Kayaking mistakes: How to survive after your boat overturns

Posted at 3:30 PM, Feb 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-16 07:39:43-05

NORFOLK, Va. - The Coast Guard has suspended the search for a 58-year-old kayaker, Michael Ballard, last seen on the York River earlier this week.

It is an unsettling reminder that even the most accomplished swimmers or kayakers can get into dangerous situations. Now, News 3 is taking action to help you say safe if you venture out on the water.

“It’s cold! Really cold!” said Randy Gore, owner of Kayak Nature Tours, Ltd. in Norfolk. Gore says water temperatures have recently been in the mid-40s, even on warmer days.

One thing he recommends is staying out of the cold water completely, even on warmer days.

“[If you fall in] the water can kill you easily and quickly in a matter of minutes. It can cause panic,” Gore told News 3’s Merris Badcock.

Gore loves kayaking so much, he founded a business around it. However, he knows what it is like to lose a loved one to hypothermia.

“I lost both of my parents to cold water because they had an accidental immersion in the water. They actually had hours that they were probably surviving on the water, but did not get rescued fast enough to live,” Gore said, remembering the tragic accident.

Randy Gore, President of Kayak Nature Tours, Ltd. talks to News 3's Merris Badcock about kayaking safety.

Randy Gore, President of Kayak Nature Tours, Ltd. talks to News 3's Merris Badcock about kayaking safety.

Even the most accomplished kayakers can find themselves in cold water. According to studies out of the University of Minnesota, in 40 degree water, the average person has about 30 to 60 minutes until the go unconscious, and one to three hours of survival.

This is one reason why Gore says it is important to pay attention to water temperatures as much as air temperatures.

“That’s what happens around here in the springtime. It was 82 degrees a couple of days ago. The water temperature did not change for 82-degree air temperature,” said Gore.

If you must go out when the water is cold, Gore has a short list of must-have items he brings with him whenever he ventures out: a life vest, some flares, a head lamp and a whistle.

Gore says it is not uncommon for expert swimmers to forego a life vest. For the accomplished swimmers looking for a reason to wear a life vest, Gore showed us a few vests that have pockets for stashing his must have items, a cell phone and a spare car key.

(For more hypothermia prevention tips, click here.)

Gore also always tells a friend where he is going.

“Let someone know when and where you go,” said Gore. “We have got cell phones now. It’s really easy to sit at the boat launch and say, ‘Honey, I’m about to take off.’”

Experts like Gore also recommended telling your friends what to do if you don’t come back on time.