It happens every year--people always misjudge cold water


Very sad one error and you’re gone forever. RIP

Two other people survived and were treated for cold water immersion. No PFDs on the people or with the boat. Water temperature was 47°F and winds of 10-15 mph as well as a strong current…

1 Like

Friday night…I’m betting it was “party time”, and they went out on spur of the moment.
No pfds
Likely few if any paddling skills.
Apparently 3 adults in an overloaded, tandem canoe.
Cold water temp, 10-15 mph winds.
Might as well have gone out on the water blindfolded.

Poor decision making skills!
And now they get to deal with the death of a companion for the rest of their lives…

Equally sad and dumb.

Unfortunately, this is one of those stories you read about each year. It boils down to one thing, no respect for the water. A little preparation with proper PPE will make all the difference in a great trip or one that ends in catastrophic loss.

1 Like

There were three people in the canoe. One person managed to swim to shore where he was able to call for help from a nearby house… Had he not succeeded all three probably would have died. Once they were in the water they had no other way to signal for help. If they had cell phones they probably no longer worked after submersion. No word on what they were wearing, but it is highly unlikely that they were dressed for immersion.

The latest fad is stand up paddle boarding. People tend to paddle late in the season with no wet suits and no dry suits. Many have their PFD strapped to the board. Accidents waiting to happen.


Guy on Long Island on paddle board no PFD in summer was sucked out to sea. Found his body days later. People reported him struggling to get back to shore.

Every single proper launch I have been, there are signs posted regarding regulations, warnings and statements on safety.

Despite deaths every year, I don’t think I have ever seen a sign about the dangers of cold water.

In fairness, even I didn’t understand it for at least a full year or more. I was still dressing for the weather and not immersion and didn’t really “get it”.

Maybe it’s time to campaign local government about this and even ask wildlife managment to address it if they see it on the water; especially in the case of small personal watercraft.


There isn’t a law enforcement agency (Marine Police, Game warden etc.) that would allow anyone to be in a craft without a PFD. They will escort you back to the ramp and provide you with a summons for your neglect. Many of the ramp sites in my home state have warnings about cold water immersion. Regardless of warnings, there will always be those few that will never have a clue about the dangers surrounding there fun time.

People die at Lake Tahoe every year due to the water temperature. A few years ago a Sheriff’s Deputy on duty, went over the side when transferring from a patrol boat to a tender to go ashore. He had the gag reflex and inhaled water and drowned in 11 feet of water witnessed by several other people while he was not wearing a PFD.

Many places now have swift water rescue teams. On the news around Reno, we have coverage of rafting and kayaking events. They are good about telling people to remember to wear PFDs and sometimes helmets They rarely mention dressing for immersion. It is a pet peeve of mine.

The rafting and kayaking and canoeing in the West is often best in the spring during snowmelt runoff. Of course it is cold. I have people stand in the water at the put in while we talk about safety. It makes it easier for them to decide what to wear before they get into a boat.

I used to run the Truckee River all the time in April and May, sometimes in snow storms. The common water temp was 40-45 degrees F. I insisted on wet suits or dry suits for anyone in my boat. People made swims fairly often and sometimes they still got cold. This subject is no joke.


Yeah, the cold water gasp reflex is scary. That’s one of the reasons I generally prefer open cockpit boats, especially in winter.

A few years ago a pretty experienced kayaker was found upside in his boat in the middle of winter. My understanding is that he was dressed appropriately and all signs pointed to a pretty sudden death.

The water was not rough that day (it was inland freshwater) and it was surmised that he unexpectedly capsized and gasped from the cold water.

Cold water is no joke


As a swim team member decades ago, we were taught to exhale upon entering the water to control our breathing. It served me well as a cold water swimmer in SF Bay when I lived there. And, it still works when I paddle and play (rescues/rolls/surf) in other cold water environments.


That assumes that a boater suffering a sudden and unexpected capsize will have the presence of mind to exhale and the conditioning to overcome a natural reflex.

That is why training is vitally important, so it becomes a natural reaction when things go bad.

That is a skill that can be acquired. Whether in a canoe or a kayak you always have a split second before you head goes under when you realize you are going to capsize.

Maybe, but I’d hate to stake my life on it.
I’d rather just eliminate the variable.
I find that I’m more comfortable when I don’t have to be aware of that potential issue when I’m paddling–
Although I wouldn’t assume it’s the wrong answer, just not for me personally.

I have kayaked on whitewater streams in the early spring in snow melt with water temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit. I have had to roll up in water of the temperature many times. If I had not been able to stifle a gasp reflex, I would long ago have been dead.

Of course a dry top or dry suit is essential in those conditions but even with one when one goes over the cold shock upon full immersion is pretty intense even when wearing a neoprene beanie, but it is something you have to adapt yourself to.

If you ever wind up swimming in a moderately long rapid with sizable waves and holes, your head will get pushed under repeatedly. You have to time your breathing and often have to successfully stifle a cough when your head gets goes under after inhaling a little water. It is something you get used to.

We all swam on teams as kids. I quit after jr high school but both of my brothers were swimming every morning all year trying out for the Junior Olympics.

We were paddling rental canoes on Lake Washington in Seattle on a nice April day. My brother managed to capsize his canoe with another friend. He did not swim so well in the cold water. We got them to shore okay but it took about 4 hours to warm up.

A couple of interesting facts about gasp reflex are that it’s actually at it’s strongest with water temps around 60 degrees and it’s highly dependent on what parts of your body are exposed to the water. Specifically, exposure of the neck and chest tend to trigger it. I spent a lot of time rolling around in water as cold as 28 degrees (seawater), but wearing a hood and a dry suit and never experienced it. The one time that it got me was during an instructional session for new paddlers in a small lake with the water temp around 60 with warmer air temp. I was wearing a short-sleeve synthetic shirt and as soon as I hit the water, my chest started heaving. I managed to control it, and it was both embarrassing for me, and educational for the paddlers I was instructing.