Poll: Helmets For Flat Water Paddling?

-- Last Updated: May-08-06 5:59 PM EST --

The question simply is whether or not you feel helmets are necessary for quiet water paddling.

>> My two 10 year girls now paddle their own kayaks. We paddle in protected waters, calm lakes, ponds, and rivers, never any white water. We always wear our PFD’s and I assist them when getting into and out of the kayaks. My ex-spouse insists that the kids wear helmets when they paddle. The kids complain about them being hot and the lack of comfort despite being sized and fitted properly, also that they feel it makes them look like “dorks”. They took a personal kayak class with the ex-spouse and mentioned that neither the ex nor the instructor wore helmets, “why do we have to wear them”. In short, it’s taken some fun factor out of paddling for them.

The intent here is educate the ex-spouse, my kids and myself as to what’s needed for safe paddling. It’s not about bashing my ex-spouse.

My kids & I (& maybe the ex) thank you in advance for your educated and experienced opinion.

Difficult call
When I paddle around the lake I live on I don’t wear a helmet. The risk of my hitting my head on something is tiny. But most important I am making the decision for myself not someone else. Kids are not competent to judge risk for themselves so that leaves you in the position of judge for them. But the issue is risk. Looking dorky or feeling hot are not relevant.

no i would not wear a
helmet in flat water. I would only consider it if obviouslly prevented an injury.


– Last Updated: May-08-06 6:05 PM EST –


Keep in mind that three things have to happen for a helmet to be useful: 1) a capsize, 2) hitting your head, 3) hitting your head hard enough to cause an injury. If the probability of any one of these three was relatively high, then a helmet might be reasonable. In my opinion, the probability of any one of these on flatwater are low (capsizing is the most likely to happen but it's pretty infrequent). The combination of all three happening on flatwater is very, very low. Note that more than one of these three is likely to happen on white water.

I know of no situation where helmets are used on flatwater by anybody (adults or kids) in normal situations.

It's fairly common for WW boaters to wear their helmets on flatwater when practicing (as I do) but that is mostly because they are used to wearing them (this is not a normal situation).

I know of one case where a sea kayaker wore a helmet in an unusual situation but even that might have been understandable (it was a rescue class). Still, I've observed or participated in many rescue classes and have only ever seen one guy in one class use a helmet.

I also know of an outfitter (who have a very good reputation and that I have a high regard for) who run kid programs and they do not use helmets.

It's an easy call. Note that the kids aren't making the decision; the adults are.

I am going to be blunt
Wearing a helmet on flat water is absolutely stipid !

Have you ever seen any one else wearing one?

Kids should be taught what is right and wrong in paddling, but trying to get them to do something ridiculous is going to turn them off.



Make them wear helmets as punishment…
…for something they did wrong. They will never do it again, due to the humiliation. Otherwise, no helmets.

I agree with JackL
flatwater, no rocks and very little possibility of knocking their heads against anything? No helmet. I agree it is stupid and would be a big turn off for my kids.

PFD absolutely

helmet…assess the conditions. based on what you described, absolutely not.


opinions are like…noses…everyone has one

For the same reasons as cited above.

safety device
Helmets are a safety device for when there is a chance of impact to the head. If there is no real chance of impact, then helmets are not necessary.

I wear a helmet when in conditions that could result in hitting my head on something harder than water. I wear a helmet when surfing or playing in races wherin I might hit my head on rocks, hard bottom, or another kayak.

That makes about as much sense as wearing a helmet on a walk along the street.

Happy Paddling,


If they’re going to have to wear helmets
… under the conditions you descrbe, then they should really be wearing them to climb stairs, especially at school with all the pushing and shoving.

Seriously, I’ll be the risk of head injury is greater on the stairs.

If they were practicing rolling in shallow water or swimming pool then there might be a need. I think the kids are right on this one.

I am known as a prudent kayaker
(well almost always)and unless she is diagnosed with an eggshell head, my daughter will not be advised to wear a helmet on flat water.

Surf kakaying , white water, launching and landinfg in surf: helmets are good. Normal flat water, not necessary!

On flatwater, I may wear my helmet to
support my visor… or as a place to hook my noseclips!

On the other hand, I arrived at NM Chama River one day and discovered my only helmet was missing. So, I wore my Tilley.

Only if you have…

… unusually HARD water! L


Your kids like to bang their heads on things and wear helmets all day already (Hey! Some do!).


You LIKE making them look dorky and take pleasure in that. Parents need fun too!

During what other activities does your ex require cranial encasement. Not bashing, just curious.

How about a compromise… A baseball cap with a sponge under it. (I’m not serious, but it’ll be more than sufficient and they can keep their cockpits dry)

At least she lets the kids paddle

Save it for bike riding
Not necessary for paddling flat water, unless the kids intend to go in very shallow, rocky water AND capsize.

Wearing a helmet is a big enough turnoff while bicycling, but in cycling at least there’s no need to wear a PFD. One bulky, hot encumberment per sport is enough, thanks.

Not for just paddling…
…but they’re a good idea if you’re doing rescue training or working on other skills where there’s a decent chance of getting whacked in the head.

Mostly no

– Last Updated: May-09-06 9:29 AM EST –

for normal paddling, no. For kayak polo(or informal equivalents), surfing, whitewater, and crowded pools, yes.

I sometimes wear mine when I'm going out solo in wind & waves and I know I'll be practicing rescues. Strange things happen. It's bright yellow with reflective tape, so it's also a visibility enhancer.

I'm used to wearing helmets and other PPE at work, and for other recreational & volunteer activities. It's not a big deal for me to wear one in a boat.

I always wear a helmet…I’m wearing
one right now…