On a rainy day with air temperatures in the 40’s, no one is asking about kayak rentals, but as soon as the air temperatures start getting into the 60’s, everyone seems to want to get out on the water. Why wouldn’t Fox River Paddle Sports take advantage of that demand and start rentals as soon as it begins to feel warmer? Because it’s not safe. Paddlers who accidentally capsize into cold water run the risk of dying from something called “Cold Shock”.
Cold shock is something that most people have experienced without realizing it. If you ever stepped under a shower without letting the water warm up, that gasp reflex you experience is cold shock. While a gasp in the shower isn’t fatal, when someone capsizes in a kayak, their head typically goes underwater. If the paddler experiences a gasp reflex while underwater, he can inhale enough water into the lungs to cause drowning. In the case of older paddlers, there is also the risk of cardiac arrest. Following the gasp reflex, the capsized paddler will begin to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation alone does not cause death, but people who hyperventilate have been known to faint, which would have the potential to cause drowning. Even if a person doesn’t faint, a capsized paddler trying to tread water or swim without a life jacket may begin to panic when unable to get control of his breathing. This tendency to panic can quickly lead to a deterioration of swimming skills and drowning.
The effects of cold shock only last 1-2 minutes, but that’s all the time that is needed to drown in cold water.
If you do want to paddle early in the season when the water is still cold, it is important to dress for the water temperature. In other words, you need to be wearing a wetsuit or drysuit to prevent the initial gasp reflex and subsequent hyperventilation. Secondly, and just as important, you need to wear your life jacket (PFD). A life jacket will keep you afloat regardless of how much water you inhale or how much you panic. You may still need some outside help to save your life, but your prospects for rescue are much better if you are at the surface than if a diver has to pull you up off the bottom.
Whenever you go paddling, if you aren’t willing to get into the water and swim, you aren’t dressed warmly enough to be paddling. That’s why Fox River Paddle Sports doesn’t open until May 19th. We are concerned with our customer’s safety. We want to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip on the river.
We hope you’ll visit Fox River Paddle Sports when the water warms up!