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Safety   Knik Canoers and Kayakers


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Knik Canoers and Kayakers, Inc.

Safety CrossThe waters of Alaska are cold and many of the locations remote. It doesn't matter which kind of boat you fall out of; cold water, rocks, rapidly changing conditions, and bad judgment can kill or severely injure you and others in your group, whether you are running a river, landing in dumping surf, or simply canoeing on a lake. Become informed, build your skills, use the right equipment, and make sound judgments. It is easy to get in trouble. You alone, must make the decision to participate in water activities based on your personal set of skills and judgment! If you should find yourself swimming in the cold waters of Alaska, there is only one person who is ultimately responsible for your rescue. That person is you! If you don't know then don't go. After all, what's the value of those great tales of adventure, if you're not around to tell them.

Those of us who enjoy being on the waterways of our great state know that cold waters present dangers along with the countless rewards. Safety is key to enjoying the outdoors responsibly. This requires knowledge, recognition and prevention. To assist in gaining the knowledge and confidence of safety awareness and skills, Knik Canoers & Kayakers is proud to open their Annual Intro to Boating Meeting to the general public. All persons with interests in paddle sports are invited to attend. Whether you are a rafter, canoeist, kayaker or  self propelled boater of any type, you will find tremendous value in the information presented.

Topics may include personal clothing and safety gear, boating hazards, trip planning and sea kayaking safety.
Sign-ups for remaining available spaces in beginner classes offered by KCK in Canoeing, Rafting, Sea Kayaking and/or Pack Rafting may be available.

The meeting is generally held in May.  Check the calendar on the home page for specific details.

KCK would like to offer the following advisement to persons participating in paddle sports in Alaska.

  The waters of Alaska offer many unique challenges to paddlers of all skill levels. One of the greatest challenges is the potential for capsize in very cold water. Numerous "sudden cold water drownings" have prompted a closer look by private, governmental, and academic professionals. What has become apparent is the danger posed by sudden cold water immersion. This has come to be referred to as cold water shock or cold water immersion phenomenon. What it involves is the human body's physiological response to sudden exposure to cold water. Firstly there is a gasp reflex which may result in sudden drowning if one's head is under water when this occurs. This is followed by an inability to control ones breathing which may be experienced as difficulty exhaling or as hyperventilation or both. This period may last from 1 to 3 minutes before subsiding. The main focus during this is to keep one's head above water while concentrating on breathing control. Secondly the body reacts to cold water by constricting blood vessels and reducing the blood flow to extremities. The resulting effect is a short time window for self rescue (as little as 5 minutes) before ones hands and feet become useless. Act quickly to accomplish rescue and communicate with those who may be assisting. In some cases cardiac arrest has occurred from sudden cold water immersion, therefore making the existence of any known heart condition a particular cause for concern. Actual water temps, dress and ones physical condition may all factor into the severity of these effects. No one is immune from cold water shock.
  The only true protection from cold water shock is a drysuit in good condition with proper insulating undergarments, gloves and head gear. Wetsuits do not protect from cold water shock because they require the body to first warm a thin layer of water next to the skin. A wetsuit can be made more effective with the addition of a dry-top. A PFD in good condition is always worn regardless of the chosen dress. All individuals within a group should be wearing PFDs without exception!
  While it is not to be ignored, hypothermia (the lowering of the body's core temperature) is not the immediate danger in cold water immersion but rather an extended effect. A person can survive in near freezing water for 60 minutes or more before succumbing to hypothermia. Knowing how to recognize, treat, and prevent hypothermia should be part of every Alaskan paddler's skill set.
  Sudden cold water immersion certainly does not equal death, as evidenced by the many surviving members of "Polar Bear Clubs" but it is a matter to be taken seriously by those of us who yearn for the exhilarating feel of a paddle stroke in the inspiring waters of our great state. Knowledge is key. Good judgment is the responsibility of every individual!

Additional safety related links

LINKAtlantic Kayak Tours Safety Page
LINKACA Safety Tips
LINKPool Sessions
LINKCold Shock and Swimming Failure
binerYukonman, Cold Water Survival
LINKPersonal Gear for Alaska Paddling
LINKGuidelines for River Trip Organizers, Leaders and Participants
LINKRiver Safety Lecture Guidelines
LINKSafety Code of American Whitewater
LINKState of Alaska Cold Injuries Guidelines
LINKAlaska DNR Cold Water Boating Video

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