"Waders of Death", Another Perspective E-mail
Written by Rudy Tsukada   
Monday, 01 April 2013 15:37

P4160010 My lesson learned: Despite everything you read online or watch on YouTube, the "Wader & Belt" system by itself is NOT a substitute for a dry-suit in a cold weather environment when kayak fishing. As I began my journey down this addiction, I eagerly surfed the Internet seeking answers to all of my kayaking needs. There were thousands of pages and forums that explained everything I needed to know. I wondered to myself, "if all of these folks are doing it, why haven't I seen any of them?" It turns out that in Alaska, a state known for its great fishing opportunities, kayak fishing is still in its infancy.

What I learned was that "best practices" in Florida or Southern California do not translate directly into the year round frigid waters of Alaska. I would say more than a third of the people I meet on the water are wearing waders with a normal jacket and a PFD. While I am very excited about the growth, I am concerned people in cold water environments feel as though you can just buy a kayak and PFD and you are ready to go. Here in Alaska, you are lucky to have VHF or cell reception even at close distances due to the rugged terrain. It is imperative that you are able to self-rescue to avoid hypothermia even during the summer months.

The Incident

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to learn a lesson. Sometimes one is lucky and learns their lesson when only a little bit of pride was damaged. But in either case it is important to pass on the experience so others do not make the same mistake. Fortunately for me, it was only my pride that was damaged.

PA020027 So what went wrong? I had just purchased a used Mini-X for $300 but was quite dismayed to learn a dry suit would set me back $500 or more! "What? No way I'm paying more than my kayak value for some clothes!. As I started researching my options, I came across several forum posts and YouTube videos definitively stating that waders with a belt are safe. Great! I have waders and a belt! I tried it out and it sure seemed to work, until I hit the water!!

It was a nice July day in Alaska; with air temperature was in the 50's and water temperature in the low 40's. I was wearing polypro undergarments, two pairs of fleece sweat pants, two fleece sweatshirts and a medium jacket. I put my waders on, cinched my belt, donned my PFD over my jacket and I was ready to go. A rookie move led me to dump into the water.

As I gathered my bearings my first thought was, "this water isn't bad at all." So I took a minute or two to collect all my "floaters". I felt water seeping into my waders, but my PFD kept me nicely afloat. Of course my jacket and all exposed clothes were soaking wet.

My first surprise came when I tried to re-enter my kayak. I couldn't pull myself up. It felt like I had no strength at all. Fortunately I was within 100 feet of a rock wall. I grab my kayak and started swimming for the rock wall. A landing craft was leaving the harbor, but I tried to wave it off since I was so close to shore. They insisted, lowered the gate and scooped me up.

Once out of the water, I immediately realized what my problem was. I was literally pinned to the deck due to all the water that had soaked into my clothes. I couldn't move! Two deckhands attempted to assist me, as I am sure it looked like I was struggling. They asked if I was OK, to which I responded "yes." Then they grab bed me under my arms and tried to lift me to my feet. They just about separated their shoulders as I weighed a LOT more wet than they expected. The weight of the water on my clothes is what kept me from re-entering the kayak, even though everything seemed normal when I was in the water.

Bottomkayakwear topkayakwear

As an experiment, I weighed the clothes I was wearing when I flipped my kayak. Then I weighed the clothes when they were wet. I was amazed to see the increase. Here are the results. I couldn't reboard my kayak because I was trying to lift 47 pounds of extra weight.

  Top Bottom Total
Dry 7 3 10
Wet 38 19 57
Water Weight (lbs) 31 16 47
Water Gallons 3.72 1.92 5.64

Lesson Learned

PB120089 1 While I do believe you can use waders and a belt for the lower half of your "drysuit" system, by itself, it is insufficient. If you are using a wader and belt AND the air temperature is cold enough that you must wear a sweatshirt or jacket, you MUST account for the water weight all of your exposed clothes could absorb. If that additional weight will impact your ability to re-enter your kayak, you must do what it takes to counter it. One of the best ways is to incorporate a seal-able dry top or paddling jacket. Still, every review I have seen on the two-piece system is that they do indeed allow some water in. This only shortens the time you have to re-enter your kayak AND get dried off to stave off hypothermia. It is irresponsible to generalize and say a wader & belt system is an acceptable system. Though I was lucky to survive my unexpected entry into the water with, I can't help but think of what could have happened had I been out of reach of immediate help.

 

 

Comments  

 
+1 #1 Stykbow1 2013-06-27 02:07
Hi Rudy,

While I've read many accounts of people wearing waders and a rain jacket or dry top for kayak fishing most are doing so in warmer climates and waters temps well above 40 degrees. When you're talking about water temps in the 40's in the wilds of Alaska I think most would err on the side of caution and go with a dry suit or at the very least a wetsuit.

The videos I've watched were more geared toward the myth that the waders will fill with water and pull you under not keeping you warm or dry after an unexpected dunking. None of the tests I've seen showed the person wearing excessive layers of clothes that in your case would prevent reentering the kayak after falling in.

If I was fishing an area that remote and water that cold I wouldn't even attempt it without a dry suit simply because hypothermia could set in after only a short period of time if you ended up in the water.

Thanks, Roger
 

You must be registered to post a comment.


Login

Newsletter

Subscribe here to receive FREE email issues of Kayak Fishing Magazine.

Most Popular

The Ultimate Home Made Kayak Fishing Trailer
I really enjoy your magazine and I’m glad to see this sport catching on so much. Last winter, I got so hooked on kayak fishing that I bought two Hobie Outbacks and rigged them...
An Introduction to Rigging a Fishing Kayak
The way an angler rigs a kayak for fishing is a very personal undertaking. The choices you make are dependent upon your fishing style, and the waters you paddle. What works for me...
Buiding a Kai-Rack for Kayak
  They say that, "Necessity is the mother of invention," but in truth, sometimes a really bad case of cabin fever, combined with watching old Tim Allen’s Home Improvement...

Random

Maximize your Handlheld VHF Radio's Battery Life
A handheld VHF radio is an indispensable tool for kayak fishing adventure travel, for angler to angler communication, listening to weather forecast, or a lifeline in the case of...
Fog Happens
Fog happens … and sometimes happens fast. I know this and try to keep my eye on it always. I was out recently at Stone Lagoon near Arcata, CA, mostly because it's a beautiful...
Bike Pedals for Hobie Mirage Drives
Even dedicated paddlers like myself have to agree the Hobie Mirage Drive is an engineering wonder. Hobie Kayaks and the marvelous leg-powered drive system have opened up kayak...

Latest Kayak Reviews

Stealth Pro Fisha 575
 
3.0
Field and Stream Eagle Talon
 
5.0
Feelfree Moken 12.5
 
5.0
Pelican Castaway 100
 
4.0
Ascend FS10
 
4.0
Sun Dolphin Excursion 10
 
4.0
Santa Cruz Kayaks Raptor SOT
 
5.0
Old Town Predator 13
 
5.0
RTM Kayaks Tempo Angler
 
4.0
Hobie Mirage Revolution 13
 
3.0
Stealth Pro Fisha 575
 
4.0
Stealth Pro Fisha 475
 
4.0

Latest Equipment Reviews

Body Glove 3T Barefoot Max
 
5.0
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
 
5.0
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Warrior
 
3.0
Columbia Drainmaker
 
5.0
Sperry SON-R Sounder Shandal
 
4.0
Garmin VIRB Elite
 
4.0
Polaroid XS100
 
4.0
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
 
5.0
Backwater Paddles Assault Hand Paddle
 
5.0
Stohlquist Piseas
 
4.0
Wheeleez Tuff Tire Kayak Cart
 
5.0
Boga Grip
 
4.0