what is a leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts such as canoes kayaks and rafts [Answered]


Paddling on rivers, lakes, or oceans is a popular recreational activity enjoyed by many people around the world. Whether you prefer canoeing, kayaking, or rafting, the thrill of being on the water is undeniable. However, with this excitement comes the potential for danger. Paddling accidents can be catastrophic, and in some cases, even fatal. It’s important to be aware of the leading causes of death for paddlers in small crafts so that you can take steps to prevent them from happening.

Leading Cause of Death for paddlers in small crafts

Drowning is the most common cause of death for paddlers in small crafts such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts. According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 167 reported paddling deaths in 2019, and 86% of these deaths were due to drowning. Paddlers are often put at risk due to unexpected capsizing or swamping of their watercraft or getting caught in strong currents or rapids. It is important to take safety measures to prevent drowning while paddling.

Tips for Preventing Drowning while Paddling

  1. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD): A PFD is a life-saving device that keeps you afloat and reduces the risk of drowning in the event of an accident. Make sure to choose a PFD that fits properly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  2. Take a paddling course: Even if you are an experienced paddler, a paddling course can teach you basic skills and safety tips that could potentially save your life. Paddling courses can also educate you about the local water conditions and environmental factors that may affect your safety.
  3. Check weather conditions: Before going out, always check the weather forecast and avoid paddling during times of high wind, thunderstorms, or other dangerous weather conditions.
  4. Avoid alcohol and drugs: Alcohol and drugs impair judgment and coordination, which increases the risk of accidents and drowning.
  5. Inform someone about your trip plan: Always inform someone about your trip plan, including your route, expected return time, and emergency contact information. This way, if you do not return as planned, someone can contact emergency services and potentially save your life.

Alternatives to Paddling in Small Crafts

If you are looking for an alternative to paddling in small crafts due to safety concerns or personal preferences, there are several options available:

  1. Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP): SUP is a popular water activity that involves standing on a large surfboard and using a paddle to move through the water. It is a fun and low-impact way to enjoy the water while still getting a great workout.
  2. Rowboats: Rowboats are a classic alternative to paddling and offer a relaxing way to explore lakes and calm rivers. They can be rented at most waterfront locations and are a great option for families or couples.
  3. Pedal boats: Pedal boats are another great option for exploring the water without paddles. They are propelled by foot pedals and are a fun way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

Related: Cabin Sole 101: Everything You Need to Know!


What is the best type of personal flotation device (PFD) to wear while paddling?

The best type of PFD is the one that fits you properly and is comfortable to wear for prolonged periods. Look for PFDs that are Coast Guard approved and designed for paddling.

Do I need to take a paddling course before going out on the water?

It is highly recommended to take a paddling course to learn basic skills and safety tips before going out on the water.

Can I drink alcohol or take drugs while paddling?

No, it is not safe to drink alcohol or take drugs while paddling.

What should I do if I fall out of my small craft?

Try to stay calm and float on your back while holding onto your PFD. If possible, try to get back into your small craft from the water or paddle to the shore if you are close enough.

Can I go paddling alone?

It is not recommended to go paddling alone, but if you must, make sure someone knows where you are and when you plan to return.

What should I do if I see an approaching storm?

Head to shore as quickly and safely as possible or seek shelter if you are unable to do so.

How long can I stay in cold water before hypothermia sets in?

The length of time before hypothermia sets in varies based on water temperature and wind chill. It is best to wear proper gear to prevent hypothermia, such as a wet or dry suit.

Should I avoid boating in strong currents or high winds?

Yes, it is best to avoid boating in strong currents or high winds, as they can be dangerous and increase the risk of capsizing.

How can I prevent capsizing while paddling?

Stay low and centered in your small craft, and make sure to distribute weight evenly. Also, be aware of the weight capacity of your small craft, and do not exceed it.

Are there any alternatives to paddling in small crafts?

Yes, alternatives for paddling in small crafts include stand-up paddleboarding, rowboats, and pedal boats.

Real experience

Amy had always been an adventurous soul. She loved to try new things and challenge herself in different ways. Her latest hobby was paddling in small crafts such as canoes and kayaks. She loved the freedom and peace she felt while paddling on the water, surrounded by nature.

One day, Amy decided to take her kayak out on a nearby river, and she didn’t tell anyone where she was going. The weather was beautiful, and the sun was shining. Amy was having a great time, enjoying the peacefulness of the river.

Suddenly, she hit a strong current, and her kayak capsized. Amy panicked and struggled to stay afloat. She tried to swim to the shore but realized it would take too much energy. She was also growing tired from fighting the current.

Amy remembered hearing something about drowning being a leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts. She wished she had taken the time to learn more about paddling safety before going out on the water. She also regretted not telling anyone where she was going.

As she started to feel weak, she spotted a passing boat. She managed to shout for help, and the boaters heard her cries. They pulled her to safety and called for emergency medical services.

Amy learned a valuable lesson that day. She realized how important it is to take safety seriously while engaging in outdoor activities. She also realized that it’s not worth taking unnecessary risks without proper preparation and education.

From that day on, Amy made a commitment to learn more about paddling safety and to always tell at least one person where she was going before heading out on the water. She continued to enjoy paddling, but she did it responsibly and with the knowledge that she was doing everything in her power to stay safe.

Based on: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5719a5.htm


Paddling can be a thrilling and enjoyable activity, but it’s important to know the potential dangers and take steps to prevent accidents. Drowning is the leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts, so always wear a PFD, take a paddling course, check weather conditions, avoid alcohol and drugs, and inform someone about your trip plan. If you are looking for an alternative to paddling in small crafts, try stand-up paddleboarding, rowboats, or pedal boats. Remember, always prioritize safety when enjoying any water-based activity.

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