Sea Kayaking in Rough Water

Always Wear your PFD

True or False?

The best way to stay safe on the water, any water, is to simply wear your life jacket.


PFDs Can't Do This:

  • Keep you safe in cold water.
  • Reduce the life-threatening danger of an unprotected cold water immersion.
  • Prevent cold shock, physical incapacitation, or hypothermia.
  • Prevent you from inhaling water and drowning, particularly in rough water.

PFDs Can Do This:

  • Greatly reduce the chance that you will immediately drown due to cold shock and swimming failure.
  • Enable you to rest and float in calm water without swimming movements.
  • Keep you floating on the surface if you become exhausted or incapacitated by cold.
  • Provide some insulation if they are worn snugly enough to prevent water from circulating between the PFD and your body.
  • Greatly aid in body recovery by preventing a cold water drowning victim from sinking.
After a capsize

Why You Should Always Wear Your PFD

A PFD greatly reduces the chance of sudden drowning due to cold shock and swimming failure. With few exceptions, cold shock causes people to immediately lose control of their breathing. As a result, many of them suddenly drown – even though they can swim.


Cold water drowning can occur instantly if cold shock causes a person to gasp while their mouth is submerged. That particular phenomenon used to be called "Sudden Disappearance Syndrome", and it's worth emphasizing that you don't suddenly disappear and sink to the bottom if you are wearing a properly secured PFD.

Drowning can also occur during the first several minutes of cold shock due to swimming failure or inhaling water as a result of wave splash. If you aren’t wearing a PFD, you will drown as soon as you can no longer swim or tread water.

For more information, visit the website of The National Center for Cold Water Safety.

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