PFDs Unnecessary?


I am a firm believer in debate. Civil, respectful debate. I asked Aaron LaDuke to give me his thoughts on PFDs. His response surprised me because I think it’s not one that is often given blog space. It is often an opinion that shows up in the comments section or discussed at the launch point. I wanted to give him some space today to say why he feels the way he does. If you feel differently, please feel free to discuss but keep it civil. I think my stance on the issue has been clear but for folks not familiar with my take, you can go here: I wear my PFD 100% of the time and have even toyed with the idea of legislation to make it unlawful to go without it. Our guest blogger today doesn’t feel that way. Thanks to Aaron for being willing to offer his thoughts, knowing people will disagree with him.

Contributed by Aaron LaDuke

As a kayak angler on a budget, simplicity is important for me. When out on the water I often find it an inconvenience having to have a Personal Flotation Device.
I purchased my kayak end of May. I needed the bare minimum to get out on the water. I purchased the generic, orange, around the neck PFD.

I first started fishing cold water mountain lakes and often would use the PFD as a seat pad. I never thought twice about ending up in the water.
Looking back I think it is smarter to wear a PFD when in waters that are 50 or below. I weigh 144 wet without much body fat so I don’t have much of a chance in really cold water unless I have other protective gear.

With so many regulations, it’s almost overwhelming trying to think about everything I need to legally be out on the water. I have since purchased a more comfortable PFD that was on sale. If I could afford the nicer inflatable PFDs I would most likely purchase one and use it all the time if comfort allowed.
I have proven to myself that I don’t need a PFD at all times. I have sometimes forgotten it and gone all day fishing without realizing I didn’t have one until after the fact.

I think it is very smart to have a PFD onboard at all times, but do not feel it is necessary. One reason I enjoy kayak fishing so much is the simplicity. For years people have found ways to get out on the water safely without the need for PFDs.

20 thoughts on “PFDs Unnecessary?

  1. I am an excellent swimmer and my dad is a diver yet we both feel its important to have on you PFD. there have been times when i have forgot it or take it off when im in 3ft water, but I rather leave it on. I rather not have an inexperience kayaker and swimmer just getting into the sport to see me with out a PFD. We should be encouraging safe habits on the water for other spectators. I have had to pull so many new paddlers out of the water or have them hang on to my boat because they flipped and started to panic without a PDF on. i believe people should purchase a good PFD before they even buy a kayak so there is no temptation to get on the water early…or even a PFD before a paddle.

    Safety First

  2. While I agree that a PFD isn’t needed every second that a person’s on the water, it’s the one second that it IS needed that it’s necessary.

    I know in my state (Oregon), 1 PFD is required per person in the craft. They are not required to be worn, be must be available.

    I think that each individual makes up there own mind on whether or not to wear a PFD based a lot on the waters being fished (or paddled). IF a person spends all their time in 2′ flats in a protected bay in Florida in warm water…it would make a good seat. However, fishing off the Oregon coast in cold water with swells anywhere from near flat to 10’…I’ll use something else as a seat because my PFD is gonna be on!

    There are way too many arguments for and against wearing PFD’s. I think it simply comes down to common sense in your waters, and whether or not you want a decent chance of survival when you get wet. The guys not wearing them in rough, cold or moving waters have the “I can swim great, I’ll be fine” attitude, and just haven’t had the crap scared out of them yet. The first time them get dumped after fishing/paddling all day, and the wind or current blows their kayak away from them so they have to tread water or swim…they’ll change their minds. IF they make it back in to change it…

  3. This is insane. Having a PFD on your boat but not on can easily be more problematic than just wearing it. I’ve come off of my kayak with and without my PFD on and I can tell you from first hand experience that you want that thing ON! The energy you expend trying to put it on while in the water can be exhausting. And you may not be successful. Have you ever actually tried to put a PFD on while in the water? No easy feat. Not to mention that you will need to release your kayak to try and get it on, and, in that time your kayak EASILY blow/drift away from you.

    While it may be true that people have for years been getting out of the water safely without PFD’s, how many people has it saved? Would you really want you last thought to be of the PFD you didn’t think you needed in the trunk of your car? PFD’s are like guns. Better to have it and not need it than…

    Turning a minor kayak incident into a tragedy that could have been avoided by wearing a $40 piece of equipment is not only short sighted, but, nautically irresponsible.

  4. After 6 decades as a fisherman, I have seen my share of drownings, some could have been prevented with a PFD, others not, but why take the chance when it is so simple. I promised my family many years ago I would always wear one and I have kept that promise. All the tournaments I fished throughout the years required PFDs so I have gotten use to them. Since getting into kayak fishing 5 yrs ago I have fallen in a couple of times and can tell you that in both cases I was glad I was wearing one. I was not in danger either time but the fact that I was wearing one allowed me to gather myself and retrieve some gear before getting back in the kayak. I don’t know you but wear a PFD for those who care about you if for no other reason.


  5. Your arguments are based on stupidity. I have been fortunate to not have needed my life jacket but I always wear it. As should all boaters and kayakers while on the water. Life jacket has nothing to do with water temp. What if another boater come by and hit because they didn’t see you and you become unconscious.

  6. Forgive me, but all he did was state what he feels is convenient. He didn’t say why he thinks they aren’t necessary…just that they aren’t. Not only that, but he seems to give reasons on why they are important, only to turn around and say they aren’t.

    He also said that the regulations to be legally on the water in a kayak are overwhelming. I’m not sure how overwhelming a whistle, life jacket on board, and a 360 light dusk/dawn is, but it seems pretty simple to me.

    I once heard someone say, “You don’t wear a life jacket for you…you wear it for your mother, wife, or child so that they never have to identify your body at the edge of a lake.” Hard to argue with that.

    1. Exactly. Overwhelming? Are you kidding me? You need three things. A decent pfd. Visipole. And whistle will run you about 200 dollars. Is your life not worth 200 dollars???

  7. I can see your point on this. I, however, have seen 2 different people not wearing pfd’s flip 3 different times. Both felt that since they could swim they didn’t need to wear their life vests and one of them actually sat on their jacket as well. All three occasions needed me to assist either them or their kayaks to the shore on the opposite side of the rivers we were on. I do not swim well so my pfd is always on, period. Ironically, I haven’t flipped my boat yet either. Do people that can swim think too highly of their skills and take the stability of their boats for granted? I will most likely flip my boat one day and when that occurs I will be able to focus on my kayak or gear more-so than myself because my pfd will be on me. If you ever see someone struggle to swim 100 yds across a river without a pfd on you may change your opinion. Be safe out there so you can fish another day!

  8. If you ever black out while on the water, that PFD could be what saves your life. It’s happened to me. If I didn’t have it on, it would have done no good.

  9. I grew up on the beach. We learned to surf at 4 & 5 years old. Not one time did we wear a life jacket, helmet or floaties!!! I feel the PFD is just as optional as a helmet when you ride a motorcycle in Texas. It’s a personal choice. I wear mine when I feel the situation requires it. Why does everyone feel the need to tell each other what to do?
    Have you read the statistics on how many car related deaths occur each year??? Yet every one of us gets into a car on a daily basis, without a helmet! And spare me the debate about seat belts saving lives. My little cousin died in a car accident while wearing a seat belt!!! When it’s your time, ITS YOUR TIME! With or without your floaties.

  10. Yup. You won’t need it until you NEED it. Every year we see the pain of families who lose loved ones because they didn’t THINK they needed a PFD. There are so many choices today for fishing-specific PFDs which are comfortable, well designed and truly affordable that there simply is not a reason to wear one. But, I suppose we will always need people to keep the River Rescue folks and the Coast Guard busy…
    JS, CPO, USCG (ret)

  11. Wearing a PFD is essential . Flipping in cold water or a fast current can be real trouble. If you don’t like the weight or bulk, buy one that will manually inflate on demand.

  12. Some of you guys have maybe already seen this and some maybe not. I was hit by a boat while Sturgeon fishing on a river near my house in Portland a couple years ago. If I had not been wearing a PFD and this boat hit me directly head on(possibly in the head) I would have sunk unconscious to the bottom of this 100 foot hole and not found again until my body started to bloat a few days later. As someone else has also mentioned, you never ever know when something could happen. Its like wearing a seatbelt! If hit in the head these 80 something year old guys that hit me wouldn’t have had enough time to grab me before I would’ve sank to the bottom. You need to wear a PFD at all times. We just lost a kayak angler near Seattle a few weeks ago that drown when his inflatable kayak sank. Well the guy didn’t have a PFD at all with him. We love kayak fishing because its fun and effective, but come on guys. They will save our lives… Please wear your PFD at ALL TIMES!!! Just my two cents..
    Michael Rischer

  13. I hate pulling dead people out of the water. Please wear a PFD. If you don’t like your crappy cheap-o PFD, then buy a comfortable one and sacrifice a new rod or some tackle.

  14. It’s my life. If I choose to not wear a pfd, it’s nobody’s business but my own. It’s really that simple.

  15. I suggest Mr Laduke needs to flip his kayak over not when its sunny but when it really happens, when the wind and waves are up and then tell me if he thinks PFD’s shouldn’t be worn.
    Legislation is written to protect the 10% that do what the rest of us would consider stupid. So if you don’t want to be legislated make sure everyone uses safety devices without being told they are required too. David

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