No PFD needed Conditions ?

Does a person really need a PFD in water depths

they can stand up in ?

A “typical” news story around the USA

generally goes unheeded by many paddlers

Isn’t needed until you need it. This is the problem with all safety devices and is why it is always beneficial for someone, not everyone, but someone, to have ready access to safety equipment and or the training necessary to recognize and execute rescues.

I’ve seen near drownings and major injuries occur in the surf zone where individuals were rendered unconscious or injured in shallow water (usually hit by an object with sufficient mass). Surf boards, boogie boards, kayaks, logs, even SCUBA divers/equipment, etc. can and have, incapacitated people in shallow water.

It saddens me each time I read about a drowning, especially since they seem so easy to avoid (in the abstract, at least). In reality, it is a belief in one’s own safety, especially in shallow water, that allows situations to deteriorate to the point where rescues and safety equipment are required.


That’s the number I learned
In fact it is about the same as when I took my first life saving course when I was in my teens - the number then was between a quarter and a third.

Statistically important?
I doubt that death by shallow water drowning is a significant risk for anyone. Just because a few people die doesn’t mean the activity is dangerous, just that something odd happened to those people and things didn’t work out well for them.

As always, I’ll point out that they, and us, are in more danger driving to the ocean, lake, or river, than we are paddling on it. At least when the conditions are tame and the water is shallow as the article discusses.

In other words, a full face helmet and a fireproof suit is not needed until you need it in your car just like a PFD is not needed until you needed it in your boat.


my simple stupid rule
I’m just applying it to me:

I always wear it (ok maybe not in the pool).

As you know it gets very hot in SE MI. But since I always wear it and I’m always near water when I’m wearing it, I’m used to it and I can cool down with it on.

Because I’m used to wearing it I hardly even notice it anymore. Same goes for the spray skirt.

That article contains the usual…

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 5:07 PM EST –

...journalistic stupidity, which you see almost every time a news columnist writes about a subject they are not familiar with. Before I get flamed by the O.P. I'll point out that in a river like the one in the photo, I wouldn't dream of canoeing without a PFD even at low water, because, like the person who's quoted in the article says, the bottom is uneven and "standing up" to get out of trouble may be impossible at various locations, but in addition to that and perhaps even more important, standing up even in the shallows may be a bad idea in some places due to the likelihood of foot-entrapment. However, it appears that all the statements in the article about river depth (especially since they are followed up with two statements about a "river level" of "five feet") refer to gauge readings, not depth. Regardless, there is no statement that can be made referring to any particular depth on a river as though it were some sort of reference value, which further suggests that all of those statements refer to gauge readings (and as most readers on this board know, gauge readings are arbitrary, related ONLY to the elevation of the "yard stick" that somebody nailed to a bridge piling 80 or 100 years ago which the current official gauge continues to use for its "zero" value. The "zero" value is NOT the bottom of the river, and it couldn't be even if so desired because bottom height is never the same from place to place, and in a lot of rivers is it is not even constant over time). Finally, the fact that the woman's body was found in two feet of water says nothing about the depth or current conditions at the location where she actually died, which almost certainly was farther upstream. Providing that information about water depth in a context suggesting that it's relevant shows very poor writing skill or extreme ignorance on the part of the journalist. In short, though I'd never argue against the need for a PFD in a river like that one, this is NOT a good article to illustrate that fact, since all the statements about "depth" are almost certainly used in error.


– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 5:04 PM EST –

Have read this type of thread a hundred times I think.

I haven't changed my opinion;don't intend too.
I no longer argue needlessly, attempt to influence other's opinions, or question their decision making.

Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring; I wear my pfd.
I am an ex Lifeguard Instructor, Water Safety Instructor, and Advanced Swifwater Rescue Instructor.
I'd feel pretty comfortable paddling without a pfd, but I wear mine anyway.

Yes the pfd does get hot in the Summer..........
If I feel like I'm getting too hot; I stop, take a break, swim, sit in the shade & chug water.

My wife wears her pfd year round. That is not open to discussion; she is not a strong swimmer, and values my opinion.

I would say something to close friends who weren't wearing a pfd; I'd even say please.
Other adults can do as they damn well please.


so you think the journalist
shouldn’t be given a PFD?

I’m ok with that.

You don’t need a bike helmet
Until you fall, and everyone does sooner or later. Same for a motorcycle, and I’ve ridden both with and without. I would NEVER again be without one on either.

Nor will I go in a kayak without a PFD, period.

Don’t think you are a candidate for drowning in shallow water? Think again. Anyone can swamp or turn over a boat, anyone can have a stroke or other medical incident including heatstroke, anyone can get conked by a paddle, etc.

Seriously, you’d risk your life for a little comfort? Seems like a dumb trade to me.

Candidate for any freak accident
I was going to go to the Reno air races last year and the day before I was going, people on the ground got hit by a plane. Were they candidates for getting hit by a plane? Absolutely. Did they wear pedestrian plane crash protection? Absolutely not. They would be considered insane and yet they might have lived that day. A helmet would have saved at least one or two people.

There is real danger and there is perceived danger. More importantly, there is danger that very real for a few people who are really unlucky and trip and fall on their face in a shallow river and can’t get their nose and mouth out of the water for some reason.

I live near a lake. I do not carry SCUBA equipment in my car to prepare for a water crash. I don’t even have a seat belt knife or window hammer. Am I a candidate for a water car crash with a stuck seat belt? Yep.

Being prepared for ever possible danger would just suck.


Shallow water drownings not freak events

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 9:39 PM EST –

I really have to wonder how many people who scoff at these numbers have ever taken a life saving course. One of the things that is a take-away in a good course is the circumstances of how people drown. I suspect that most people who argue this is a silly number have not been exposed to that information.

Part of this is probably the nature of pnet - this is automatically a self-selected crowd of folks who have acquired decent comfort with being in the water. Pnet regulars would probably not stand as remotely similar to the broader population in terms of swimming abilities or comfort with waters. New paddlers are probably still not representative of the population at large, but are closer to pnetters than not.

25% of people drowned in shallow water, they didn't drift there already drowned. The closest it gets is that they may have made it flailing that far, but by the time they were in water they could stand up in they had been overcome by panic or exhaustion and were unable to recognize they could stand up. As silly as this statistic sound to a solid swimmer, this is the real number.

You think so?
When motorcycle helmets were first being required by law, my biking buddies and I groused mightily. One day we were doing so and somebody noticed that every single helmet in the group had a gash in it from a fall. Duh! Nobody groused about it ever again.

I’ve moutain biked for a quarter century on two continents. I’ve fallen enough times and seen enough falls just on easy flat roads to know that this is serious AND common. A few months ago I took a nasty one and broke a hip, but not my damn head because I had a helmet on.

Ever watch hypothermia take someone down in the water who is sure he can swim well enough?

You’re misunderstanding my argument. We’re not talking about remote possibilities here; we’re talking about common occurrences.

I only hope you aren’t foolish enough to apply your argument to real life real hazards that ARE all around you.

The huge myth
…“it” always happens to someone not paying attention,

not prepared, not practiced, not familiar, …etc.

The reality, people die every year on waterways,

often un-necessarily and often for no great reason.

Discussion on both sides of the coin is warranted;

as it helps people understand one another.

I would cut him some slack

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 8:50 PM EST –

I'm betting that he's not talking about taking obvious risks, like ignoring the danger of cold water (you mentioned that example in such a way as if to suggest that rectorsquid wouldn't wear a PFD when in that situation, but he himself made no such implication). Clearly he's talking about those extreme low-risk situations that ALL of us do NOTHING to prepare ourselves for, and comparing them to really safe paddling situations. SOME people really DO sometimes paddle in rivers where standing up in slow-moving, knee-deep water is possible 95 percent of the time, with almost all of the other 5 percent being waist-deep or less, and in those 0.01-percent of places that are over one's head, two to four swimming strokes would get you to the bank or the shallows. I wouldn't tell someone they were silly to wear their PFD on that kind of river, but I wouldn't think a good swimmer who didn't wear one in that situation was taking a risk. I myself might OR might not wear a PFD in such a river in summer, but definitely would when the water wasn't warm.

Local Drownings, “similar but different”

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 9:11 PM EST –

We have a river here that is big, wide and sandy. I can't guess how many drownings I've heard about over the years. I'd guess there have been a couple dozen that I've heard about, and even before I started paying attention to such things, I knew the river had the reputation of being a killer. But since I started paying attention about 30 years ago, nearly all of the drownings for which details were provided involved non-swimmers or poor swimmers who went wading in the shallows and accidentally walked off the downstream edge of a sandbar. Downstream edges of sandbars are usually at the angle of repose for deposited sand particles, which is close to 45 degrees, and they might drop a foot to the next level surface (no problem for a non-swimmer), or they might drop 5 or 10 feet (big problem for a non-swimmer). In one terribly sad case, one parent (I think it was the mom) and all of the kids (I think there were two of them) died at the same time, because once one kid went off the edge, the other family members followed, intending to rescue, but none could swim. Even a good swimmer wouldn't be able to swim back to the shallows in a lot of these places because it's upstream to get there, but that's what a poor swimmer or non-swimmer attempts to do because looking for a downstream take-out is either too scary or not even possible for them. If it weren't for the downstream drop-offs and current, the shallow parts of this river would be as safe as wading on a gently-sloping beach on a calm lake (and in many back channels, it actually is that safe or safer).

agree with that

– Last Updated: Aug-03-12 11:21 PM EST –

This is why I don't get too caught up on this topic anymore. For one, it's a personal choice and everyone's situation is different. I don't use one in pool practice. I could see a possibility of something going wrong there. But based on my experience I think I can make an assessment to balance comfort and safety.
It's really difficult to judge someone else's choices like this unless you're with them at the time and know their abilities.

No such thing

and you could point out that
just because her body was found in 2 feet of water doesn’t mean that’s where she died. That author seems to think bodies stay in one location on a moving river, even when they are dead.

As for me and my house…
As for me and my house, we will wear our PFD’s! Well, my house doesn’t wear a PFD… just the people in it…Well, wait… they don’t wear one in the house either… just when we are out on the water… uhhh, you get the idea:)

I started a huge flame fight when I got
home one night, still cold after 3 hours in the car,after I was tossed into 41 degree water in a flooded river when our canoe capsized.It was a 70 degree December day and I was wearing a t-shirt , bathing suit,and PFD.

The title here was “You are a Fool if you don’t wear your PFD”

I will always be convinced that without the PFD,I wouldn’t be writing this.

And no,I don’t dress like that any more.