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HomeNL-2019-04 Paddling Perspectives

Paddling Perspectives: Your Cosmic Paddling Questions Answered
April 2019
by Kent Walters

NOTE: This is intended to be funny.  Please do not take suggestions or calculations seriously.

Q: In the ACA brochure I received when I renewed my membership, it says that 85% of fatal canoeing accidents and 48% of kayaking fatalities involve people who were not wearing a life jacket.  Why do you suppose there is such a big difference between canoe and kayak results?

A: This is statistics, and with the limited information provided, anything is possible.  One could assume that kayakers find all kinds of other ways to kill themselves than the boring neglected PFD.  This is perhaps best illustrated in last month’s example of Kyle, who was wearing a PFD when he went over the waterfall.  Or, one could assume that there were 100% more overall kayaking deaths than canoe-related deaths, and the PFD-challenged numbers were about even.  Then there is the question of the overall base for the percentages quoted – what is the total universe of canoeists vs kayakers?  If you want to pursue this further, please contact Frank Ohrt, who has in-depth knowledge of the human-powered watercraft Darwin Award categories from the American Whitewater archives.

Q: In the same ACA fold-out, it says, “For longer outings, bring energy bars or a lunch.”  So why do your Santa Elena Canyon and Buffalo River outings specify more food than a lunch?

A: In order for you to know what I recommend in the way of food for one of these “longer” outings, you would have to have read a part of my Float Packet.  This disturbs me.  I don’t want you on my outings.  Please don’t sign up.

Q: Is there an advantage to the bent-shaft paddle?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay, I see you’re going to make me work for it - What are the advantages of a bent-shaft paddle?

A: There are several advantages to the bent-shaft paddle.  Here is a partial list:
1. They look really cool – “Oh wow, look at that guy with the far-out paddle!”
2. People know you spent a lot of money on your paddle (the “Gucci effect”)
3. They are very light and strong (a byproduct of being expensive)
4. They are ergonomic – they boost your ergo (similar to items 1 and 2)
5. Ergonomic – they fit the angle of the human wrists better than straight shaft paddles 
6. Ergonomic – the shape provides a reference for where to place your hands by feel
(5 and 6 are the only relevant answers, with 3 being true, but irrelevant)

Q: If a mosquito bites me during a Cypress Wonderland trip, what are my odds of being infected by the Zilka virus, or Dengue Fever, or West Nile virus, or Chikungunya virus, Equine encephalitis, Yellow Fever, or Malaria or some other mosquito-borne pathogenic lifeform?

A: In this circumstance, the statistical probability of contracting a mosquito-borne disease is not very high, to be precise, a little less than 1:1,000,000.  Putting this in perspective, winning the lottery is one of the few things that has a lower probability.  If you are bitten by a mosquito in your home or in your yard, the probability of infection is about the same.

Q: I have heard that when piloting a plane, sometimes conditions can evolve in the environment to a point where the pilot does not know if he is right-side-up or upside-down unless he/she is watching and trusting his/her instruments.  Does the same thing happen in kayaking or canoeing?

A: No.  Most people are sensitive to other indicators that come into play in the kayaking and canoeing environments.  For example, besides the visual horizon, there’s breathing.  If you go upside-down in a kayak, your gag reflex will engage when the water starts coming in through your mouth and nose, and most people will realize at this point that this feeling of being under water means that, in fact, they are under water, and hence no longer right-side-up.  Concerning the instrument-deficiencies of kayaks or canoes, I suppose one could affix a rock to the deck or a thwart (I love that word), and if it’s wet, they can assume:
1. they’re in rough water, 
2. it’s raining, 
3. they are crashing through some big waves,
4. someone is playing a joke on them, or 
5. they are in the process of going upside-down.  
If the rock disappears completely, they can conclude that they are upside-down in the Brazos

The author, Kent Walters