Falsehoods of kayaking exposed


If you are one of those web-footed folks who would rather be on, in or near the water, then you may want to hear what I have to say!  The following pearls of wisdom are part time-honored gospel, part mistake-derived knowledge, part divine prophesy related to the popular sport of kayaking.  As an obsessed paddler (aka ancient mariner), I have chosen to format these factoids as Myth-Versus-Fact in my ramblings below.

Myth #1:  Kayaking is a relatively new phenomena that leaped onto the boating scene about two or three decades ago!

Fact #1:  Kayaks have been a central feature of the Innuit culture for about 2,000 years.  When Christ walked the earth, they were already the main venue for transportation, hunting and fishing for these indigenous people of the North.  Only in recent years have they taken on pleasing roles as key pieces of equipment for leisure-time exploration, fitness, wildlife watching, adventure sports, angling, social interaction and deepening a spiritual connection with nature.

Myth #2:  The Eskimo Roll was perfected by the Innuits as a way to show off their boating expertise to their fellow tribal members!

Fact #2:  Quickly righting an overturned kayak - without actually exiting one’s boat - was a do-or-die skill for these Artic dwellers.  It was one these resourceful people perfected because of an ever-present peril in their frozen world.  The water is so incredibly cold that if they were immersed in it, for more than a few short minutes, they would die from hypothermia.  So, as a consequence of intolerable water temperatures, learning to roll was a far more practical lifesaving skill than learning to swim.

Myth #3:  Kayaking is best pursued in our warm weather months.

Fact #3:  Most ‘avid’ kayakers consider paddling from mid-October through mid-June to be the prime time for exploring our alluring southern waters and waterways.  Yet, in South Texas, enthusiastic kayakers reluctantly get out there on the water, even in the summertime, just to spit in the eye of the unbearable heat and humidity of the area.  Sure, autumn and spring can be awesomely glorious seasons to bask in the Great Outdoors.  But, seasoned paddlers find that the serene conditions between the winter’s cold fronts often provide dead-solid-perfect opportunities to pursue this relaxing form of aquatic fun.  You see, authentic outdoors enthusiasts will readily tell you, “There is no such thing as bad weather… only poor equipment (i.e., the wrong clothing, footwear, boat, etc.)!”

Myth #4:  Most kayaking deaths and related rescues involve those venturing out on the water in sit-inside paddle-craft.  These are those sleek decked boats with enclosed cockpits (i.e., , most commonly known as sea kayaks) which are prone to mercilessly trap and, thereby, drown the paddler if they overturn.

Fact #4:  The USCG’s records for kayaking-related deaths in 2017 (the last year with complete records available) indicate that 149 U.S. kayakers perished that year alone.  The majority were sit-on-top kayakers and, oddly, a disproportionate number of these unfortunate SOT paddlers were kayak fishermen?  But admittedly, these statistics include a smattering of sea kayakers.  It is usually those free-range adventurers who sought an adrenaline rush by wandering out in dangerous sea/weather conditions that end up in the obituaries.

Myth #5:  Wearing a PFD (aka personal floatation device or life jacket) while kayaking is not necessary unless you are in rough, deep water and shore is unreachable by swimming.  This is especially true for those using a sit-on-top kayak because it is extremely easy for almost anybody willing to paddle to recover and climb back into their open boat.  Plus, a cheery paddling pal can probably promptly help them if any minor difficulties arise.

Fact #5:  A capsize may well result from anything from a collision with a power boat, horseplay, or sheer inexperience.  If one lacks modest physical conditioning (especially, weak upper body strength), find their abilities drained due to cold water immersion, and/or lack  the know-how to readily get back in their vessel, they may quickly find themselves in real trouble.  They may also suddenly realize that their trusty companion is not suitably trained to help them out if they are floundering about in the water, with their kayak rapidly drifting away. Therefore, wearing a properly-fitted PFD is absolutely the best defense against a potential tragedy and wet exit/rescue training is an extremely worthwhile investment.

Myth #6:   The upside of kayaking is that it is a simple, intuitive outdoor activity (i.e., not brain surgery).  So, no formal training is required.  

Fact #6:  It is true that almost anyone can successfully execute a short, out-and-back float trip in a kayak.  Most greenhorn paddlers will probably make it back alive.  But, getting instruction from a extensively trained, certified instructor is money and time well spent.  You will learn so many proven techniques and practices that will enhance your confidence, enjoyment and safety. While learning to kayak “right” from skilled instructors, you can also discover the pros and cons of the great diversity of kayaks and kayak brands which are on the market…before you find yourself buying a white elephant that languishes idly in the back yard.  

Myth #7:  It is expensive to get into this human-powered boating activity.

Fact #7:  When compared to power boating or sailing, kayaking is an extremely inexpensive form of boating.  Wise kayakers look for a gently used boat that fits them and matches their favored paddling objectives and spend the savings traveling to alluring paddling destinations.  

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