The Hysterical Parent

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Family Vacations, Summer 1996

The Hysterical Parent

What if my kid capsizes in icy water, and hypothermia sets in before I'm able to pull him out?

If a sea kayak does flip, it's usually because the paddler is inexperienced. Sea kayaks are infinitely more stable than whitewater kayaks, and all doubles have a rudder, which, combined with their length (some 19 feet), makes them easier to steer and therefore helps keep them upright even amid big rollers. But no reputable outfitter would ever take a family out in high-wave conditions-and no parent, paddling unguided, should either. But what if you and your child do wind up in the water? In 50- to 65-degree water, like that of the Northwest and Northeast, it's an emergency situation. If you're paddling on your own, and you haven't mastered the delicate balancing act known as a self-rescue, you have no business kayaking-much less taking a child out-without a reputable guide or experienced paddler.

In a fleet of several boats, we practice what's called an assisted rescue: The other kayaks gather around the flipped boat to form a pontoon-like raft, then we immediately work to right the boat, pull the paddlers out of the water, and get them to shore quickly.
-Constance Page, mother of two, takes her kids on the water when she's not guiding for Anadyr Adventures in Valdez, Alaska.

Copyright 1996, Outside magazine

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