Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kayak police

A half blind eye

This is what you get when the lens cover doesn't completely open. Its sort of a photographic metaphor for a meeting we had with 2 new kayakers coming out of Torbay on Sunday.

We met them coming out as we paddled in. A young couple, they were in T-shirts and each had a PFD, spary skirt and paddle. That looked about it.

We were decked out with dry suits etc, etc. The couple must have thought we were over-doing it a bit.

We exchanged pleasantries. They were new to kayaking and weren't going to go far.

I thought how unpleasant things could get if one or both ended up in the water without thermal protection. The wind was blowing at 10 knots and would be against them coming back in. If the girl tired or the wind increased there was no option of a tow.

We, in effect, turned a half blind eye to their situation. We didn't ask about competencies. We didn't point out the need for thermal protection. We didn't ask if they had all the equipment required by Transport Canada. The question is should we have?

Its a delicate situation trying to show concern without coming across like the kayak police. How bad would we have felt if there had been a safety incident?


  1. I asked myself that very same question many times after we left those two!! What gives us the right to preach to others about safety? Still, how crappy would we feel if something happened to them? I kept my eyes and ears to the news for the rest of the day waiting to hear of, yet another, kayaking mishap. Thankfully, it do not happen - this time!!

  2. that is a tough call. When I was climbing a lot it was perfectly reasonable to walk up to someone you didn't know and check their knot. If it didn't look right, you should be sure it's okay. I don't feel the same way about kayakers. I feel that people tend to view that exactly as you describe it, the kayak police - and what gives you the right. It should be perfectly acceptable, but it's not. And it is an attitude that we should all help to achieve. First, making it socially acceptable for more experienced paddlers to give advice to newer paddlers, and secondly, that people need to seek out instruction and learn what safety really is.

    When people kayak with me and ask if they have to wear a pfd, I say only if you want to get on the water.

  3. I was rolling around in Newfoundland a few weeks ago. Without my dry suit. It's a common sense thing. I dont think anyone needs Saftey preachers. To each their own. I know Ipaddled a good many with my drysuit in Newfoundland a few weeks back...but I paddled some without.

  4. and when I teach in Alaska, neither I, nor my students wear dry suits. We teach them how to manage cold water and what to do after something like that occurs. But I dont think there is anything wrong - or shouldn't be anything wrong, I think most would disagree with me - with saying to someone who is clearly out of their element, 'hey are you aware of the dangers here'

  5. I've done a few paddles this summer in temps in the mid 20c range. I had on my drysuit and was, in no way, uncomfortable. If I did get a bit warm, I'd just do a quick roll or scull. Plus the inside of the boat is always cool because of its contact with the cold water.

    Our water temps, I'm guessing right now are in the low teens (C) or law 50's (F) According to a hypothermia chart I found, those water temps give you about an hour before you're unconscious. I've seen our water and wind turn on us with a vengeance. When it does, I want to be as prepared as I can be - and that means thermal protection.

    On Sunday, if either one of these novice paddlers fell out of their boats, the wind would have taken it like a leaf and blown it to Ireland. If they were in the middle of the bay, then they'd be in deep doodoo because they would not make it shore.

    It's unfortunate that the less skilled paddlers are the ones who really need the drysuits this time of year but few will actually be wearing them. I could get away without wearing my suit but the protection and insurance it affords is well worth it!!!


  6. A hard question. I can also be a kayak police from time to time but has calmed down somewhat in recent years.



  7. Thanks for your comments guys. Some people will be more receptive to a safety message, it all depends I suppose on the manner of delivery. Even so, a holier-than-thou attitude won't cut it with anyone.

    Tony :-)

  8. It isn't hard at all. Tell them they are paddling unsafely and why. Until they know they are vulnerable, they aren't making an informed choice. The idea of "kayak police" is not relevant. All you're doing is giving them valuable information; they then decide.