Leading Cause of Death for Paddlers in Small Crafts

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

Many accidents involving paddled small craft occur in shallow waters. Sixty-four percent of accidents happened on rivers or lakes, with only two fatalities occurring on the Atlantic Ocean. They also occur most frequently on weekends and between noon and six p.m., and most often during the summer months. Here are a few of the most common causes of paddling accidents. Hopefully these tips will help you avoid becoming one of these statistics.


While kayaking and paddleboarding seem like a fun activity, boating can be dangerous. A small mistake can turn your day out on the water into an eternity. To ensure your safety while out on the water, keep these safety tips in mind:

In the U.S., one in four paddlers experience a drowning accident. Nearly two million people visit lakes and other bodies of water every year. Of those, 800 get into trouble. It is vital to be aware of your surroundings and obey all safety regulations. Those who are new to paddling have an even greater chance of sustaining an injury, so it is important to take steps to keep yourself and others safe.

If you do become submerged in water, stay alert and reboard. If possible, avoid standing or walking in the water. Stand in the canoe only if you’re confident you can paddle it out of the river safely. Standing in the canoe can cause the craft to capsize, so remember not to stand up while paddling. You’ll be safer in shallow water, but in more rapid areas, you’ll have to swim.

Equipment failure

Paddlers in small crafts are at increased risk for death because their equipment can fail. If the equipment fails, inexperienced paddlers may panic and endanger themselves, using the paddle as a weapon or abandoning their craft. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent this from happening. Read on for some of the most common ways to avoid this tragic fate.

Boating can be dangerous, but the wear of a life jacket can reduce the risk of drowning. Boaters must also be aware of poisonous plants, such as sumac, which can cause serious infections if ingested. Paddlers should also wear the proper clothing, including waterproof footwear. Dehydration is a major cause of death for paddlers, and it can be caused by excessive sweating or inadequate water intake. Excess fluid loss can cause dehydration, which can cause cell death.

A capsized boat can kill a paddler in minutes. As a result, boats with poor stability have higher risks of capsize and drowning. When a paddler does not wear a life jacket, he or she could run into another object or fall from a high point in the water. It is no wonder that equipment failure is one of the leading causes of death for paddlers in small crafts.


While kayaks and other smaller watercraft may be safe enough to paddle on most waterways, they aren’t invincible to capsize. In fact, capsized craft can kill paddlers in a matter of minutes. Moreover, because of their unstable design, paddlers who don’t wear life jackets run the risk of falling overboard or running into something else. In fact, over 50% of paddlers die in small craft accidents.

Fortunately, there are ways to decrease your risk of capsize. For one, good seamanship includes avoiding overloading the boat, distributing gear evenly, steering at a controlled speed, and never anchoring from the stern. Another tip: when capsized, try to get onto the hull and do not swim away. The hull is the largest object in water, so staying low and keeping three points of contact will help prevent capsizing.

Paddling is the primary cause of drowning and capsized boats are twice as likely to sink than larger outboard motor vessels. In addition, paddlers in small boats have a higher risk of drowning than those on larger outboard motor vessels. This is because paddling is more complicated than other boating activities and requires human expertise. A single minor mistake can lead to a major accident.


Although boating is considered a safe activity, there are some risks associated with it. It’s important to wear a life jacket and wear the right clothing, and you should also understand how to handle your craft properly. However, many paddlers do not take enough precautions to ensure their safety. One of the leading causes of death in paddlers is dehydration. When you are dehydrated, your cells stop functioning, and your body’s temperature drops rapidly.

When paddling in salt water, always carry a bottle of water. Drinking water before thirst is the best way to prevent dehydration. A dehydrated person may experience extreme thirst, dizziness, confusion, and fatigue. These symptoms can make it difficult to paddle safely. You should drink water even when you’re not thirsty. The first sign of dehydration is feeling thirsty.

Another common cause of death for paddlers in small watercraft is drowning. This type of accident is twice as likely to happen in small craft than in larger vessels. This is due to the lack of safety measures in small boats. In addition, the paddlers often forget to wear life jackets. If the craft becomes unstable in the water, it could easily capsize, and a paddler without a life jacket may end up running into another object or falling from a high point. While accidents are not a common cause of death in small watercraft, they can be deadly.

Another common cause of death for paddlers in small boats is hypothermia. In extreme cases, a paddler may suddenly lose consciousness or suffer from hypothermia. When the body’s temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind chill can cause a dangerous drop in temperature. Hypothermia is also common, especially in spring and late fall. A person suffering from hypothermia usually shivers and is disoriented.

Floating on the upstream side of your craft

Although paddlers who flounder on the upstream side of their craft have fewer chances of drowning than those who do not, it is vital that they follow a few safety tips. A life jacket should always be worn, as should proper clothing and knowledge of craft handling. A common cause of death in a small craft is dehydration, which is caused by excessive sweating and inadequate water intake. Dehydration can cause cell death, so drinking plenty of water is important.

When paddling, be aware of the location of dams. Dams, particularly old ones, can be hard to spot until you’re too close to reroute. Back currents, undertows, and hydraulics can pin you underwater. To prevent this, know what kinds of plants and trees grow near the water’s surface and where to look for them. A dam can have many hidden surprises that can cause serious damage and even death to a paddlecraft operator.

Avoiding alcohol while paddling

Drinking alcohol while paddleboarding increases the risk of drowning, and a recent study shows that 25% of boating fatalities involve alcohol. Alcohol impairs your vision, including depth perception, focus, and color perception. It also alters your inner ear, which may make it difficult to sense when you’re falling into the water. It also makes you feel warmer, which can help you avoid hypothermia. In addition, alcohol affects your balance and your ability to think clearly. Therefore, it’s important to avoid alcohol while paddleboarding, and to paddle soberly.

Boaters should bring plenty of food and drink, and wear clothing that will keep them cool. They should also limit their trips so they can get rest. Depending on the size of their craft, it might take longer to reach a destination than it does to paddle. If alcohol is involved, plan the party ashore, and choose a location that will give you time to get back to your vehicle.

According to the First Coast Guard, drinking alcohol while paddling is a leading cause for deaths in small craft. A recent study found that alcohol consumption contributed to the death rate of paddlers. In the first Coast Guard district, including Northern and Eastern New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine, there were more than 200 paddle sport deaths in 2006, and alcohol was a contributing factor in eight of them.