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Tuesday, 06 January 2015 09:17

An Open Letter to the Kayak Community About PFDs

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I was contacted yesterday about a concern that arose while kayak anglers debated, argued, and plead their cases for wearing or not wearing a lifejacket (PFD) in their kayaks. I thought the plea that was made needed to be heard so I've decided to publish it here. PFDs may be an easy issue on the surface but it can get complex when you start to really dive into the details. Some states require it, some don’t. 

Some states like Florida have thousands of people who fish in 70 degree water most of the year and in less than three feet of water. Others, like our friends in Hawaii have grown up in the ocean, some before they could walk, and a PFD is as foreign on a kayak as a bike helmet. I appreciate Doug’s response below. We should all take a beat, breathe, and realize choices are made on an individual basis. Bashing someone doesn’t educate anyone; it just shames them. This is Doug Pomeroy’s open letter to the kayak community about PFDs.


Fellow Kayakers,

Recently the topic of wearing or more specifically not wearing a PFD has been under fire in many of the kayak fishing social media circles. It is as if the online kayakers have been circling like vultures waiting for this topic to arise and as soon as an unsuspecting Facebooker chimes in with “I don’t wear one” they are on them. Some even go as far to insult the person’s intelligence.

This needs to stop.

The kayak community has almost solved this debate problem when it comes to kayak brand talk. Each of us makes a friendly recommendation of our favorite or what we think might suit the soon to be buyer best but following it up with “Be sure to demo or the standard ‘Demo Demo Demo’.” We know those who wear one all the time are going to chime in all extra proud like they deserve a gold star for safety. I have never heard a fellow kayak angler tell someone “No you shouldn’t wear a PFD” and doubt I ever will.  Why is it that some people get so fired up on this topic? To me, it’s because it’s an easy topic to be right on. It’s hard to argue that not wearing a PFD is safer. They get to be right and flaunt their infinite wisdom on kayak safety. The attitude that some people take is what makes this a hot topic.

We need to change how we talk about safety.

I will always err on the side of safety when it comes to being in a kayak but, if the kayaker is following their respective state and local laws for PFDs there is no room for criticism. We can encourage people to make sound and safe decisions, but the type of in your face “My way or the highway” preaching that is taking place can make it a very uncomfortable place for new or non-kayakers looking to get into the sport or the discussion at hand.  If a fellow kayaker asks me about a PFD choice I will give my opinion with some options that could help direct them in a positive direction. I won’t make them feel as if they are less of a kayaker or person because of a personal decision they have made. Let’s come together on this issue not apart. Is wearing a PFD a good idea? Yes. Please remember it’s a choice not a law.

Thanks for reading,

Doug Pomeroy

Read 8196 times Last modified on Wednesday, 07 January 2015 07:16


# Keith Pippin 2015-01-06 18:37
When I first got started I carried my PDF on board but rarely used it because it was too uncomfortable (I purchased a $25 model thinking that I was saving money). As time went on reading and hearing stories of kayakers not comming home at the end of the day and my wife catching me on the water without, we went shopping. I now have a quality vest that is comfortable enough that if forget I have it on. Why take unnecessary chances? I prefer to come home to my family at the end of the trip, yes I might not make it home because of an auto accept? I out grew the need to look cool in high school.
+2 # Bullfrog 2015-01-07 08:06
It's a personal choice, like playing in traffic, rock climbing without a rope or swimming with sharks. It's up to you.

As for me I wear my PFD.


But I have been know to swim with sharks.
# Sauerkraut 2015-01-08 11:33
Great article. If it saves one life it served its purpose. Here In Chucktown, we fish some skinny water. But, 3 feet of water equals 6 when you fall into pluff mud. Someties a good PFD is needed to do a Lowcountry deep-mud-self-r escue.
# 1donos 2015-01-08 11:40
I personally choose to wear one most of the time. When in extremely shallow water flats fishing or creek fishing I choose to go without. The key words are I choose. It is not anybody else's choice to make for me.
Everyone needs to make their own choices out on the water and remember waves, tides, and currents may keep you from being able to reconnect with your kayak.
# Minorcan 2015-01-08 21:20
I won't insult anyone that doesn't wear one but I feel smarter when I wear mine ... LOL By the way I didn't stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night.
+1 # basscatlildave 2015-01-17 14:51
I was one of those that never wore it and didn't need it. After looking at reviews on here I'm a changed man and wear a NRS Chinook all the time now.
# Retired Old Tireman 2015-01-29 21:53
I plan on buying my first kayak this spring. I also plan on buying a good, comfortable PFD at the same time. Did I mention I have all the flotation characteristics of a bowling ball. For me, it is not an option, even if my state requires it. I believe in free will, I no not believe in a nanny state. If statute does not mandate it, and, you are comfortable with your experience and skill levels to go without, than do so. However, do not expect me to cheer or salute you, especially if your decision goes wrong. As many wiser than I have observed, "Stuff happens," and a prudent person plans for it. For me, that means a PFD whether not I can swim like a dolphin or have been paddling a yak since before I got a driving license.

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