Kayaking : When Things Go Wrong- Increasing Fatalities

As per the Outdoor Recreation Participation Report 2017, by the Outdoor Foundation® about 144.4 million Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2016. Out of which, 18066 (in the thousands) outdoor enthusiasts participated in Kayaking.



As per USCG Recreational Boating Statistics, from 2005 – 2016 there are about 1472 paddle-sport fatalities in the United States. Out of which 607 fatalities are associated with Kayaking.

Top causes of kayaking fatality

As per the data from the Recreational Boating Statistics 2006-2013, major causes of kayaking deaths are drowning, capsizing, fell overboard and collision with a fixed object.


Major Kayaking Hazards.


According to American whitewater accident database statistics 1975-2016, 16% of the fatalities are caused by strainers. Water pressure on strainers can be overwhelming, making an escape and rescue extremely difficult. For instance the demise of Stacy Langford, an experienced kayaker. Stacy flipped and broached with his cockpit against the tree in deep, strong current. His friends held his head above water for one hour before being pulled under water. You could try swimming downstream. If lucky enough you might come out alive.


Statistics show that 9% of the fatalities are caused by Hydraulics. The only way to exit from hydraulics is to dive down towards the bottom and swim out. From 1975 -2016, Hydraulics had caused 116 fatalities in the United States.

Undercut rocks / Sieves

Undercut rocks/sieves had caused 159 fatalities, which is 13 % of the total fatalities in the United States. Like strainers, high water pressure and strong current make it extremely difficult to get out from a sieve.

Major factors that contribute to kayaking accidents



According to American Whitewater Safety Code a kayaker must :

  1. Be a competent swimmer
  2. Must wear life jacket
  3. Wear Helmet
  4. Carry equipment needed for unexpected emergencies

Master Wet Exit

  1. Lean forward.
  2. Find the Grab Loop, push it forward, pull it up and back to release the skirt.
  3. Bring your knees together, put your hands on the coaming and push.

Note: Never lean backward. Leaning back raises your thighs pushing against the thigh braces. Making it difficult to exit.

Essential Kayak Gear

  1. PFD
  2. Spray skirt
  3. Signaling whistle
  4. Paddling knife
  5. Towline
  6. Two-way radio


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