a beautiful day to work on my WW skills?
The title is what made me read the thread and question at what point I could feel ok without my PFD. I paddle in an area where PFD usage is almost never. Each year we get a few close calls and every couple years we get a fatality. I have adopted for myself and those that want to paddle with me zero tolerance just because I don’t know where that line would be and maybe more so to set an example for people I come in contact with paddling that it is ok to wear a PFD even if 99% of the people they go out with use them as a seat back.
Last weekend we had 80 degree temps with water still in the 40’s. I watched several young couples head out in nothing but swimsuits working on their tans and drinking some beers. PFDs stuck behind the seat or strapped to the deck and the river being at a high and faster than summer levels. It is totally crazy and I wonder if they spent any time on their limitations.
Forgetting things happens once in a while. OP never said he routinely went without a PFD, nor did anybody else.
The bigger risk is when I drove 65 miles just to get to the launch. Going home to bring it back is 130 more miles round trip (ignoring the time spent also). There is higher risk of getting seriously harmed or killed on the highway than there is in paddling in mellow conditions without drunk, drugged, cellphone-glued-to-ear-and-eyes operators of multitonned motor vehicles driving highway speeds.
If you live only 5 miles from the lake or river, the risk balance is different.
I concede I probably could’ve listed a different title. But I did state right at the start that “it was a first for me”(And to avoid any future blowback, you can bet it’ll be a “last” for me.
Maybe next time I’ll simply list “Pretty Paddling Pictures Here” with no cautionary tale/story or grabby sensationalist headlines.
Point I tried to make was: Experience does not make one infallible.
In fact, I’ve found out a number of times both on water and on land, one tiny mistake can spiral into another mistake, and then possibly a domino effect whereupon one has a more serious situation on their hands. (Your local yahoos will never get it btw–Unless they manage to survive a preventable mishap.)
Preparation is key, but not always a guarantee for a successful outcome. If the odds were more against me, say looking at a high chocolate milk colored river after a week’s straight rain, I might abort even with having a PFD along.
But then again, maybe not…Even with a broken paddle…
The sound track is from the Peruvian origin - El Pasa Condor - (The Condor flies). The original came from an “operetta about a group of Andean miners who are being exploited by their boss. The condor that looks at them from the sky becomes a symbol of the freedom that they yearn for.”
Of course the soundtrack became more famous because it was taken and adapted by SImon & Garfunkel and became a US hit. The S&G lyrics:
I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail Yes, I would If I could I surely would
I’d rather be a hammer than a nail Yes, I would If I only could I surely would
Away, I’d rather sail away Like a swan that’s here and gone A man gets tied up to the ground He gives the world its saddest sound Its saddest sound
I’d rather be a forest than a street Yes, I would If I could I surely would
I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet Yes, I would If I only could I surely would
The sentiment reflects somewhat on the attitude in this discussion.
I don’t quite understand the logic if the drive to retrieve a PFD is 130 miles or 10 miles the risk of not having it with you on the water is the same.
That’s kind of like saying if I drive 5 miles or less I don’t need to put my seatbelt on. The risk per mile is the same 5 miles or 500 miles.
If the risk of driving is really higher than the risk of not having a PFD on and it well could be I don’t know the stats. But if we assume that is true then I’m wrong and the 100s of people I see paddling are correct in not wearing one.
Something can’t be a good idea when you remember it but not a bad idea when you forget it.
As to Native Americans going out in ice water long before PFDs and there was no issues. Do we really know that is true? 30 was a ripe old age many didn’t achieve. I’m sure there were a whole bunch of contributing factors and lack of PFDs may have been one.