How much safety is to much ?! 😊

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  • #17145
    Daniel Del Vecchio

    What a strange question some may say but i wanted  to get other people’s views on that matter. Sure our opinions maybe skew just by asking a forum such as this but still curious.

    As a critical care nurse my view of the world is often bias i see what can go wromg on a regular basis  even things can happen not often. Meaning even something that could happen to only 1 % of the populations would be a larger numbers of visit to the ER as they would  ALL come there.

    as i’m reading recently excellent books call “ deep troubles” on kayak incident, my awareness of what can go wrong is increase. But at the same time, a lots of youtube videos of people going alone on the coast on long trips with very little impact on them.

    That’s where my questions come: on that continuum of doing all the course,reading and buying safety gears on one side and on the other someone leaving for Vancouver/Alaska solo with very little research and google  maps as navigation ( yep that was a real video 😉). Where is the Goldilocks level?? Where should people come in, the threshold to go kayak with them or not? 😊

Viewing 7 replies - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
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  • #17235
    Allan Edwin

    Another voice for this discussion with food for thought:

    Certification killed paddling adventures

    Nancy More

    Hi Daniel

    I am going to wade in late on this.

    My experience in industrial safety and kayaking lead me to believe that there are no accidents.  There are a series of events and choices that lead to incidents that become notable or cause injury or loss.   So, you choose every day things that may or may not contribute to your safety.  They start way before you get on the water.

    You choose whether or not to check your boat at the start of the season or before a big trip.  You choose what equipment to carry in your repair kit.  You choose whether to learn how to manage your boat with and without the use of a rudder.   You choose to learn to understand wind, water, and waves and make appropriate choices. That might make the difference between inconvenience (something breaks that you can fix on a beach easily),  something that causes you minor discomfort (you have to paddle for the day without the benefit of seat back support) or something that causes you to have to call in help and and cancel a long trip.

    My first overnight kayak trip was 14 days from Fair Harbour to the Brooks.  Lots of open water and opportunities to learn.  Knowing what I know now, that probably wasn’t the smartest choice, but we were 4 people with extensive back-country hiking experience and sound decision-making skills.  I remember being terrified at at least one point.  And I know that we spent at least one afternoon on the beach as we waited for the evening calm to continue on down the coast.

    Someone has already addressed the probability versus impact risk management matrix.  It works.  You mitigate the items that are high risk and high probability though specific planning and equipment.  You have to be aware of the “black swans” that can cause serious injuries and fatalities and can’t be predicted.  Basic safety (wear a PFD, wear a dry or wet suit in big and cold water, carry a radio, get some education) means you have the capability of dealing with most things.

    Each of us have our own risk tolerance.  As you point out, the more you know and the more experience you have, makes you aware of the possibilities.  It also gives you the capability and skills to deal with those possibilities.  So, yes, people go out and they do things without the requisite understanding and equipment and  they get away with them, or not.  They are lucky, or not.  And people with a lot of experience and knowledge are sometimes in the wrong place at the wrong time, like the recent avalanche deaths in Alberta.    And some people never leave the beach.

    Philip Kubik

    I would be careful to distinguish between challenge and risk of injury or death. Although I agree that challenge is important for growth, I don’t agree that risk of injury or death is necessary for growth, at least not for me. Personally, I am convinced that I would enjoy kayaking even more than I do if it were completely free of that type of risk. On the other hand, there are those who say that they enjoy the adrenaline rush of a risky experience.

    Mick Allen

    Two similar answers:

    1) too much safety is when the ‘safety’ eliminates too much of the challenge/risk.  We need challenge to grow.

    2) too much safety is when the ‘safety’ has minimal failure event impact. Some good examples of this are:  a) pfd for everyone – huge impact on failure events, so great. b) heaving line for everyone – minimal impact on failure events, so too much.


    Allan Edwin

    Two very experienced paddlers have commented and given clear answers to the points you raise.

    I am a far less experienced paddler, so consider my input accordingly.

    At the heart of this issue is the process of exploring your limits. You can explore on your own, learning by trial and error what works and what could get you killed. Or you can participate in guided learning (in a club or other training program) designed to show you your limits so you can make informed decisions.

    The main problem with Method 1: this is a terrible way for you learn how to evaluate risk. Like the cartoon Mr. Magoo, there is nothing inherent to the method that reliably indicates to you how close or far you are away from danger. You can guess, but you don’t know for sure. The natural result is that you will either plateau at a place (likely far) below your potential, or you will eventually experience a potentially fatal incident.

    The obvious advantage to Method 2: it enables you to explore your limits in a guided fashion, teaching you what is still known as “good seamanship”. This method is not without problems because you have to find trustworthy people to provide good guidance for you. You are going to have to bring your own wisdom to that evaluation. That said, one of the great things about a club like SKABC is being able to compare notes with many other paddlers to help you index where you are in relation to common standards.

    Good luck and safe paddling!

    Philip Kubik

    Hello Daniel,

    I agree with Maureen that it is a personal decision based on your risk tolerance, skill, experience, ambitions, and desire for excitement. Bear in mind that if you do something with a 1% risk of serious injury or death and you do it one time, your risk is 1%, i.e., small but significant. You will probably get away with it. If you do such things 100 times, your risk rises to 63%, i.e., large & significant. It is unlikely that you will get away with it.

    You also need to consider your responsibilities to others. Aleksander Doba has kayaked solo across the Atlantic 3 time, all when he was over the age of 60. Asked why he didn’t do it when he was younger, he said that it would have been irresponsible when he had a young family.



    Maureen Benzon

    Hi Daniel,

    I think you’ll get many different answers on this. The answer is that we all have our own unique tolerance for danger. Some thrive on it, and some steer clear.

    The premise of risk assessment is that you need to compare the likelihood of an event vs the consequences. So, if something is highly likely but has a low consequence (ie dumping on the currents course) vs something with low probability but disastrous consequences (ie a tsunami arriving just as we are surfing at Tofino).

    The answer is to critically assess the situation and make a decision on this basis. The better informed, the better trained, the better your chance of survival, but do get out there and enjoy yourself. Stretch your envelope of safety just a little bit at a time. There is nothing like an adrenaline rush to feel alive, but still being alive at the end of the adventure is equally important.

    See you at the next rescue practice! lol!



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