Kayaking article and responsibility

I’m writing an article for a magazine on a specific coastal paddling destination - a few protected bays but mainly open water, ocean swells, shipping lanes, etc. Here’s my dilemma, feeling the sensitivity here of types of kayaks and types of kayakers (rec vs. sea mainly)

I am struggling on how to properly comment on the kayak type for these potentially challenging waters. I feel responsible (and possibly liable) for writing about a destination that might have potentially dangerous paddling conditions without commenting on the boats. I would feel bad stating, "no rec kayaks for these waters but that may offend (I own both sea kayaks and rec kayaks). I do not want to seem elitist and state that recreational kayaks do not belong on these challenging waters. But potentially, people could set off on these waters without a seaworthy craft and run into trouble, just based on a quick reading of the article. Perhaps this is a question for the editors of the magazine. Perhaps it’s an issue with any destination article-whether paddling, hiking, backpacking, etc. Your thoughts?

The Truth
I think you should just tell the truth, and all of the truth. If that is what you think, you have an obligation to say so.

State the facts
If it is unsafe for rec kayaks to be there then say it. Who cares if you offend a knucklehead or two. I am a rec kayaker and would like to know if the spot is unsafe for my boat.

Borrow some
The Hudson River Water Trail Guide contains a nicely written bit about suitability of boat for conditions and personal responsility and assesment.

I bet if you asked nicely they would let you borrow it.


I think
You should inform people of the potential risks they may encounter. I wouldn’t tell them what they shouldn’t paddle but what they should.

Your article, your safety recommendation
This would not be the place to be “inclusive” or “PC”, or otherwise worry about offending anyone, but to lay it out exactly as you see it.

Another option is to not mention gear at all, except in reference to what you paddled/packed on your trip if it contributes useful info.

Just focus on the conditions in the area with enough detail that people (of your or lesser experience) can make informed decisions.

Make it personal
Maybe you could say something like, “No way in heck would I take my rec kayak on this trip. I think it is much more suited for an experienced paddler in a sea kayak.”

You get the idea. Sounds like a good read.

I’d wouldn’t bother trying to determine which kayak is the proper one to use. Leave that up to your readers. I’d try to describe the kind of conditions in a way that your readers can decide whether they and their boats are up to the challenge. I was told several years ago that it would be impossible for me to take a sit-on-top kayak down the Escalante River into Lake Powell. I was even warned about it by the BLM. I proved them all wrong. Had a great trip with no problems or close calls on a technical class 3 river. Describe what you experience and people like me with read that and make our own decisions. Met a guy who runs class 4 rapids in a closed-cockpit sea kayak. He told me people won’t believe him when he tells them what he does. I met him on the Verde in AZ and have seen him on the Salmon in ID.

If a particular type of kayak is needed
For an activity then say so. It would be foolish to encourage someone to sea kayak in an unsuitable boat.

As a beginning kayaker
that is starting out in a rec kayak with aspirations of gaining experience before making the move to a sea kayak, I would say definately state what you feel is proper equiptment and experience in making the trip you are writing about. It is your responsiblity.

How will you define the craft?
The problem is that for you the difference between a so called rec.

kayak an a so called sea kayak may be clear, or you think it is

clear, but for a lot of people this is not the case.

A so called rec. kayak is merely a consumers term invented by those

who sell kayaks I think, but to me it means nothing. Also what

people call a sea kayak is for me nothing more than a touring kayak

(especially) suited for travel on open waters. But that leaves room

for a lot of interpretation, as it depends on the actual waters the

vessel will be used on, and under what circumstances it will be used

– someones storm is another ones breeze so to say :slight_smile: Therefore I

would not describe the type of kayak suited, but I would describe

what it should be able to do.

my thoughts

– Last Updated: Oct-08-04 9:47 AM EST –

Since I have no knowledge on SOTs, I would not know how to comment on them. But for sit-ins, instead of using the term sea kayak or rec kayak, I could write that these are needed:

front and back bulkheads such that if the kayak capsizes, only the cockpit area fills with water

sprayskirt used to prevent the cockpit filling with water from waves or rain

unless the paddler is very experienced with navigating in wind, a skeg or rudder is helpful

a cockpit that fits the paddler so that edging, bracing are possible

dry hatch compartments to store extra clothes and gear

deck lines and front and back handles to hold onto in case of capsize

a seat back that is not so high that it prevents a sprayskirt from fitting or a PFD from being comfortably worn

While I understand your concern, there is no way you can assume any responsibility for the actions of the paddling population that reads your artical. Ultimately we are all responsible for our own safety on the water and elsewhere. Being the captain of your own ship is why many of us chose to be in canoes or kayaks. With that goes the responsibility for yourself.

I agree but a few lawyers might not. I could see it . . Family of unprepared drowned kayaker sues author for writing about a destination that was more dangerous than written about.

if the magazine is…
not kayak or sport specific (or “sports” specific), sadly any warnings will likely fall on deaf ears.

It’s the “won’t happen to me” syndrome also known as “lack of common sense”. you know…the mentality of having but not wearing a life-vest, not wearing a bike helmet, or not wearing safety gear (he says while checking on the bandaged pinky nearly severed while hedge trimming). :slight_smile:

just write your heart and what really needs to be said. just “Git-R-Done”!


As a beginner with a rec kayak…
I would appreciate your assessment of the skills and equipment needed to enjoy a particular destination. I read my fair share of kayak, biking, and adventure magazines and I am not offended by any implications that I might not have what it takes to ride, paddle, or hike a certain area. On the other hand, I also appreciate explanations why there are minimum skill and equipment recommendations. Otherwise I might be tempted to find out for myself why a rec kayak or a hybrid bike is not suitable, or why a newbie shouldn’t try something. I have had to find out a few things the hard way .

What about mariner kayaks

– Last Updated: Oct-08-04 4:15 PM EST –

no bulkheads and definitely seaworthy.

Sea kayaks need maximal, dependable, floatation front and rear. How you get it is up to you.

Few or the many experienced sea kayakers who I know would depend on "dry hatch compartments". Most of my friends and I use dry bags for survival items (dry clothes etc.) Hatch covers are improperly secured sometimes and on rare occasions come off. Paul Caffyn does not use dry bags but he is in the minority.

I agree about the skirt, and the desirability of a tracking aid for any novice (and who else would be taking advice from an article which needs to define a sea kayak?)

Understatement works for us
I might say in our club newsletter: “This is an exposed coastline and paddlers should be comfortable in their boats.”

That usually gets the point across without excluding any particular boat style.

Talk about Stability
if you have the space, both primary and secondary and where each serves the paddler. Primary, the tendency of the boat to stay quiet on flat water, and secondary, the tendency of the boat to recover an upright position after being moved off of vertical by going over swells and waves. (not science, my suggestion for what be understandable)

Then you can pont out that boats with very high primary stability often have lesser secondary stability, and vice versa, because it is the nature of a hull to be designed for one or the other more strongly.

So - where the water is lumpy, or more challenging, with swells, waves and surf the boat with better secondary stability is actually a safer boat because it will need that secondary stability to recover from being kicked around. That generally means touring boats. Where the water is calm and flat the recreational kayak will feel quieter.

This work? It talks about the reason that a given boat is better for a certain set of conditions rather than getting into perjorative terms about someone’s boat.


Boat test
Maybe a chapter on testing their own boat and skills, including sample situations with your analysis, to pull the reader into it and help them to learn to read the conditions and apply to themselves.

  1. Take kayak out to local lake launching area when all the power boats are coming in from fishing and cruising. Paddle large circles in the large wakes with PFD on. scale: a) scared b) fun, had to work hard c) too easy

    If a) good, don’t paddle in those conditions, have a backup plan closeby. b) good, have a backup plan ready, but go ahead. c)You’re too dangerous, see answer a).
  2. Windy conditions: make sure its an onshore wind, repeat a, b, c.