What is a Leading Cause of Death for Paddlers in Small Crafts, such as Canoes, Kayaks, and Rafts? The Surprising Answer May Shock You


Paddling is a popular recreational activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Whether it’s canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or rafting, paddling can offer a great way to explore nature, exercise, and have fun. However, paddling can also be a risky activity, especially for those who are not prepared or aware of the potential dangers. But what is the leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts, such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts? And how can paddlers prevent it?

The Leading Cause of Death for Paddlers in Small Crafts

The leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts is not what you might expect. It’s not hypothermia, trauma, heart attack, or environmental hazards. It’s something much simpler and preventable: the lack of a personal flotation device (PFD), also known as a life jacket. A PFD is a device that helps a person stay afloat in the water, and can save a life in case of a capsizing, a fall, or a sudden change in water conditions.This means that most of the paddling deaths could have been avoided if the victims had worn a PFD.

Why Don’t Paddlers Wear PFDs?

There are many reasons why paddlers don’t wear PFDs, such as:

  • They don’t think they need one. Some paddlers may underestimate the risks of paddling, or overestimate their own abilities. They may think that they are experienced enough, or that the water is calm enough, to not need a PFD. However, paddling can be unpredictable, and even the most skilled paddlers can encounter unexpected situations, such as strong currents, waves, wind, or obstacles. A PFD can provide a crucial margin of safety in case of an emergency.
  • They don’t have one. Some paddlers may not have access to a PFD, or may not know where to get one. They may not own their own boat, or may rent or borrow one from someone else. They may not be aware of the availability or the requirements of PFDs in their area. However, PFDs are widely available and affordable, and can be purchased or rented from many sources, such as outdoor stores, marinas, or online retailers. PFDs are also required by law in most states and federal waters, and paddlers can face fines or penalties for not having one.
  • They don’t like one. Some paddlers may not like wearing a PFD, because they find it uncomfortable, restrictive, or unattractive. They may think that a PFD is too bulky, too hot, too tight, or too ugly. However, PFDs come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and styles, and can be customized to fit different preferences and needs. PFDs can also be adjusted to ensure a proper and comfortable fit, and can be worn over or under clothing. PFDs are designed to enhance, not hinder, the paddling experience.

How Can Paddlers Wear PFDs?

The best way to prevent the leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts is to wear a PFD every time you go paddling, no matter what. Here are some tips on how to wear a PFD:

  • Choose the right PFD. There are different types of PFDs, such as inflatable, foam, or hybrid, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. The most important thing is to choose a PFD that is suitable for your activity, your environment, and your body type. You should also look for a PFD that is approved by the Coast Guard, and that has the appropriate size and weight rating for you.
  • Wear the PFD correctly. A PFD is only effective if it is worn correctly. You should follow the instructions and labels on your PFD, and make sure that it is fastened and secured properly. You should also check your PFD regularly for any signs of damage or wear, and replace it if necessary. You should also test your PFD in the water before you go paddling, and make sure that it keeps you afloat and does not interfere with your movement or breathing.
  • Wear the PFD consistently. A PFD is only useful if it is worn consistently. You should wear your PFD every time you go paddling, regardless of the weather, the water, or your skill level. You should also wear your PFD from the start to the end of your paddling trip, and not take it off or put it on while you are on the water. You should also encourage your paddling partners to wear their PFDs, and set a good example for others.


Paddling is a fun and rewarding activity, but it can also be a dangerous one. The leading cause of death for paddlers in small crafts, such as canoes, kayaks, and rafts, is drowning, and the main reason for drowning is the lack of a PFD. A PFD is a simple and effective device that can save your life in case of a paddling accident. Therefore, you should always wear a PFD when you go paddling, and make sure that it is the right one, that it is worn correctly, and that it is worn consistently. By wearing a PFD, you can enjoy paddling safely and responsibly, and avoid becoming a statistic.