What is a Leading Cause of Death for Paddlers in Small Crafts?

what is a leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts

Paddlers are often unaware of the safety precautions required to ensure their safety. They should wear a life jacket, wear appropriate clothing and know how to handle their craft. Many paddlers don’t realize that dehydration is one of the leading causes of paddler death. Dehydration is a result of poor water intake and excessive sweating. The body loses fluids through evaporation, and dehydration can cause cellular death.

Equipment failure

Although the risk of drowning is lessened in most cases when people wear a life jacket, it is important to be extra cautious when boating. Despite the fact that most deaths occur when people are not wearing life jackets, paddling on the water still involves risks. Without the proper equipment, the risks of drowning may be too great to bear, especially for beginners. The following are some tips that can help prevent accidents while paddleboarding.

Firstly, paddlers in small crafts are twice as likely to die in accidents compared to those in larger vessels. This is due in large part to the lack of safety measures in smaller vessels. Despite this, drowning is the leading cause of death among paddlers. Sadly, many paddlers forget to wear life jackets and other safety measures while on the water.

Other than faulty equipment, many deaths among paddlers have been caused by faulty equipment. While the reasons behind equipment failure are diverse, they are common and often involve defects in the materials used. This could be a broken screw, rusted bolts, or a faulty design. Although most paddle makers offer a warranty on their equipment, it may not be sufficient to cover all paddling needs, as well as conditions in which the equipment is used.

Another major cause of death among paddlers in small crafts is dehydration. Paddling is an exercise in extreme heat and small crafts lack proper heat insulation. Without proper clothing, even paddlers with a high core body temperature can suffer from hypothermia and ultimately die. Hypothermia can result in death when the body temperature drops below 98 degrees Fahrenheit.


Canoes and kayaks are the most common paddled small craft, but accidents involving motorboats are significantly higher. While open motorboats cause more deaths than paddlecraft, they account for 4.4% of all registered small craft accidents. Regardless of their relative safety, boaters need to take extra care to avoid these mishaps. Keeping a few tips in mind can help prevent accidents, including drowning and capsizing.

If a boat capsizes, paddlers can lose consciousness and drown in less than a minute. As such, it is essential to familiarize yourself with Safe Paddle Practices before paddling. Always carry a signaling device in case of emergency. Capsizing is the most common accident among paddlers in small craft. Half of all fatalities are caused by capsizing.

A capsize can occur when a boat or kayak is too big to stay upright. A kayak or other small craft with too many passengers should never be capsized. Floating on the back of the boat is better visibility for rescuers. Paddling with heavy clothing provides considerable flotation. However, paddlers should wear clothes that do not allow them to slip off in the water during a fall.

Compared to larger outboard motor boats, paddlers in small crafts are twice as likely to die from drowning. While paddling, paddlers are not experienced enough to operate larger vessels and lack proper safety practices. Small paddlers may not consider themselves boaters and may not be following safety procedures, which can make mistakes far more likely to result in death. So, while paddling, remember to practice safe boating practices and always follow the laws.

Getting trapped between a tree and a moving current

Whether paddling a kayak or canoe, you must be aware of the dangers of a tangled boat and a moving river current. A boat can become trapped between a tree and a moving current if it is not stable. Undercuts, a type of rapid, can entrap paddlers or debris. They usually occur in fast-moving whitewater. While this situation can be dangerous, paddlers are often unable to see them. The currents can be strong, and they can be hard to escape from, so they must portage around a weir.

Despite the risk of undercuts, these hazards can be avoided by taking appropriate precautions to avoid them. Man-made objects, such as bridge pilings, low-head dams, abandoned dam sites, and junked cars, may be present in the river. Undercut rocks, which force currents to flow below the surface, may be invisible. Undercuts and rocks are the most common causes of death for paddlers in small craft, so it is important to take precautions to avoid them.

In fast-moving water, it can be hard to see hazards, including tangled trees and sweepers. Trees on the riverbank may be sweepers, i.e. branches partially or completely submerged. Running into a sweeper will cause the canoe to topple over and hold the paddler below the water’s surface. A strainer may also be submerged in the river and the paddler may be pinned against it. If the canoe gets stuck in a sweeper, it can cause a paddler to become trapped, or they may be rescued by a companion.

Wild animals

Paddlers are not immune to the effects of their activities. While paddlers may believe that their slow, silent, and relatively small speed will not cause harm, they are just as culpable as motorized boat users. While they may think they are not as damaging to wildlife as motorized boaters, their actions can significantly impact the survival of marine species. Here are some tips to protect wildlife while paddling in small crafts.

Beware of poison ivy and sumac. Poison ivy can cause serious infection or even lead to cardiac arrest. Sumac contains a toxic compound that can be fatal if ingested. Be sure to carry plenty of water and food before paddling. Another leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts is sunburn. Intense heat coupled with speed makes paddlers especially vulnerable to sunburn.

Wildlife encounters are inevitable while kayaking. While kayakers may encounter a variety of nuisances including beavers, curious geese, or an occasional snake, more common wildlife may include bears, crocodiles, and sharks. It is advisable to stay seated and use plastic paddles to avoid contact with predators. A ham-and-cheese sandwich can be used to defend against an attack by a predator.

While mainstream research can provide a comprehensive snapshot of animal deaths in the wild, it may be biased by the species people are likely to encounter. This is why statistics for hunting and vehicle collisions are inflated, whereas the rate of deaths from accidents involving smaller animals tends to be less known. Aside from being a serious concern, a life jacket may help minimize the risk of drowning.

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