Kayaking Technique Forum

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Re: Swimming skills
In Response To: Re: Swimming skills ()

David, I can appreciate your concerns and your advice. The skills you list below are certainly desirable to have. Boats of any size can and do go down. Your position would apply to tugs, cruise ships, families on sailboats, all navy ships, every fishing boat, etc. etc.?

The ONLY time swmming is involved in kayaking is if a person loses their boat and does not have a paddling partner with them. Even then, they should be dressed for immersion and have floatation and usually should wait for rescue. Even with a PFD, swimming in cold water loses more body heat than waiting in the HELP position.

Your boat or your partner's boat will allow you to do every rescue a trained life guard can do if you have also learned how to do them in the kayaking mode. Plus you have the added advantage of being able to have the rescuee with their head and torso out of the water (much better and safer than both rescuer and rescuee in the water). It is much easier to slide a person into a kayak and roll the kayak under them for rescue breathing than to do it in the water.

The height of bad judgment is not knowing how to be safe and/or rescue under the situations and with the equipment you are in/have. Strong swimming skills can be useful in most any water situation (unless they give you false confidence), and in certain areas (surf for example) are more important than in others (far offshore on a crossing = practically worthless).

Correct dress, well-practiced skills, good well-trained paddling partners, signaling devices and/or radio and good PD's can make for safe kayaking even with minimal swimming skills.

Your intensity for safety is great; more kayakers, divers, climbers, etc. should have it!


I responded to this thread before reading the other posts, now that I have
: read them, I must DISAGREE strongly. A non-swimmer has no business being
: in, on or around the water. He or she is just playing dice with their
: life. In fact, I am somewhat bewildered by the question, and very glad you
: asked. Don't even THINK about it. 2-3 months of swimming lessons will make
: a profound difference. Included in swimming lessons should be training in
: mouth to mouth respiration, clearance of airways, a basic knowledge of
: circulation and breathing anatomy and physiology, a basic knowledge of
: hypothermia, and as I mentioned before, a basic knowledge of how to
: perform rescues of incapacitated swimmers. All kayakers must know the
: basic HELP position, how to tread water, front crawl with head in and out
: of the water, and at least 1 resting stroke such as the breast stroke,
: side stroke or back stroke to conserve energy. These fundamentals should
: eventually include practise at swimming with a paddle, use of fins, mask
: and snorkel. The very thought of a kayaking without swimming skills is the
: height of bad judgement.

: Sorry about coming on so strong, but I would rather have you resent me for my
: opinionated reply, than curse me later for not advising you on what is
: basic water safety. A couple of months of swim lessons and your friend
: will be good to go.