Hi Vis gear for paddling

Did the 18 mile (upstream and back)run of the west river of the upper niagara this morning and at about the turn around I had the sheriffs patrol pull alongside.

Fella said they were damn close to on top of me before they saw me.

Despite the yellow pfd and mini skirt the fact that the artic tern is…natural wood color, apparently makes me (the whole package)a lot less visible than I’d origionally thought.

Any thoughts on getting one of those Hi Vis (green)flags on a pole (mount to deck via suction?)

Wonder if anyone makes the high visibility color pfds and whether (being that low) they’d be seen if one wore one.

I’d Bling a Hat and Paddle Blades
before I’d mount a flag.

flourescent orange cap
or highway safety vest. Yellow fabric on your pfd is not as reflective as yellow reflective paint or gelcoat. Your yellow skirt is horizontal and partially hidden. You could spraypaint your paddle blades flourescent colors but that doesn’t help you if you’re resting with the paddle low to the water or it’s out of your hands.

Reflective SOLAS tape requires light to be useful.

You may not like the look when you’re out of the kayak but if you painted the aft hatch flourescent orange it’s kinda noticable,while paddling you won’t see it.

For $15 a flourescent orange cap would solve the problem better than most methods.

LL Bean
LL Bean sells high-visibility paddling hats and pfds. I have the hat, and I might get the pfd soon (right now I have a blue pfd I love, so I stuck strips of hi-vis reflective cycling tape on it. It helps, but not as much as a hi-vis pfd would). You can get hi-vis mesh vests online easily–they’re meant for traffic workers, but they’d work for paddling too.

How about a
"Paddler’s Visability Flag, w/ bolt-on & suction cup base options"


makes no sense
adding something that inhibits the boats handling for rescues when all you need to do is add a bright patch of paint aft of the cockpit or wear a bright hat.

better idea!
Or you could stick that cute streamer-thingie to your hat, not to your boat.

Ask the sheriff …
… or any other boaters who complain about your ‘lack’ of visibility, if they cannot see a fifteen-foot kayak with a person sitting atop it, waving paddles around in the air, how do they expect to see a floating log or other river debris?

Maybe they just wait until their lower drive unit makes a bad sound …?

arguing with authorities
When someone who is looking out for things says they can’t see you it’s not time to argue.

Besides propeller blades make a hell o’ mess of flesh.

Counter productive yes, but…
… clearly the Sheriff needs to keep a better watch (assuming the paddler is operating correctly and not being erratic, wrong place at wrong time, etc.).

His comment (or was it just complaining, with not advice/direction/suggestions given?) - was not a reason to rig a flag or go all neon - but it is a good reminder how low vis we can be to other vessels.

No matter what the colors or gadgets, assume invisibility and paddle accordingly. Tends to make it easier and safer for everyone.

We’ve been using (and selling) the Rispy Kayak Safety Flag (produced by a Maine company. See http://www.touringkayaks.com/rispy.htm We’ve liked it quite a bit. The mount has a breakaway feature so it shouldn’t impede you in terms of rescues and rolls. The flag stands higher than the head of the paddler. And unless you always wear a florescent high visibility hat and have bright paddle blades always held high, it will be the first thing that oncoming boats will see. Photos at http://www.touringkayaks.com/rispy_photos.htm

Regarding whether power boaters should see kayaks because they should also be looking for even less visible things like logs, I would argue that it is exactly because they have a lot of things to look for (and may be diverting around a rock and a log when they head toward you) that kayakers need to make themselves as visible as possible.

Personally, I don’t use a flag all the time, yet. But I do choose brightly colored pfds, paddle blades, hats . . . and I never assume that an oncoming boat has seen me until they make eye contact or wave.

Those rank right up there with…
sponsons and kayak kick stands.

Sponsons and Kick stands

– Last Updated: Aug-20-07 1:12 PM EST –

I don't see the connection between safety flags and products like sponsons and kick stands. The rap on sponsons is that they give a false sense of security, are detrimental to development of skills, hinder the performance of the kayak, are expensive and unwieldy to deal with. Kayak kickstands? Unneeded, unhelpful, and tacky.

Flags are none of these things, except maybe a little bit tacky, perhaps partly because they are not (yet) in fashion for kayakers. (Bicyclists have been using them for years, of course.) The point about flags is that you don't use one to make your boat look "cool" and you don't use them just for yourself.

In part, flags are a courtesy to other boaters because they make it EASIER for them to see you. Unless they are not paying attention, they WILL see you eventually, but it freaks them out a little bit when they don't see you until they are relatively close.

In 10 years of paddling, I've never come close to being hit by a boat. But I have had other boaters tell me that they think the flag is a great idea -- and that they wish more kayakers used them.

Bikers with flags?
There’s one on my son’s axle-rider, but other than those and other trailers, I can’t remember the last time I’ve even seen a kid’s bike with one. I have NEVER seen an adult bike with a flag.

Sound’s like something DonQuixote would think up . . . .

On a kayak? If they can’t see my bright yellow paddles going up and down, a little orange flag will do nothing to sober them up either . . . .

Connection is there
Your list of sponson issues actually applies quite well (except the cost issue). Most notably - the potential false sense of security and skill issues (intertwined). Performance too - unless you’re telling me that thing is practical in any conditions with any appreciable wind/wave. A breakaway feature? Please.

Also, regarding bikes, only the rare recumbents (might be cool and fun but look suicidal in traffic to me!) and the granny shopping trikes sport flags around these parts. Pretty sure kids stopped using them in the 80s (after 70s style dune buggies started being ancient memories…)

Those flags make perfect sense as something to sell to flat water suckers, particularly suckers who are not comfortable/capable to mix with other traffic. Fear sells.

For those folks, a flag may be a good idea. Gives boaters fair warning that they are not to be treated as another boat, but instead as some sort of less capable obstacle piloted by someone with questionable ability to handle their craft or deal with the presence of others.

The only concern I have with appearances is that the erratic speed bump is an image most boaters already have of paddlers - and one I do not feel compelled to promote or encourage this through actions or gadgets.

I am well aware that many won’t get this, and will think that for things like visibility more is always better. They won’t see how much better and simpler it is to be aware and in control to the point where such a flag is not only not needed, but it becomes a counterproductive PITA as well.

All the wake whiner/harassment stories aside - actual collisions are almost unheard of. I can think of of one, that happened at night, and that very likely could have been avoided if the paddler had simply used his paddle to move a few feet instead of frantically waving it like a flag!

Greyaks right
I discovered the invisibility issue with the smaller power boats (nose is so high in the water under power their visibility ahead has a huge hole in it to begin with)

I can usually hear em comming before I see em.

For what it’s worth to everyone (responding) I didn’t take issue with the advice.

I have to figure if the sheriffs boat didn’t ‘see’ me, my ‘invisibility’ must be pretty damn bad (or good).

I tend to paddle solo quite often and I’ll openly admit, the artic tern-while beautifull to look at- has a visibility rating of zero compared with a yellow or orange (or even red) kayak.

Adult bikes with Flags
Recumbents. Especially trikes which are scant inches off the ground.

There’s a club out in alburqurque (has to be several hundred strong)of bent riders and all of em ride with the visibility flags.

Well, sure . . . .
Wide, short and slow, they’re kind of the handicapped of two wheels. Definitely need a flag . . . .

I thought bright yellow or birds egg blue were best for water…not orange?