Non-compliant PFD Use?

-- Last Updated: Feb-25-06 8:00 AM EST --

OK, how would some of YOU handle this situation? What would YOU do? What would work in this situation (if you have a specific example, please let me know)?

When paddling, our group of "conservative" touring kayakers always stresses wearing PFDs. We make it clear on our Yahoogroup homepage that Coast Guard approved PFDs are required when we paddle. OK, you get the picture, but we are not a "club" (no dues, no heirarchy), just a loosely organized group of people who paddle together. We set up paddling dates via the internet group, and various people join the group and read these and then show up to paddle, so it's always a bit different as to the make-up of the group.

In the last year, we have met a few paddlers, who have attended paddle dates we have set up, who were...ummm..."non-compliant" in the use of Coast Guard-approved PFDs. Reasons not to wear the PFD: said they were good swimmers, one had been a lifeguard, it was too hot (air temps) to wear the PFD (water temp was 50), the PFD was right behind the seat if needed, etc...One used a PFD (good news) but it was an older PFD not recommended for kayaking (though we offered use of a new Type III vest in exchange). Experience-wise, these were beginner-ish level, but not first-time out newbies. They all had "some" experience on the water, but (I think) hadn't been schooled in some of the basics in paddler safety.

On all occasions our other paddlers in the group all wore PFDs. All attempted to persuade the non-compliants to wear them too, using logic, gentle pressure...ok, I'll just say peer pressure. We stressed the safety factor, how easily an accident could occur, etc., without becoming aggressive. (Didn't work.)

HOW would YOU get these folks to wear appropriate PFDs? I mean, what strategies would YOU use? What psychology, what words, what scenarios? Can it be done?

I posed this question to an ACA kayak & canoe instructor. The instructor made a few suggestions, but we had tried all that already.

Ideas? Suggestions? Tell them to go home without an appropriate PFD?

Given enough trips
Darwin will figure it out eventually.

Perhaps loan them a copy of Deep Trouble? Perhaps pick a windy day and in a safe area practice wet exits and let their boat blow away from them?

Just ideas. I “force” myself to always wear my PFD even when paddling shallow protected water on hot, humid FL summer days. Once out of the habit, it is too easy to not wear it the day some day you wish you had.


You could just refuse to paddle with
folks who don’t meet your standards for safety.

If you have a rule, enforce it
If the rule is “no PFD, no paddle,” then don’t paddle with anyone who isn’t wearing a PFD. If you’re not going to enforce the rule, I seriously doubt you’re going to talk somebody into wearing the PFD if you continue to push the issue after they say they don’t want to. Adults seldom react well to extended arguments about why they should do something for their own good, whatever the merits.

What kind of conditions ?

– Last Updated: Feb-23-06 8:19 PM EST –

Are they dressed for swimming in the water temperature. Are they reasonably fit and could swim for a minute or two unaided. Are you on big water in rough conditions? Are you sure the waterski belt is not a coast guard approved device? If someone does not have any kind of PFD with them at all then I would tell them they are breaking the law. Other than that warn them that you are not going to risk your neck to save them and let them make their own choices. Don't invite them back if you don't like paddling with them. (Change to a new Yahoo Group name)

Remove them from your list
When access to the Group List is noticed maybe they’ll get the message.

Stay safe on the water,

She’s a lifeguard?

– Last Updated: Feb-24-06 9:41 PM EST –

Don’t worry, be happy
There are a few times that I don’t wear mine but carry it, depends on conditions. Just ask them if they know they are breaking the law, then don’t worry about them. That is if you have no liability exposure.

unless you are
paddling super easy conditions, I would insist PFD wearing.

What law are they breaking?

I couldn’t swear to it
But IIRC, Honolulu lifeguards don’t wear PFDs when patrolling on jetskis.

Let nature take its course
Let them know that if they paddle with you and refuse to wear their PFD, they are responsible for their own rescue. And stick to that policy. Let 'em drown. That should teach 'em. :+)

Seriously, there is not alot you can do other than set an example.

“You can’t fix stupid”
A quote from Ron White a great very non-politically correct comedian.

I would encourage it on all trips and require it in your pre-trip posting anytime the person who organizes feels it’s necessary.



The Coast Guard says…
we have to have an approved PFD within reach and a signaling device. We don’t have to wear it.

I would insist…
… that they write their name on their body with permanent magic marker so that when their bloated corpse is dragged in three days after they get run over by the jet-ski their next of kin can be called sooner.

What’s the concern?
If it isn’t liability, is it compassion, not wanting to see others harmed? Something else? I believe people need to be allowed personal freedom if it doesn’t impact on others.

I expect adults to make their own choices. The debate over how effective PFD’s are might not belong here, so I will keep my comments on the subject of duty.

You have no duty to pressure these people to wear their vests. Further, as adults, simply informing them that PFD’s increase their margin of safety seems to amply fulfill any ethical duty.

I always wear a PFD now, but I do it out of habit and as an example to younger paddlers (who, when they are with me, are required to wear theirs - a double standard I fully support)

Others might get hurt…
… trying to rescue them. It happens all the time.

here’s my bit
I believe that we all should wear pfd’s on the water at all times (emphasis on believe and should). Now that Ive got that off my chest, heres something else.

Trying to sum up a 10 page single spaced log in 3 paragraphs is tough so I apologize for holes. I have a short story and moral that I feel is relevant to this thread and can help other paddlers make tough decisions in the future.

Just before departing on a 30 mile trip in not so pleasant conditions, we realized that a member had no pfd. Ill call him joe, joe didnt bring one, he would not let me buy one for him. I told him Id go home if he didnt wear one, he still refused (I was the trip leader, this was a good friend, and this trip was over two months in the planning). I am known for being an excellent mediator, communicator and leader, I could not succeed in getting him to even put a pdf aboard. It took a family member to get him momentarily straight, I wont go into detail.

Out on the water by the third day he completely would not wear the pfd. Being between bail out points he agreed to wear the pfd if the conditions worsened. Conditions turned unpleasant but well within the predicted forecast. He would not put on the pfd. Joe became anxious about the conditions as we approached a cape. He decided for himself that he would remove himself from this circumstance by heading to shore as fast as possible, which lay beyond the point. Disobeying us and any of our efforts, he ventured into dangerous water very quickly. He disappeared then reappeared within 4 minutes, we assumed it was due to visual obstacles and swell height. We did not know but he was capsized, lost the kayak to a breaking swell, had to retrieve the kayak from a swell beaten rock outcropping (6-8ft swells) all without a pfd, or his emergency equipment since it was on the kayak. He was fairly sure he almost died, he is now terrified of the ocean. After those four minutes we saw him paddling to shore. We had absolutely no clue there had been any actual mishap.

This trip and especially this event changed my kayaking philosophy as you could imagine. Now here is my relevant morel of the story. A person in the trip party who goes to great lengths to refuse adamant requests to follow basic safety protocol will later continue to refuse advice, even commands, and can potentially make a life threatening situation for the entire party on all the individuals own account. This is my rule, not my exception. And yes there are many ways this rule can break down, and many experiences of such, a perfectly experienced and compliant member may snap, but I feel much more confident keeping this concept in my mind. I know that there are those that may totally refute this, but hey, my hard way is your easy way.



Push them over before you get far
from shore, and watch them go through their re-entry drill without assistance and without a PFD. If they succeed, let them go along if they are still speaking to you.

How About…
“My policy is this… I don’t rescue / assist anyone not wearing a pfd.” ??

In cycling if someone doesn’t wear a helmet it doesn’t put anyone else at risk. Not using a pfd might well put other folks in danger.