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  Do you wear your PFD (open water)
  Posted by: dc9mm on Jan-27-14 5:09 PM (EST)
   Category: Other Gear 

-- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 5:09 PM EST --

Been reading the second Deep Trouble book "More Deep Trouble" book. Seems like I often read people not wearing the PFD's but instead putting them under there deck bunjees.Now I get it when some dont wear a PFD paddling down a creek were you can stand up in the creek. I still wear mine but many dont under those conditions.

BUT in open water do you ALWAYS wear your PFD?? I do. Just curious about others.

Side question, if you bring a VHF or PLB were do you keep it, on you? On me for my answer.

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Messages in this Topic


  First, you have to assess the degree of
  Posted by: ezwater on Jan-27-14 5:19 PM (EST)
risk associated with not wearing your life jacket, and then, you must decide what level of risk that you, personally, are willing to assume.

I wouldn't paddle a sea/touring kayak out on open water without wearing my life jacket. But my two-stage risk assessment is mine alone.

Sometimes, because they get tired of dragging for bodies and cleaning up after us, state or federal agencies dictate that we *must* wear life jackets whether we like it or not. Right now, that applies mostly on whitewater rivers.

I call them *life jackets* because that is their primary purpose, to save lives. "PFD" is a typical government euphemism, if not an outright evasion of the real issue.
  depends on what you call open water
  Posted by: pblanc on Jan-27-14 5:49 PM (EST)
I have paddled in fairly close proximity to shore on a warm water lake without a PFD now and again as I have on a straightforward and relatively narrow Class I stream.

I would not paddle on a wide, deep river or attempt a significant open water crossing without a PFD, however.
  Open water for me
  Posted by: sweeper on Jan-27-14 5:50 PM (EST)
would be a lake and yes I wear it

1. Its like a seat belt once your get used to wearing it you just wear it.

2. Most of the time we paddle with kids in the group so we wear them to set the example.
  I always wear mine.
  Posted by: Yanoer on Jan-27-14 5:56 PM (EST)
I'm never in "open" water.

I think wearing the PFD in rocky creeks is very important, since the likelihood of cracking your head on a rock and becoming unconscious is greater than when in open water.
  probably wouldn't save you
  Posted by: pblanc on Jan-27-14 6:38 PM (EST)
Only a Type I PFD, which virtually no recreational boaters wear, has much of a chance of floating you with your airway out of the water.
  I wore a life jacket and, much of the
  Posted by: ezwater on Jan-30-14 1:12 AM (EST)
time, a helmet while wading and swimming the 25 miles of the Chattooga Headwaters. As it turned out, I never had a serious fall, but even though the river was very low, there were pools that were over my head.

But in extremely hot weather, and in very benign conditions, I used to leave my life jacket in the boat. Now, in old age, my heart can have fibrillation episodes, so the life jacket stays on.

Decades ago, a competent paddler died on the class 1 Lower,lower Toccoa, probably because he had a seizure condition and wasn't wearing his life jacket.
  My PLB is attached to my PFD
  Posted by: kayamedic on Jan-27-14 5:59 PM (EST)
and that is attached to me. No doubt in anyones view the Gulf of Mexioo is open water. We did 11 miles today off Cedar Key a fog with 100 ft visibility. Losing anything was not an option.

In this case I would have needed all free hands to get back in and not lose the painter on the boat. Within five seconds it could have been buried in the fog.

I always wear it on the ocean.
  Always, regardless
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-27-14 6:10 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 10:35 PM EST --

If I am not wearing it for the sake of flotation I have it on because I have stuff in the pockets I might want fast, like the waterproof camera or a nut bar. For the little added money it costs to get one that is really comfortable, I don't see any reason not to do that.

BTW, saw a photo in the latest Eddie Bauer ad with three paddler offshore down in Baja somewhere, rock cliffs behind by at least a quarter of a mile so if they did capsize in any real trip it was going to have to be handled on the water. Guess what they were wearing? The prettily colored technical jackets that Eddie Bauer was advertising on that page, completely unblocked by anything as silly as a PFD. On the facing page, they listed their highly qualified guides in each of the sports.

I know that they were models, and there was a motor boat nearby just out of the shot as well as a guide telling them how to hold the paddle and go in to help if they did capsize. We saw a publicity shoot like this happening where we vacation on the coast on Maine a couple of years back. It was pretty funny when we came in from a paddle out to Eastern Egg wet, hungry and in faded PFD's and dry suits that used to be whatever color. Not exactly a match for the models in clean clothes trying to figure out which end of the paddle was up. We felt sorry for the kayak guide they had hired.

But I still find it galling that someone like Eddie Bauer will, on the facing pages, tout their highly qualified guides and place more emphasis on the cute colors of their clothes than fundamental safe practices. They are supposed to be about the outdoors, especially in this display. If they want to be about the new spring colors they don't need the boats to do it.

Later PS - I don't expect folks who do crew to wear a PFD, though I have seen less than comfy practices from the motor boat escorting the shell with all that stuff. I would probably try to make a waist mounted inflatable work if I cared about racing in a kayak. But I would as soon watch paint dry as race myself, so it is not an issue.

  Open water..............
  Posted by: on Jan-27-14 7:02 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 12:22 PM EST --

I don't paddle open water; never wanted too, and have no plans to ever paddle open water.

I do paddle on a large lake, flatwater, moving water, and occasionally some whitewater rivers.
It doesn't matter what venue I paddle; I always wear my pfd. Season does not matter; it can be 20 degrees, or 100 degrees. My wife always wears her pfd; as do the vast majority of my padding friends.

If those I don't know, choose not to wear a pfd, and they are an adult; that is their decision.
I would have empathy for their family if dire natural consequences resulted.

Ex Lifeguard Instructor, and Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor(Never used as excuse to not wear pfd)

  Inflatable belt?
  Posted by: pirateoverforty on Jan-27-14 9:38 PM (EST)
An area kayak shop had a picture of one of their salesman out on the gulf and it appeared he wasn't wearing his PFD. So many people commented they posted a caption saying he had on an inflatable belt type PFD

I wear my Astral unless I'm spending more time dragging my canoe than paddling, then I switch to my Fisherman's PFD
  First question: no, not always
  Posted by: jackl on Jan-27-14 7:03 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 7:04 PM EST --

Second question the PLB is on my PFD. My PFD is either on me or on the rear deck of the yak.
My vhf is always tethered to the front deck.

Jack L

  always - feel naked without it
  Posted by: Peter-CA on Jan-27-14 7:09 PM (EST)
I always wear my PFD. Feel naked without it. Even wear it when SUPing.

VHF location is a bit more convoluted. If with others, and doing stuff like surfing or rock gardening, it may be in day hatch (to keep out of the way). But if solo, it is attached to me.

I am planning to buy a PLB when I get the cash, and it will be stored in a pocket that is built into the water bladder pack that is permanently attached to my PFD. So will be with meat all times.
  Posted by: jonsprag1 on Jan-27-14 7:30 PM (EST)
I always wear my pfd---and when I have my vhf, it's in the pocket on the pfd
  PFD is a habit
  Posted by: willi_h2o on Jan-27-14 7:52 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-27-14 7:55 PM EST --

Getting a good fitting, comfortable , PFD "may"
take a slight teeny bit of effort, i.e. you
might have to try out a few different manufacturers
and various models by clipping them onto your body.

After that, it goes on my body just like my swim trunks,
or paddling pants or drysuit. It's that natural a move.

People make all sort of excuses for not wearing one
and I believe its because they haven't been
scared enough by mother nature just yet in their paddling

It's a little like that cyclist who flips
over his handle bars on concrete
and then wears a helmet

  I ALWAYS wear my PFD
  Posted by: tdaniel on Jan-27-14 8:10 PM (EST)
well, I did go on a cruise a few years ago and didn't wear it on the ship. I wear it on whitewater, flatwater, lakes, river, saltwater marsh, creeks, and swamps- in a canoe, a kayak, a duck, or a raft.
That's me. You do what you want. Call it what you want as well: a lifejacket, pfd, lifevest- it doesn't matter. If you wear it your safer than if you don't. I've never finished a day of paddling and thought- I wish I hadn't worn my lifejacket today. On the other hand there have been many days I was glad I made the decision to wear it. Personally, I find "open water" to be one of the most intimidating environments,a place where I would want to wear a pfd the most. A change in shore topography/weather/wind/waves can result in a sudden shift in conditions. I'm an old boyscout, better to "be prepared". As far as shallow being safer, that's where I dislocated a shoulder - glad I had my lifejacket on that day as well. It makes a nice sling. check it out at 4:17
  Posted by: Andy_Szymczak on Jan-27-14 9:25 PM (EST)
It's become second nature and a wise habit.
  Posted by: booztalkin on Jan-27-14 10:32 PM (EST)
1. I was a man overboard one time, in the middle of the Chesapeake, and all I had was my shorts. A passing boat picked me up after I survival bobbed for a few hours. A few hours by myself, during which my survival odds were dwindling, made an impression, and that's an experience I will never repeat, because I wear that PFD all the time, even on power boats.

2. Wearing the pfd models good behavior for people that might not know any better.

  It saved my life.
  Posted by: randy_morgart on Jan-27-14 10:51 PM (EST)
See pg 251 of More Deep Trouble. I made enough stupid mistakes and assumptions that day that my survival margin was razor thin. A Dr. told me later I was within minutes of losing consciousness.

The PFD's flotation kept me higher in the water and provided insulation , while saving effort to stay afloat.

I always wear it and keep my radio on it or in the deck bag.

  Posted by: vk1nf on Jan-27-14 10:51 PM (EST)
...if I'm out on the water, it's on me.
  ALWAYS! my rule is lifejacket on
  Posted by: alpalmer on Jan-27-14 11:03 PM (EST)
WHENEVER I am on the water, openwater, closedwater, shallowwater, deepwater.
  I do
  Posted by: rjd9999 on Jan-27-14 11:11 PM (EST)
and I don't paddle with people who don't. I've had to do enough rescues in cold, and sometimes moving, water that I've learned a healthy appreciation for floatation.

In all situations, rescues increase risk to everyone involved. If they can be avoided, or rendered less severe, though the use of a PFD, this should be done.

  Posted by: tjalmy on Jan-28-14 12:00 AM (EST)
What works in the cold waters of the Great Lakes, or the coast of Oregon may not be what works for the shallow Gulf coast paddling with warm water and a hot sun. Even here in the warmth, I'd lean toward using it in what I'd consider open water.
Use your head, and use your tools. Your life may well depend on it.
  Posted by: bmach1 on Jan-28-14 12:36 AM (EST)
Always on no matter what type of water we paddle.
  another mostly, but only don't when
  Posted by: OptiMystic on Jan-28-14 7:05 AM (EST)
The air and water temp is quite warm, I am in a group, conditions are calm and the water is often only waist deep. In the sounds of NC, those conditions come together more often than you might think. But most of the time I am very vigilant about it.
  He's right
  Posted by: adeanast on Jan-29-14 6:32 PM (EST)
This is an important point. If you have on your PFD and someone in your party doesn't - if something happens, all of a sudden it's your issue...and you are at risk for someone else's poor decision.
  Always, no exceptions.
  Posted by: BNystrom on Jan-28-14 7:24 AM (EST)
My VHF radio is always mounted on the shoulder strap of my PFD. Here's how to do it:
  how long does your VHF last?
  Posted by: gnarlydog on Feb-03-14 12:50 AM (EST)
how long does your VHF last like that on the shoulder of the PFD?
I mean, before salt corrosion kills it?
I see people having theirs inside a see-through clear bag, despite the VHF being labelled "waterproof".
  Posted by: andy on Jan-28-14 7:46 AM (EST)
when kayaking in pool, creek, stream, river, inlet, bay, surf, ocean. Even before reading DT the first time some years ago. I prefer this to remain my choice and not govt mandated.
  Most of the time
  Posted by: jmyers on Jan-28-14 8:28 AM (EST)
Except in hot summer weather when I'm paddling close along shore. I see it as a relative risk. I also ride a bicycle several thousand miles each year on New Jersey roads and that is many times more dangerous than a summer paddle on Barnegat Bay. But when I get down to Barnegat inlet with its fast running currents and big motor boat wakes, the PFD goes on regardless of the temperature and humidity.
  Posted by: paddlemore on Jan-28-14 8:22 AM (EST)
If I am on the water (even in a pool) I wear one. Its easy to put on and since I wear it all the time I don't notice it.

VHF goes on the PFD where I can use it one-handed, not in a pocket.
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-28-14 10:01 AM (EST)
I always wear my PFD while on the water, just as I always wear my seatbelt while driving my car. I've found that life becomes so much easier if one just develops certain good habits--like always wearing the PFD while paddling. You arrive at the launch site and automatically put on the PFD, rather than engaging in some sort of debate with yourself whether today is a PFD day or not. It's always a PFD day, so one can concentrate on other, more important issues.
  In my younger years
  Posted by: magooch on Jan-28-14 10:26 AM (EST)
I spent a lot of time sailing and never wore a pfd, but then I was also invulnerable. To some degree I brought that attitude to kayaking, but not when I stepped up to sea kayaking. Maybe it was part of the aging process, but also I think it was part of the sea kayaking motif in that it is part of the uniform. Finally, acquiring a really good pfd that is so comfortable and comforting, it has become my security blanky.
  Always, no question
  Posted by: elcarajo on Jan-28-14 10:05 AM (EST)
I have not VHF or PLB, though, which is probably something I should fix.
  yes, other than some races.
  Posted by: beanboy on Jan-28-14 10:39 AM (EST)
All of the time while not racing, 90% of the time racing.
  Only Open Water?
  Posted by: wildernesswebb on Jan-28-14 10:46 AM (EST)
Akin to wearing a seatbelt only when you're driving out on the interstate IMHO. I paddle primarily streams you'd have no trouble throwing a ball across. Every year we come across and assist a few folks in trouble, and they are the ones who rarely have a PFD on.

On the water, crap can happen. And one thing you always seem to hear echoed about most drowning victims is "He/she was a GOOD swimmer?" When you mix adrenalin and emergent situations, most folks have trouble swimming. Add a boat full of water, belly full of beer, cold water, a nasty strainer, tough water conditions, et al and you're playing Russian Roulette.

If you'd ever had a kid bobbing underwater screaming "Don't let me drown, DON'T LET ME DROWN" as you struggled to find an eddy next to a nasty strainer to attempt his rescue, I bet you'd encourage EVERYONE on the water to wear a PFD as I do?
  Glad to see
  Posted by: dc9mm on Jan-28-14 11:01 AM (EST)
Glad to see people wear there Life Vest. I guess the ones I read about in the two deep trouble books are exceptions to the rule. Plus alot of those stories are from several years back too.Maybe things have changed over the years.

I was just curious. The other thing I noticed most was that many were not in the right clothing for the water temp. As one poster mentioned about his story on page 251. I was paddling on the Niagara River late this season and water was at 45F. I wore my drysuit, about 10 others in the group, most I didnt know. No one had much of anything on. They looked at me as I heard some say, jeezze look at this guy with the full suit.Like I was the crazy one. Conditions were dead calm but still.
  Eddie Bauer
  Posted by: Emanoh on Jan-28-14 12:07 PM (EST)
Celia, I saw and thought the same thing in the Eddie Bauer catalog that showed up in my mail box. I posted the same thing in a couple of facebook groups I belong to. I also love the caption at the bottom of the photo that lists the "professional" guides names and then says "paddling the shark infested waters...." The caption adds just a hint more to danger factor.

Of the four guides listed, only one is listed as a kayak guide and I would bet $100 that he doesn't let his clients leave the beach without a PFD.

Like someone mentioned, not wearing my pfd is like not wearing a seat belt. I feel naked without it. I could be paddling a mud puddle and I'd still wear mine. It's about being safe, responsible to myself and others and it's smart. I don't buy the "it's hot" excuse. You're 6" from the water, splash yourself.
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jan-28-14 12:31 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 12:31 PM EST --

I'm so used to it I don't feel right without it on. I use it in pool sessions even. It's what I'd be wearing if I capsized in rough conditions so it makes sense to be as used to it as I can. I went to a different brand for a cooler PFD, but if I overheat in the middle of a body of cool water that's my own fault.

I only take my VHF sometimes but when I do it's on my PFD on the front of the shoulder strap. GPS is on-deck if I take it. Cellphone is in a waterproof bag in my PFD pocket. I'm not telling you where I keep my wallet.

  Always on the sea but not always on lake
  Posted by: pikabike on Jan-28-14 2:00 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-28-14 2:02 PM EST --

If it's a big lake with rough conditions or very cold water, I treat it as ocean paddling minus the tidal factor: Wear the PFD.

If it's small, sheltered, and not so cold, I usually don't wear the PFD.

On rivers, I always wear it, regardless whether "open" or with nearby shoreline.

There is also an occasional exception to my ocean rule: If in a sheltered cove or bay with warm weather and water I might not wear the PFD.

It depends on more variables than "openness."

When I bring a VHF radio, it rides in the day hatch.

  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-28-14 7:38 PM (EST)
Pikabike's post demonstrates that "deciding" thing at the launch site. All those factors..... Easier (and safer) to just develop the PFD habit, and be done with the deciding ritual.
  The decision isn't hard
  Posted by: pikabike on Jan-29-14 5:43 PM (EST)
No need to make a mountain out of a molehill.
  I missed the ritual part
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jan-31-14 9:36 AM (EST)
Candles, prayer, maybe some trail mix?

  Ritual reserved for prepping trailer
  Posted by: pikabike on Jan-31-14 1:20 PM (EST)
I have two rituals (PLEC and BATHS) when using the trailer, both intended to prevent creating a hazard for anybody else:

Place (coupler securely on ball)
Lock (coupler's latch--another way to ensure that the placement is secure)
Electrical (connect the trailer's wiring to the truck's)
Chains (hook them up)


Bearings check (for signs of grease leakage)
Air pressure check
Tread wear check
Hatch covers secure
Straps check

The acronyms help me go through the list systematically.
  Life jacket
  Posted by: jbernard on Jan-28-14 6:38 PM (EST)
Always. vhf is in the chest pocket.
   I'm in Jackl's boat.
  Posted by: jaws on Jan-28-14 9:33 PM (EST)
I will wear one most of the time but not always. If the temps are high and I'm paddling flat water I leave it on deck.
I'm the same way with a bike helmet. If temps are high and I'm riding in a low traffic area the helmet stays home.
I know this will send the PC crowd into a frenzy but you have to judge the risks and plan accordingly.
  Posted by: mcimes on Jan-29-14 12:58 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 1:04 AM EST --

I paddle (relatively) safe small rivers, small/medium lakes and large but slow rivers here in MN. I only wear a PFD when the water is cold, conditions are rough, or there is some other risky circumstance. I try to avoid risky circumstances (paddle with a group in general) and paddle close to shore when appropriate (not too hard to do in the midwest).

As earlier posts elude, its foolish not to wear one when there are elevated risk circumstances such as fast moving water, cold water, a long distance to shore, rough conditions, or whatever else may likely contribute to an unforeseen accident. Its good habit though; I wouldnt argue that for a second and never discourage others from wearing one in any condition. I basically make the risk assessment at shore. If im 99.9999% sure I wont die, I probably wont wear one. If im 99.9998% sure I wont die, I put it on =) Ill take the 1:100000 chance that something freakishly unlikely happens. But anything is a possibility any time you're on the water...

Every spring during early season paddling, I see ignorant paddlers or fishermen in a T shirt and no PFD on within a couple weeks of iceout...I guess it pays to be lucky? In those conditions, Im cautious even with a drytop and pants, pfd, 2 changes of clothes, fire starter, paddling close to shore ect. The most dangerous ones 'dont know what they dont know'.

  Posted by: RubricOfRuin on Jan-29-14 4:31 AM (EST)
In the boat = wearing PFD. And will not paddle with anyone not wearing one (that fits them properly).
  Why Is It?
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-29-14 9:37 AM (EST)
Why is it that people who state that they always wear their PFDs only need a sentence or two to explain why it makes sense to them, whereas the "deciders" need many paragraphs to help us understand all of the many, many factors and variables at play in the decision-making process? I hope they don't go through those agonies while figuring out whether to brush their teeth!
  It is really very simple
  Posted by: pblanc on Jan-29-14 11:54 AM (EST)
If conditions are such that I would have no trepidation whatsoever to jump in the water and swim, I might take off my PFD. I have even (horrors!) gone swimming in lakes and the ocean without a PFD. And it is possible to slip getting into a bathtub, strike your head, and drown, and I don't wear a PFD while taking a bath either.
  No agony involved
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Jan-30-14 12:28 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 12:33 AM EST --

The only reason it takes longer to write why they sometimes don't wear the PFD is that they need to describe the benign conditions involved. If you wear it always, no matter what, there's nothing else to write. In any case, when you state that such an explanation indicates an agonizing decision-making process, it shows you are missing something.

As just one example, I've paddled for miles without a PFD on a creek that's only one foot deep. I may need to explain to you that walking the creek is as easy as walking on a sidewalk so that you'll have some chance of understanding why not wearing a PFD doesn't put me in grave danger, but that doesn't mean I needed to spend any time analyzing the situation to reach that conclusion for myself. The things other people write about this are just other examples of the same idea.

And for what it's worth, most people who know me have probably never seen me paddle without wearing a PFD.

  Ever forget to pack your PFD?
  Posted by: jaybabina on Jan-29-14 9:43 AM (EST)
I did once. I was paddling by myself too and I felt so uncomfortable without it. I was in LI Sound but just stayed along shore. (I'm a good swimmer and roller too)

I keep a spare PFd and paddle in my trunk and even an old sprayskirt and many times I have bailed out friends who forgot something.

Only beginners who know nothing paddle without PFDs. This is a good winter blues type reading thread. Next post should be "why wear a PFD if you know how to swim".
  Posted by: ppine on Jan-29-14 11:09 AM (EST)
In the West the water is usually cold, so it makes sense to always wear one. I insist that everyone on my trips wear a PFD. I paddled with a guy recently that always had some excuse like, "I changed clothes and forgot to put it back on." That was on a trip in Feb. I no longer paddle with that guy.
  I carry an inflatable as a spare NM
  Posted by: paddlemore on Jan-31-14 8:20 PM (EST)
  Well, I Don't Consider It the "Police"
  Posted by: wildernesswebb on Jan-29-14 11:47 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 11:47 AM EST --

But, as I said, things happen in calm and easy conditions and those conditions can change in a hurry. Ever seen a phantom gust of wind come out of nowhere and blow a boat 30' in a couple seconds? Ever paddled full out and an unseen underwater reef or boulder stop your boat cold throwing someone overboard or injuring them? How about a nice, gentle current and suddenly, around the bend is a tree completely blocking the water and you're in the water before you can react? These are just a couple illustrations of things that can happen in otherwise benign conditions.

Summer in the Ozarks is no picnic; we regularly get 95-100 degree temps with high humidity. A comfortable PFD with some mesh makes you no more uncomfortable. Take your time, go slower, keep a wet hat on your head and a wet bandanna around your neck to help keep cool.

Wear a PFD, don't wear a PFD, it's a free country. I'm just trying to reach out and make folks think and make an informed decision about being safer.

  Always. I meet a lot of new paddlers
  Posted by: string on Jan-29-14 12:30 PM (EST)
and I have grandkids watching me on the water. One picture is worth....
  totally agree
  Posted by: dc9mm on Jan-29-14 2:51 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 2:55 PM EST --

I have been out paddling "close to shore" on lake Erie and Ontario when out of NO WERE a sudden little isolated storm comes upon me. Suddenly its 40 mph winds were it was calm moments before. One of the stories I just read in "More Deep Trouble" was when a storm that wasn't supposed to come for another 2 hours showed up early. It came so fast upon them they had no time to put there PFD on.

Been paddling were a submerged bolder which wasn't seen flipped a guy, totally calm flat water but he was in the water.Had he been alone and not capable of re-entry it could be bad thing to happen.

  Yes, always
  Posted by: mobrien on Jan-29-14 12:44 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 12:46 PM EST --

I paddle Lake Michigan, and always have on a pfd, even in relatively flat water conditions, since the truest words ever spoken were "better safe than sorry."

Even on smaller lakes, I'll wear it, since God forbid something happened unexpectedly that took me out of the boat in an unconscious state, at least I'd be easier to spot if floating rather than not. Worst case scenario, at least it'd make it easier on the guys sent to fish out the body. No reason to be a pain in the ass, dead or alive.

  Posted by: markk on Jan-29-14 5:08 PM (EST)
yep, Idiot would not.
  Hope you never show up at..
  Posted by: jackl on Jan-30-14 6:31 AM (EST)
a USCA sponsored race with that attitude!

Jack L
  Of course exceptions
  Posted by: kayamedic on Jan-30-14 8:05 AM (EST)
Some races and our FreeStyle exhibitions Which are ACA sanctioned do not require PFD wearing.
  I don't know Kay
  Posted by: jackl on Jan-30-14 8:21 AM (EST)
Go back and read all the responses.
Most of them want a PFD on if you are in a foot of water.
Most who think and decide for themselves will not post here because they know they will get jumped all over by some of the ding bats that post here.
Come down to the Florida Keys, and see for every paddler with a PFD, there are ten that don't wear them.
When I use the term "ding bats" I am not refeering to the ones who are safety conscience and just answer the OP's question. I am refering to those that have to belittle those of us that wear one when we deem it necessary, and not every time we step into a canoe or kayak.

Jack L
  Always wear a pfd and it saved my life
  Posted by: harlingford on Jan-29-14 6:21 PM (EST)
Ended up in the water in a cold Atlantic ocean and unable to re-enter because it had gotten too rough. After nearly exhausting my energy in trying to re-enter multiple times, I was just barely able to stay functional long enough to swim the kayak into shore against an out-going tide (while my buddy was in the same situation out of sight 1/4 mile away.) Without the flotation of the pfds to help conserve some energy, I doubt either of us would have made it to shore. Stupidly, we both had VHFs but had them stashed in drybags in the hatches, which made them impossible to get to. (If we need them well just raft up and get one out.) Ever since, my VHF goes on my pfd every trip, even on glassy August days. Its been years since I capsized unintentionally, but a heart attack could come any time.
  And there you have it...
  Posted by: rjd9999 on Jan-30-14 10:22 AM (EST)
Conditions and health change. Ever been paddling with someone who gets injured (person complained about elbow pain early in paddle - an hour later, they are incapacitated)?

I admit that I seldom paddle in Florida or shallow water, but I have seen people who were rendered unconscious (overheating), suffered injuries (tendonitis, hit by powerboat, and can imagine lots of conditions where not having a pfd increases risk significantly - lightning is virtually non-existent where I live, but there are areas, Florida comes to mind, where it is remarkably common. I've been a paddler who went out on a calm day and found that an hour later, it was raining and blowing 25 knots, even though the weather report indicated that conditions would be mild that day.

If you paddle for enough years, you experience these types of things. Yes, the odds go down when conditions are good and the water is warm, but they do not disappear. Most hypothermia issues occur in water between 62-72F because people don't think they need thermal protection.

I'm not trying to be the "police," but I do want to raise awareness that there are non-zero increases to risk when basic safety equipment is ignored.

There is nothing I hate hearing about more than deaths resulting from easily avoidable situations (such as the couple who lost their 3 YO son on SF Bay because they seemingly didn't even consider that he could fall off the sailboat). Fortunately, he wasn't uncomfortable in the PFD he didn't want to wear, right?

Do or don't, that's fine and your choice. If you paddle with me, you do. If not, I probably won't say a word, but I will go my own way. Personally, I feel that paddling solo is safer than paddling with someone who exercises what I consider poor judgement.

  Posted by: Waterbird on Jan-29-14 9:36 PM (EST)
It keeps me warm in spring and fall and, interestingly, keeps me cool in the summer. If you get one with the right cut around the chest it doesn't interfere at all with paddling. So there's really no reason not to wear one.
  It's a Habit!
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-30-14 9:27 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 9:30 AM EST --

The hallmark of a habit is that one (almost) automatically performs the action as an integral part of whatever larger activity is involved. So somebody with the habit of "always" wearing their seatbelt in a car just automatically begins to reach around and grapple for the belt and click it into place. Something just feels wrong if, for some reason, they've neglected to do this. Now we all know and understand (don't we?) that we need not attach our seatbelts while sitting in the driveway or garage washing the inside of the windows or fishing for something in the glove compartment. But if we're driving our vehicles, we wear our seatbelts.

The PFD situation is just the same for those who have developed the habit--the PFD goes on as an near-automatic response to getting ready to launch. It does not need to, nor does it usually, get worn while sitting in the kayak on the grass at home, say, while first testing out the latest backband or seat adjustment--we'll probably put in on later, though. But if we're paddling, on water yet, we wear our PFDs. This is what is meant by developing the PFD habit, the seatbelt habit, the tooth-brushing habit, etc., etc.

I offer this explanation for those who have difficulty understanding what habits are and how they work, and find that they must "decide" these simple things every time the situation presents itself. The safety and health statistics will easily demonstrate that good habits result in better outcomes for those who acquire good habits.

Hope this helps!

   Maybe those who have gotten into.....
  Posted by: jaws on Jan-30-14 12:14 PM (EST)
trouble while wearing their PFD need to get into the habit of staying off the water if there is ANY chance of them being in conditions they cannot handle!!!! Or are they willing to take the risk that they like those who sometimes don't wear their PFD's are willing to take?
  The habit of thinking
  Posted by: pikabike on Jan-30-14 1:58 PM (EST)
One-size-fits-all rigid rules do not require any thought. Your blowing up the decision to make an exception for the few times they occur suggests that you are the caterpillar who suddenly cannot walk because he doesn't "understand" how his legs work.

I actually do have the habit of wearing the PFD, as you would "understand" if you'd comprehended my first post. There are exactly two sentences there describing the times when I choose not to wear the PFD on a given outing.

Since you brought up the example of brushing teeth as a habit, here's a different example: A driver takes the same route to work every day, requiring the same turn or exit. That turn becomes habit. When he has to go somewhere else requiring a different turn or exit, he robotically takes the work-bound turn instead. Brain is on autopilot.

Habits are OK to break sometimes. Not hard to understand.
  I Do Now on the Advice of my Doctor
  Posted by: clydehedlund on Jan-30-14 2:52 PM (EST)
Because too many elderly paddlers like myself collapse, for some reason or other, while paddling out on the ocean, and on a surfski, it's instant immersion. So I listen to my doctor. Sure, there's no guarantee that I'll survive, but at least I'll float?

Prior to the doctor's advice, I didn't wear them, for they were a hindrance and a detriment to my style of paddling.

Wearing a PFD is a personal decision, and I respect your decision to either wear them or not.
  Posted by: kfbrady on Jan-30-14 3:09 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 3:10 PM EST --

My wife and I are both beginners when it comes to kayaking but we are highly trained and experienced scuba divers and value safety. We do wear lightweight inflatable PFDs on flat water in hot weather (and full sized ones the rest of the time) but neither of us would get in a boat without wearing one.

  My Best Example
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-30-14 7:24 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 7:26 PM EST --

Pikabike, your first post cements firmly into place exactly the nature of the "deciding" syndrome that developing a robust PFD habit can help you overcome. You will be free of needing to again and again travel the decision tree: Are we on a lake? How big or small is the lake? Is it small and/or sheltered? How big is "big"? How sheltered is "sheltered"? Or are we on a river? Are we on the ocean? If so, how warm is the air? the water? Am I in a sheltered bay? Will I stay in that bay? Faced with all those factors and variables, a caterpillar would have trouble figuring out how to walk, let alone whether or not it should wear a PFD.

   So what your saying c-runner is ....
  Posted by: jaws on Jan-30-14 9:04 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-30-14 9:24 PM EST --

you just throw on your pfd and go because thinking about water temps, conditions, size of the body of water are to time consuming or takes too much thought?
Your just a pfd covered accident waiting to happen!!!!

  Good grief!!
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Jan-30-14 11:28 PM (EST)
Are you serious? If it's an attempt at humor, it's just, well, strange, though it IS funny in a different kind of way. If you are serious, and if this is how you interpret Pika's and others' remarks about recognizing benign conditions, surely it means you must go through hell yourself when deciding between wearing a winter coat or just a long-sleeved shirt, as dictated by the weather outside. Maybe even deciding between a winter coat and a swimsuit is enough to drive you bonkers. It appears possible.

  S'cuse me
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-31-14 9:53 AM (EST)
I know and have paddled with pikabike, and in some interesting conditions. Suggesting that she is somehow paralyzed from making decisions because she might leave the PFD off to laze near shore in quiet water on a hot day is about as far from reality as you could go.

I am guessing you are either an engineer or an academic. Both seem prone to hyperbole when they try to summarize grand thoughts online.
  Making mountain out of molehill again
  Posted by: pikabike on Jan-31-14 1:28 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:37 PM EST --

Apparently, you have chosen to target my posts, perhaps because they are articulate?

You're repeating yourself, so I'll repeat myself: the decision to make an exception is not hard nor does it take "agonization."

Not everybody dithers over these kinds of decisions. If you do, you've found YOUR solution, so your continued harassment of other people's decisions reeks of an agenda tied to business interests.

If you truly find it so laborious and slow to make these kinds of decisions, I hate to think what you're like when something unexpected happens on the water. Yikes.

  Very much my thought...
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-31-14 10:25 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 10:39 PM EST --

the rescue part - where flexibility is often the key. I just failed to say it earlier.

  Reading the responses here.
  Posted by: roanguy on Jan-31-14 6:23 AM (EST)
I think three quarters of you are so paranoid about it being a must to wear your PFD, that you would be a lot safer if you gave up paddling and just never went near water.

  Posted by: kfbrady on Jan-31-14 7:08 AM (EST)
Paranoia doesn't come into it. Safety, common sense and intelligence does.
  Inevitably these "discussions" rot
  Posted by: kayamedic on Jan-31-14 7:42 AM (EST)
into stupidity and silliness.

I think I will go paddling. I will be putting on my PFD without a second of thought.
  Kayaking, PFDs, and Non-Sequiturs
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-31-14 9:22 AM (EST)
Jaws, I'll reply to your question with one of my own: Do you expect your non-sequitur "question" to be taken as serious argument? Please try again. Ditto Guideboatguy and Roanguy (are you twins?)
  It's just an analogy
  Posted by: Guideboatguy on Jan-31-14 1:09 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:33 PM EST --

I can't understand how a choice that can be made in a moment's application of logic needs to be seen as such a crippling process for the person involved. Your escalation of this is pretty amazing.

You like that seatbelt analogy, so consider this. If I'm driving a big truck in a very low gear through a cornfield and I don't wear my seatbelt, does that mean my seatbelt habit isn't well enough established for me to be safe while driving? (in actual fact, I'd probably wear my seatbelt at least sometimes in that situation because "something doesn't feel right" when it's not buckled, but sometimes I wouldn't, because the thinking part of me knows perfectly well that there is NO way that not wearing it can be considered a safety issue right at that moment since a person can walk twice as fast as what the truck would go even if the gas pedal were accidentally floored). In this case, would you do the same as you did with Pikabike and say something that implies that surely I wasted unnecessary time and went through some degree of mental anguish deciding whether or not the belt was necessary at that moment? My point, which somehow you missed, is that you are making this much harder than it needs to be. No one agonizes over the decision in the way you say that they do.

Oh, and here's a perfect analogy that everyone here can relate to. When walking in the woods we wear shoes to protect our feet (not just a comfort issue but one of safety as well). If I wake up in my tent at 3:00 am and need to take a pee, I might not to put on my shoes. I won't be walking that far and need not worry about hurting myself, so why bother. To you, such a decision would be a "ritual" and habits are preferable to rituals. To me and anyone I know personally, not only is it not a ritual, it's not even something to dwell upon, much less turn into a major discussion.

  No Cigar
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-31-14 2:00 PM (EST)
Some responses to my posts I can easily dismiss, not as replies, but rather as involuntary spasms. Others, though, become so tortured as to cause actual pain, probably both to their authors and to the readers. Guideboatguy, I suggest that you carefully re-read your post--talk about crippling decision/indecision syndrome! Why not just buckle your seatbelt or put on your PFD and cut the Gordian Knot. Break Free! But it may be that "What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach."
  what is clearly most important here
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jan-31-14 9:41 AM (EST) finding crap to pick at in the people whose opinions oppose yours.

Good grief. The OP asked a simple question.
  Good Gracious.......
  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-31-14 10:07 AM (EST)
The thought that a serious discussion of an issue should break out! To wear or not wear a PFD while paddling open water (Always), and then to discuss all the infinite gradations and variations of when to wear or not wear the PFD--what if (horrors) there should be differing opinions on a serious matter?

There is a powerful case to be made for developing a strong PFD habit, and it rests upon the well-understood and recognized utility of other good, strong habits such as wearing seatbelts while driving, brushing one's teeth, etc. I hope we can all understand that, by climbing into our cockpits with our PFDs on, we have thus short-circuited out almost all of the possibility that we will come to fatal harm from lack of sufficient buoyancy. We will also be protected to a certain extent against impact injury, and, should the worst happen, the CG or Marine Police will have better luck retrieving the body. Against these strong arguments, supported by just about every group or association or body involved with boating, we have "I don't feel like it." or, "I've given the situation a lot of analysis, and I'm sure I'll be just fine.", or, "Nobody tells me what to do!"

I think these things are worth discussing.
  An academic, right?
  Posted by: Celia on Jan-31-14 11:09 AM (EST)
Gotta be...
  well when you're ready then lead the way
  Posted by: slushpaddler on Jan-31-14 2:33 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 2:36 PM EST --

...because most of your posts have obsessed over people who make different decisions than you do, and ridiculed and misrepresented simple decision-making on the part of those who decide not to wear a PFD. Even after they tell you it's a simple decision.

I'd cite more needless mudslinging but despite your feigned indignation, I trust you can probably find it for yourself.

  Posted by: c-runner on Jan-31-14 7:27 PM (EST)
Slushpaddler, I'm disappointed by the thinness of your skin when it comes to discussing this PFD issue, one you wholly agree with me on. You and several of my other critics flail away at me with ad hominem nonsense, rather than robustly defending your various points of view. I've actually been called an "academic", an "engineer", somebody with close ties to the PFD industry--Oooo, the pain! Of COURSE I have opinions about PFD wearing that are at variance with some of your friends (not you, as you well know), but I thought, obviously wrongly, that you were up for vigorous discussion. I was wrong.
  "PFD industry" does not equal "industry
  Posted by: pikabike on Feb-02-14 1:11 PM (EST)
If you're going to argue, at least get your quotes correct.

Judging by your failure to pay attention someone actually says, it is no wonder that you have adopted the solution that requires no thought.

No point in any further debate with someone like you...
  We Both Failed.....
  Posted by: c-runner on Feb-02-14 7:37 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Feb-02-14 7:40 PM EST --

Pikabike, we've both failed miserably to address the really important part of this whole thread, don't you think?: Whether I misquoted when I used the term "PFD Industry" (I did), and then whether your own posting of "Industry" was a misquote (it was). We both know, or should know, or should have remembered, that your original accusation was that my posts "reek of an agenda tied to business interests." Yes, you actually posted that--go check. You are so cruel, so mean! And it hurts so much!!

  Speak for yourself (nm)
  Posted by: pikabike on Feb-02-14 8:53 PM (EST)
  Posted by: fatelmo on Jan-31-14 1:17 PM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Jan-31-14 1:19 PM EST --

An' yer reckon why? Cuz, ah's gots "heavy fat" an' sink like a lead bag full o' Kryptonite - dats why! Even a standard 16.5 lbs. lifevest ain't 'nuff ta keep dis varmint afloat.

Waan me carries a VHF radio (required fer National Canoe Safety Patrol duty on de Upper Delaware River) it's in me lifevest pocket.

Ah' poysonally dun't do much "open water" me'self. Mostly rivers an' kreks an' ah' dun'y care iffin' it be 1" or 100' deep, hot or cold, miserable or not - ah's always waars it an' zipped up.

FE -

  I always wear
  Posted by: andrewbolton on Jan-31-14 9:18 PM (EST)
my PFD. Despite being a good swimmer and having never capsized in a multitude of years of shoreline paddling, I always wear it to avoid the most certain overzealous torrent of wrath and judgement to ensue.
  I always wear a PFD
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-01-14 5:55 AM (EST)
Everybody I paddle with always wears a PFD, and there is never any discussion about it - everyone just puts it on. Fortunately for me its not an issue.
  I sincerely hope
  Posted by: sissy103 on Feb-01-14 9:38 AM (EST)
the Groundhog does not see his shadow tomorrow.
This pack can't stand another 6 weeks of winter.

In answer to the OP question, yes, always. Sometimes just an inflatable, but always.
When I first started paddling, I never did. Now I always do.
  Ya think? :-)
  Posted by: Celia on Feb-01-14 11:15 AM (EST)
  No one posting here has drowned
  Posted by: Glenn_MacGrady on Feb-02-14 1:49 PM (EST)
So, whatever the current posters here are doing with PFD's, it must be working so far.

  It is probably because....
  Posted by: Celia on Feb-02-14 3:13 PM (EST)
those of us in the north have had limited chance to actually get on the water outside of a pool since the launches froze over. Though people have drowned in a bathtub, so maybe it is just luck. :-)

  The ones who drowned
  Posted by: sissy103 on Feb-02-14 3:54 PM (EST)
would be posting: Wear your frackin' PFD!
  It isn't entirely clear
  Posted by: andrewbolton on Feb-02-14 8:05 PM (EST)

whether the lack of a PFD is truly causal to their demise or whether is more indicative of a greater problem, namely inexperience.
As consequential with regard to inexperience are insufficient skills and lack of knowledge. Furthermore, those deficiencies would lead to poor decision making and a lack of situational awareness that substantially increases risk.
The paddler that ventures into the sea without sufficient understanding of the weather, tides, cold, and "sea states" probably both lacks the skills to deal with the situation and lacks a PFD (as well as other requisite gear).

A quick google...

There's a few that were wearing...

But most did not.

(It is arguable this could have been much more gory if the paddler was still floating after the swans continued to maul the lifeless body.)

It's hard to say where the statistics come from, but it is pretty clear.

So what to do? Perhaps more education would be beneficial. None of my boats came with links to "getting started" videos.

Although most new paddlers buying rec boats to paddle around the bay aren't likely to sit through "Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown" or read Franco Ferrero, a basic instructional on currents, wind, consequences of capsize, cold, basic gear, etc... could go a long way toward prevention.
  The other 20% - good article
  Posted by: eckilson on Feb-03-14 6:18 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Feb-03-14 6:19 AM EST --

I have no data to support it, but it makes sense to me that entrapment, unconsciousness, mouth immersions would be the critical risks once you get beyond not having a life jacket.

Based on my limited experience (fortunately), entrapment is probably the critical hazard. There have been a couple of entrapment fatalities in my area since I started paddling. While everyone I paddle with does wear a PFD, I do know a few people who don't wear a helmet, so they could easily be knocked unconscious. I've also been stuck in a hole, and have bobbed down some long rapids, so I can also see mouth immersions being an issue.

Unless an inexperienced paddler does something really stupid, though, these are risks that effect a limited number of paddlers (whitewater and advance sea kayakers). I would also add hypothermia to the list since there have been a number of cold water paddling deaths in my area recently.

With so many other things to worry about, putting on a PFD seems like a no brainer.

  Most of the time
  Posted by: yakfisher on Feb-02-14 5:45 PM (EST)
The only exception is if it is really hot and humid and I start sweating underneath it and it gets miserable I will take it off and put it under the deck bungees.

  Posted by: kybishop on Feb-03-14 8:11 AM (EST)
-- Last Updated: Feb-03-14 8:12 AM EST --

I always wear mine. Be it a creek, river, pond, lake or ocean. Shallow or deep, calm or rough.

We had a gentleman drown here locally while kayaking on the Kentucky river. This is a very calm river, series of damns creates slow moving pools of water for this river. He apparently had heart trouble, fell out and went under. That was all it took.



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