Kayaking in cold weather? Expert kayakers offer safety tips, show dangers

Posted at 12:10 PM, Oct 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-25 12:34:43-04

YORKTOWN, Va. - Chuck Pinello took his kayak out on a cold, windy morning at Yorktown Beach on Sunday. It wasn't long before his kayak flipped, sending him into the water.

"There he goes, he's going over the side,” Ron Cagle, a kayaker and kayak safety instructor with the Tidewater Kayak Angler's Association, said, pointing to Pinello as his kayak capsized. Soon after, Pinello appeared at the side of his kayak.

"He's going to flip the kayak over,” Cagle explained. “This can be a feat in itself."

The scenario sounded and appeared like a real emergency. However, the two staged it to demonstrate what to do if it happens to someone while kayaking.

As the weather gets colder, these experienced kayakers are urging people who want to kayak in the colder months to be safe and smart.

“Cold weather is no joke,” Cagle said. “Your survival time is at a minimum."

Cagle is also a sergeant with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. He said he and fellow officers have answered to many kayak accidents where someone may have died, pulling their bodies from the water.

"I'm looking at it as, 'What went wrong? What went wrong, what didn't they do and what can we do to improve,'” Cagle said. “I take every experience like that and try to turn it around into a learning point."

The United States Coast Guard reported 86 kayaking deaths in 2019. Cagle warned, "Ninety-five percent of all fatalities, they weren't wearing a life jacket. This life jacket, if you don't wear anything else, this is one thing that will save your life."

As for the kayak capsizing, that's also a concern. Cagle said they typically happen on clearer days compared to a day with wind and rain.

"As he gets in, he realizes he can't do it,” Cagle pointed out as Pinello swam along his kayak’s side, trying to get in. “People forget you've got the bow and the stern, or the front and back of the boat, which are two great stable areas to try to gain access."

Pinello did just that, holding onto the rear of the kayak and pulling himself in with ease.

A concern of capsizing, Cagle said, is when water enters the kayak’s hull. The more water inside the kayak, the heavier it could get.

Pinello and Cagle were also geared with a radio, a knife, wetsuits and a light, among other supplies, to make sure they're ready if things turn for the worse.

"He just got immersed in cold water, and now he's got to figure out, 'I've got to get back to shore,’” Cagle explained.

With safety and practice in mind, kayaking can be safe, relaxing and enjoyable.

"It's inevitable,” Cagle said. “There's waves, it's nature."