PFD v non-swimmers?

I just caught another article, link here, in this case about a few deaths of paddle boarders in calm water from drowning. (

The emphasis of the article from the civil authorities is obviously on the lack of PFD’s. It is not mandatory for adults this time of year but depending on swimming ability it could make a difference.

But the last is what I increasingly wonder about. It is one thing for someone to drown in cold water, or in an ocean environment or moving water environment with multiple risk factors. But this story is about people in what was likely pretty warm water, no current or waves, where the only way I can see anyone drowning would be if they could not swim. I don’t mean fancy swimming, considering that I only have about half the strokes myself. I mean the basic ability to come back to the surface after falling in, tread water or flip onto your back to swim saving energy.

Just a thought - do SUP’s represent a new and more popular risk for non-swimmers to get out on the water?

SUPs are vessels
per the USCG:

On the other hand, they’re not vessels if paddled in designated areas.

Was amazed at this comment in the article you cited.

“Don’t make us all wear bulky hot uncomfortable life jackets because a couple people died doing something wrong/stupid. Sorry, I don’t want to sound callous, but I guarantee you something foolish went on in these incidents, and it’s no reason to ‘punish’ us all!”

It still blows my mind that people will get into water without having any idea of how to survive once in it.

1 Like


– Last Updated: Aug-03-16 9:43 AM EST –

For quite a few years I've done 'lifeguard' duty at the local triathlon. I'm one of the kayakers that stays near the swim route to help folks who get in trouble. You wouldn't believe the number of really weak swimmers that try to compete. Usually they're just bad swimmers and need a lot of breaks. Occasionally they're so unprepared that they have to abandon the race.

1 Like

even worse
That’s a brutal environment even for a good swimmer. But I’ve heard the same thing from new triathletes, it seems as though the swimming segment isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

That is very surprising
It is a tri, meaning all three sports…

I can see someone deciding they will do better at making up speed in one of the other phases. But it would never have occurred to me that any tri athlete, especially given their low percentage of body fat, would not make sure they were better than average swimmers in both technique and endurance.

I am also done with blaming parents for not making sure their kids know how to swim. The YMCA and other such civic organizations have developed classes specifically aimed at fearful adult non-swimmers. If someone wants to get out on the water, in most cases they can find a way to get the swimming part done if they want.

that’s a tough one for me
IMO if you introduce your kids to water recreation, you should take an interest in them being able to survive it. Just my opinion. But sure, there are plenty of outlets for those adults who don’t know how to swim to learn how to do so.

nom swimmers
I have run into many non swimmers who kayak. They all had PFD’s on though. I would think they would take a swimming lesson or two just to be more comfortable when in the water. BUT they don’t seem to want to from the ones I have talked too.

Most SUP I have seen were not wearing PFD’s. BUT close in by land.

Parents and swimming

– Last Updated: Aug-03-16 2:12 PM EST –

I don't know of any parents who swim themselves who have not made sure their kids can swim. I am sure they exist but I have never met any.

The situation I was talking about is when the parents don't swim, and never think that they should nonetheless make sure their kids learn. Sometimes it is sheer economics and opportunity. For ex, inner city rowing programs often have to handle the swimming part because they get young people who never had access to a pool.

But once someone gets to be an adult, some amount of personal responsibility kicks in. Being on the water in a small boat, or on a flat board, means that at least survival swimming skills should be present. FWIW, I have been with people who were non-swimmers in a kayak and thought that wearing a PFD would keep them safe. I have not been with any in a long time because I saw the effects of panic, even with a PFD. These people could drown, and I am too old and crotchety to spend my time with someone who won't solve such a basic problem. And no diversions into fear - it took me nearly two years to get my first roll due to claustrophobia that only kicked in when my legs were in a boat. If you want to kayak in a given environment, in my case the ocean, on the ocean there are things that you just have to solve.

1 Like

I’ve seen SUP drivers in the middle of
Jocassee with no flotation device ID. It is 300’ deep and a long way to shore.

that sounds reasonable, I agree
It makes perfect sense, yet I’m still astonished to hear about people paddling without a PFD or swimming ability.

I think swimming intimidates some people, they think they have to learn all sorts of strokes. A swimming class that just talks about survival techniques would be ideal but I’m not sure it exists.

After reading the comments in that article, it seems like very few SUP paddlers wear PFDs or support wearing them. I guess they assume that the SUP in itself is a giant lifesaver??? Unfortunately for the folks that drowned, the SUP didn’t provide that kind of help. It’s a shame that the article gave no details on these accidents. Cold water? Head bonk? Alcohol involved? It does mention that two of the victims were friends of someone in the SUP industry. That would lead me to think they were at least a little bit skilled in paddle board use. However, the comments in the article imply that these folks did something dumb that caused their death. It doesn’t take an overtly dumb or irresponsible moment to cause an accident in water sports.

comments sections are insane asylums

No swimming skills
Is Celia’s assumption. It’s not mentioned in the articles. I think for 59 y/o heart attack caused by mild exertion is more likely, as long as we’re guessing. Let’s rant about outlawing bacon.

I think the SUP problem is they look like surfboards and surfers don’t wear PFDs

Why don’t hot air balloonists wear parachutes? I KNOW none of them can fly.

SOT like SUP
Without a pfd, taking a spill from either a SOT or SUP is rather similar. Some would argue that they are, in themselves, life saving devices. But the fact is that rough water and wind can separate one quickly from the craft.

Perhaps even more unsafe in such conditions are those recreational kayaks that have no flotation, which can capsize and next sink. There are, of course, rec kayaks at the opposite extreme with flotation at both ends.

If I owned a SUP I would certainly ues a pfd and likely a well designed tether. During those years when I was a youth and then a young man in the 50s and 60s, I would blithely canoe in the Boundary Waters with no pfd. I’m wiser now, but maybe less worth saving.

well that’s true
Death could have been from another cause. It still bewilders me that people who can’t survive in water get into or onto a piece of plastic or composite and go out into…water.

I always thought they should have a parachute aboard hot air ballooons, for the operator to use.

I was amazed at Boot Camp
People joined the Navy who couldn’t swim.

Every child in my family over three can swim, it’s hard to grok not swimming.

I’ve been on commercial flights where I wished I had a chute.

Not the only incidents lately

– Last Updated: Aug-03-16 9:55 PM EST –

I decided not to load in a number of other warm weather, no apparent trauma type drownings that have occurred lately. Because it gets silly.

It might also be that you have not run into people who can't swim but go out in kayaks. I have, though at first it was hard to believe.

Apparently in the New Hampshire incident both were in major distress very shortly into hitting the water. Among a circle of my friends or family, all older than these folks, it would be surprising for even one person to have a problem let alone everyone. The ones who would be likely to have a problem would be on shore wishing the rest of us well.

By the way, I caught the statement about the requirement to have a flotation device in that article. The speaker might mean the part of many state laws that says a boat has to have one flotation device on board for each person, hence the reason for floating boat cushions. It might work if a motor boat had a graceful accident and sunk slowly, but this is not going to do much good for a SUP.

skills of people I paddle w/ are moot
And the health of people you know doesn’t matter either. The articles you link don’t say anything about the people couldn’t swim. You are jumping to a conclusion.

USCG law floating seat cushions don’t count for PFD’s, not sure what point you were trying to make with that.

It wasn’t my point

– Last Updated: Aug-04-16 1:29 AM EST –

It was a quote in the article that I suspect came from someone who was fuzzy on this. I fully get what those cushions are and are not. I am not so sure whoever covered the story was.