The Hysterical Parent

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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