The debate about PFDs

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7 years 9 months ago #23365 by [email protected]
...and I thought this was all over.

But no, one of the elite paddlers here has once again called for PFD usage to be voluntary.

His arguments include:

- If you lose your ski at sea, you only have a brief period to swim after it and catch it. If you're wearing a PFD, you're too slow.
- In the surfline, PFDs hinder swimming and you may be in danger because of this.

To me, these arguments, when weighed against the reality that most paddlers are not swimmers (in any case in a proper downwind situation, the ski rolls at 5kph or more - you're simply not going to swim that fast), most paddlers are extremely unlikely to go through the size of surf where PFDs might be a hinderance (if nothing else, most race organisers simply don't send racers out into insane conditions), most paddlers paddle in cold water where you cannot swim for any length of time without assistance.

PFDs and leashes (and mobiles and radios and whistles) never give a 100% solution, but to me it's self-evident that a PFD dramatically increases your chances, and every other bit of safety kit that you carry (and know how to use!), increases your chances further.

It is arguable that elite paddlers have a lesser need for PFDs (although one of the shoulder dislocations I've know was that of an elite athlete - incident in Mauritius). Even elite athletes can be injured.

But part of the burden of elite paddlers is that they are role models to the rest of us. If they get exemptions from wearing PFDs, that will influence other paddlers who are definitely not elite.

We've been racing in South Africa with mandatory PFDs now for years. Everyone (except for a tiny minority) accepts it. No-one has died because they were wearing a PFD. Why change it now?

Rob

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Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...
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7 years 9 months ago #23366 by Hansie
Replied by Hansie on topic The debate about PFDs
If the surf is so big that the the pfd would hinder swimming then I'm sure you run the risk of getting hit on the head by your ski when you fall out, in which case the pfd might save your life until you regain your bearings, and when you're out at sea you don't want your ski to float away and not have a Pfd ...

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7 years 9 months ago #23367 by Sifor
Replied by Sifor on topic The debate about PFDs
I can see an argument with merit regarding doing away with PFDs if you're playing in the surf zone as being unable to duck dive under could cause some serious issues... However, if you're heading into open water you ought to wear a PFD as the benefits outweigh the downsides.

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7 years 9 months ago #23368 by [email protected]

Sifor wrote: I can see an argument with merit regarding doing away with PFDs if you're playing in the surf zone as being unable to duck dive under could cause some serious issues... However, if you're heading into open water you ought to wear a PFD as the benefits outweigh the downsides.


Yep, but we're talking about racing - and LD races these days simply don't go through surf that big.

We're talking LD surfski racing - where you do often go far offshore, too far for 90% of the paddlers to swim.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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7 years 9 months ago #23370 by Ranga
Replied by Ranga on topic The debate about PFDs
What makes his reasoning even more appalling is the fact that he (they) NEVER put the leg leash on, likewise disobeying the mandatory laws in my state. You will never have a problem of your ski blowing away with a leash ATTACHED!

My two cents worth!
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7 years 9 months ago #23371 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic The debate about PFDs
I weight 120 pounds… and am not very tall. There's a point to this: my arms aren't very long.

Place a 50 kN vest on a 6'3 paddler, and chances are:
He will have little to no problems getting back into his ski. 4" in front of him doesn't bother him with his LONG ARMS. This same paddler will have no wetsuit, but will be wearing a floatation device for added floatation; a total of 5 kilos of additional floatation to be exact.

Place a 50kN vest on a 5'6" paddler like me, and here's what you get:
The added 4" to clear the PFD isn't as simple as you might think. To get the gift of it, try wearing an 8" thick vest. The wetsuit I wear during all colder months provide more floatation than my PFD. Wearing both is a bit ridiculous (as far as floatation goes) - yes, it's a bit much.

So… in this particular case, my wetsuit provides me with more added floatation than the 6+ feet paddler AND provides me with insulation for the cold.

I am an excellent swimmer… we are talking 20+ km swims in cold water without problems. On rare occasions where my leash broke at sea, I have been able to:
a) swim and recover my bouncing ski.
b) swim back to shore in a hurry (2.5 hour swim) - without freezing my brains.
And on one occasion:
c) removed my vest to allow me to swim faster against a side-current (again to get back to shore).

This is all in 30+ years of using surfskis, with only 5 broken leashes (not counting when I was playing in the surf).

Having someone telling me that everyone must wear a PFD just doesn't add up. All circumstances and all people are different.

If you tell me that a PFD is safer, then safety is #1 to you… therefore, you should be wearing a LIFE JACKET (110 kN or more) - one that will truly save lives, with your head out of the water, no matter what.

… because it is again "all relative".

Ludovic
(Brittany, France)

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7 years 9 months ago #23373 by ionas
Replied by ionas on topic The debate about PFDs
As the organiser of the Aegean Race, I am adamant!
No PFD.... No entry, unless we are in flatwater conditions. We will not risk anybody's life. PFD's SAVE lives. PERIOD....

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7 years 9 months ago #23375 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic The debate about PFDs
Shouldn't post after drinking beer but here goes:

What a bunch of whining brats these elites that break the rules and/or throw a tantrum. Do whatever you want in training. Leash yourself to the boat but paddle naked for all I care. But when it comes to racing, if the rules are PFD, then wear one. If that makes the event not worth paddling for you the you have every right to skip the competition and go for a training paddle on your own. Make a habit of it. I guarantee you will miss racing more than the race scene will miss you.

Another option would be to make your own event where a PFD is not required, assuming that paddling without one is legal in the place you live. It would be a good experience for you. You can have everything about the race exactly how you like. Should be easy to permission from the local authorities and insurance for the event, right.

This PFD thing is analogous to riding a bike with a helmet, which people hated back in the day. Well nowadays nobody is forced to ride their bike with a helmet in training. But you sure as hell can't enter The Tour de France without one. And I don't hear any more whining form the peloton.

Hard to believe a PFD is that much of a hindrance as every one of those whining elite paddler has had his ass handed to him many times by one of the Mockes. pretty sure those two wear PFDs.

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7 years 9 months ago #23376 by Sandy
Replied by Sandy on topic The debate about PFDs
Tofur , "all relative"....and if Rob's number is anywhere close to accurate , relatively speaking , 90% percent should probably be wearing pfd's , this ain't effing rocket science , course it's personal choice ...

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7 years 9 months ago - 7 years 9 months ago #23377 by Mako
Replied by Mako on topic The debate about PFDs
Vanity and Macho Factor are the biggest barriers to wearing PFD's.....in that order!.
Last edit: 7 years 9 months ago by Mako. Reason: Spellink
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7 years 9 months ago #23378 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic The debate about PFDs
I was referring to wearing a PFD or not wearing one - during training.
First should be your own safety.
Second should be the law governing your area.
Third should be setting a good example.

For racing, it's a completely different thing.
Everyone's gonna have their own point of view. Here's my take:
I don't think that races should make wearing a vest mandatory, but they HAVE TO.
If I were to put on a race, I would most certainly prefer to NOT make a PFD mandatory, but in the end, I would have little to no choice.

During an event, I couldn't test everyone's waterman's skills - so I would in fact require a PFD. In fact, I would require that everyone wears one… and perhaps require everyone to carry a spare one "on board" as well for added safety. I know that it sounds a little ridiculous, but for the safety of all involved in "my race", I would be very tempted to make a LIFE VEST (110 kN) mandatory to really keep everyone safe - and to keep everyone's head above water. Because truth be told, the bulkiness of a 110kN vest on 90% of the paddler is about the same as the bulkiness of the 50kN vest on a 5'6" paddler.

As for the smaller paddler during my event:
They don't have to show up, but if they want to race, they would have to follow the race promoter's guidelines for safety.

It sucks… but in this time and age, nothing is 100% safe.
It's a war on lawyers / courts - and that is precisely why I paddle over 100 km a week, 50 weeks out of the year, and have only entered a dozen races in all these years.

I live in a country that sucks (politically speaking) - but at least, the law here states that I can wear a wetsuit instead of a PFD - for recreational use.

We most likely agree that nothing is 100% safe.
We probably agree that staying on the couch is safer than paddling 2 miles offshore during 1/2 a storm.
We probably don't agree that a PFD isn't really as safe as you think it is…

Ludovic
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7 years 9 months ago #23379 by Sandy
Replied by Sandy on topic The debate about PFDs
toufr , you have completely lost me.....
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7 years 9 months ago #23382 by Mako
Replied by Mako on topic The debate about PFDs
Wearing a PFD has bsolutely nothing to do with a paddlers ability to swim. It's for when one can't swim. The can't swim scenarious are plentiful.

Paddling socially or in a race paddlers may have to assist a distressed paddler. A PFD on a casualty is invaluable and it cannot be put on in the water by the average athlete let alone when hanging onto a ski that is trying to get away.

Wearing a PFD and short (long too) arms.........just lift yourself up a few inches, submerge and use the bouyancy to boost you out of the water. It's timing and may need practice.

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7 years 9 months ago #23384 by photofr
Replied by photofr on topic The debate about PFDs
Do you actually consider that my wetsuit is a sinking device?
It provides more floatation than my PFD - MORE IS KEYWORD.

Thanks for the info about bobbing to get back into the ski. I am sure it may be helpful for some people. I was merely trying to explain arm-length problems and how vests do not affect everyone the same way.

Ludovic
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7 years 9 months ago #23385 by goofish
Replied by goofish on topic The debate about PFDs
Some points to consider:

1) How is a race director to know who is "elite" and who is a good swimmer or not?

2) Why is it fair to let some racers wear PFDs and some not?

3) Sometimes the sponsors, the insurance companies, the municipality, SOMEBODY, requires that PFDS be worn.

4) A good race director will always err on the side of safety for ALL competitors.

5) Very, very few actually earn a living from surf ski racing, and whether you win or not is not going to make one microgram of difference in this world. Stop whining, get over yourself and do what the race director asks of you. No one is forcing you to race.
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7 years 9 months ago #23386 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic The debate about PFDs
Tourfr you must paddle in some cold water. The mocke pfd provides 6 kg boyancy. To get that boyancy from a wetsuit requires 7 mm full body. That's what people wear for prolonged immersion in 0 degree celsius water in the arctic. Would not be easy to paddle in.

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7 years 9 months ago #23387 by Dicko
Replied by Dicko on topic The debate about PFDs
Tourfr, even a legend of a waterman like yourself is not immune to the unforeseen.

During a marathon (running) the competitors are something like 20 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than the spectators standing watching. Given the demographics of our sport it is not a huge leap to suggest that those numbers are similar when paddling,

Muscle tears, shoulder dislocations, banging into other boats, illness, fatique, any number of medical conditions, hypothermia, hyperthermia, dehydration, getting hit in the head by a pelican, etc can render you useless, etc.

Every race you enter there are DNF's for various reasons. To me this suggests that there are a lot of people in any race who need to be in a pfd. The rules are to protect these paddlers. Where do you draw the line. I know of elite paddlers who have dnf'd for some of the above reasons.

And not all wetsuits provide good flotation. Some do, some don't. Where the majority of people who read this, paddle, we don't wear wetsuits, because you overheat. To make the suggestion that wearing a wetsuit is better than a pfd is plain misleading and dangerous.

I don't wear a pfd usually, but if I'm paddling downwind, always and when racing, always.
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7 years 9 months ago - 7 years 9 months ago #23389 by Hiro
Replied by Hiro on topic The debate about PFDs
double post, sorry.
Last edit: 7 years 9 months ago by Hiro.

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7 years 9 months ago - 7 years 9 months ago #23390 by Hiro
Replied by Hiro on topic The debate about PFDs
I don't understand why we are even discussing this. Race director says "mandatory pfd" : you either wear one or you don't race. Simple as f..k !
Last edit: 7 years 9 months ago by Hiro. Reason: spelling
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7 years 9 months ago #23395 by Mako
Replied by Mako on topic The debate about PFDs
We're discussing it because an elite athlete is trying to get his administrative body to grant PFD exemptions to paddlers that meet certain criteria.

The madness IMO is that that body is actually putting it up for formal discussion / consideration. The upside is that the body is listening and considering the issues raised by it's members and not just dismissing or ignoring them.

Tourfr one of the PFD concerns raised by the elite in question is that remounting is difficult when wearing a PFD. You seemed to be pointing out that short arms added to the problem. I maintain that it's not more difficult provided the correct technique is used. There's not a paddler reading this that cannot improve their remounting technique. It needs practice and then maitenance. Short arms with correct technique may even be an advantage because of the forces and moments involved
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