About Our Information
A lot of misinformation about cold water safety can be found in books, magazine articles, news stories, videos, instruction manuals, courses, and the internet. How are you supposed to decide what to believe? We want you to to know where we get the information that's on our web site - so you can be confident about its accuracy.
Scientific and Medical Research
Our cold water information is firmly based on science and medicine. The physiological effects of cold water immersion on the human body have been the subject of scientific research for over 50 years, with the results published in peer-reviewed journals. On our web site, this knowledge has been supplemented by cases reported in respected journals of medicine. Those are the original sources we use. In other words, it's the best, most reliable information that you can find anywhere.
Golden Rules of Cold Water Safety
The Five Golden Rules of Cold Water Safety are best practices that we developed after analyzing hundreds of close calls and fatalities. They're practical, easy to understand, and anyone can use them. They're particularly geared towards people engaged in paddlesports like canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, but they're also applicable to related sports like rowing, sailing, board sailing, and the operation of small boats and personal watercraft.
Each of our Golden Rules is followed by a number of Case Histories - real life close calls and fatalities. Discussing these tragic and preventable incidents - and the lessons learned from them - is one of the most effective ways of getting people to appreciate the importance of cold water safety.
Case Histories highlight the many ways that boaters can get into difficulty, and they're also a very effective way to learn from the mistakes that other people have made - so that you can avoid making similar mistakes yourself. In addition to Lessons Learned, each case highlights major contributing factors - things that we see again and again in our analysis of close calls and fatalities.
Visit the Index of Case Histories
Unkind, mean-spirited, judgmental comments in the aftermath of paddling tragedies are common on social media and can have long-lasting negative effects. They're harmful to the victims, and also to their friends and families - and they do nothing to improve safety. It's our policy to publicly discourage such comments, and also to commend those who have the courage to publicly own their mistakes so that others can learn from them. This article by Moulton Avery appeared in the Early Spring 2021 issue of The Paddler Magazine: Blaming The Victims
Myths and Misinformation
There's a lot of misinformation and bad advice about cold water safety out there, and one of our missions is to make it disappear.
- Moulton Avery
Typical Misleading Survival Graphs
If information doesn't have a decent scientific or medical pedigree - in other words, if someone just made it up, or got confused about the facts, or decided to repeat something they read somewhere without checking to see whether or not it was true, or they reached a conclusion that wasn't supported by the facts - in all those cases, we do the best we can to explain the situation and set the record straight.
We feel the same way about the many "fluff pieces" on cold water paddling that regularly appear in magazines and on internet sites. Articles or videos that warn you about the "hazard" of duck hunters or recommend down booties as one of the "7 Essentials for Cold Water Paddling", or that emphasize hypothermia without saying a word about cold shock. We criticize them because they distract people from learning about the real hazards and how to prevent them.
See our Myths and Misinformation section.
Promoting Boating Safety
Likewise, we speak up when a manufacturer or retailer so thoroughly blurs the distinction between a paddling (splash) jacket and a drytop that they both seem like reasonable choices for paddling on 50F water.
Or when an advertisement features paddlers on ice-cold water wearing down jackets and no PFD's. That kind of advertising undermines cold water safety, and we speak out against it.
Or post images of paddlers on very cold water with no thermal protection.
Kayaking unprotected on a glacial at Jostedalsbreen, Norway.
The same holds true when Facebook admins approve pictures of paddlers who are paddling unprotected on ice-cold water or aren't wearing PFDs. Ditto when they kick people off hypocritical Facebook groups like the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle because they advocate fundamental safety principles.
The bottom line is that we support boating safety in all its forms, and we aren't shy about it. Our only purpose in is to save lives and help recreational boaters avoid life-threatening situations.
See our IceBreakers page.