I can’t tell you how many times I hear the question, “It’s really hot! Do I HAVE to wear my lifejacket?”
This is usually followed up by a bold declaration of “I’m a good swimmer.”
I hate that. I know people can swim but what can you do in a state of shock, tangled in a trotline, in really rough water or with no one around? Unfortunately in 2007, 107 people didn’t get to answer that question. They perished during canoeing and kayaking outings according to the US Coast Guard. The USCG has also stated that 90% of these people were not wearing a PFD. What if 96 people could go home at the end of the day instead of their next of kin getting the worst news of their lives? Wouldn’t it be worth it?
It won’t happen to me.
Those are the last words spoken by many victims. They are also spoken by “tough guys” everywhere. Please, you are not immune to drowning. Your family wants to see you again. Don’t risk it.
So what’s the solution Mr. Paddle/Fish?
I’ll give you two recommendations.
#1- Wear it. It can’t save you from the truck or from the storage in the hull. Just wear it.
#2- Choose a versatile PFD.
I do not recommend buying a PFD sight unseen. I am NOT saying don’t buy one online. Great deals can be found at places like Austin Canoe and Kayak, Colorado Kayak Supply and Astral Buoyancy. There are all different fits, styles, prices and types. Later this week I’ll introduce you to more specifics and make some paddling type recommendations but for now, go to a local shop and try them on. Grab one of the paddles and practice that motion while wearing the PFD. Does it rub? Does it ride up. Now sit down. Where does the padding hit? Become familiar with types, brands and more and then focus in on one or two. DO some internet research and find the best deal. Make sure that when you buy one it has a 30 day return policy just in case but most importantly, WEAR IT! Everytime. All day. In Texas the weather is over 100 degrees almost all summer but I am wearing that PFD all day every day. If it’s too hot for you to wear it, don’t go. You are a lot safer on your couch than on the water without a PFD.