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Old 03-26-2008   #1
atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4
How dangerous is this sport?


I have done a few whitewater rafting trips and have absolutely loved it. I've always wanted to be that guy that's in the kayak though. Now that the weather is starting to warm up, I'm thinking about joining a club and taking some lessons.

The only thing holding me back is the risk of a major injury. I am student, and have no insurance. I'm over 25, so I can't get on my parents insurance. Do you think it would be wise to start this sport while having no insurance? What if I stuck to class II and III rapids?

I'm probably going to be in school for another 2 years, and I really don't want to wait that long to start this sport.

What would you all recommend? Have any of you taken a trip to the hospital, or known someone that's had an ER visit? I don't want to start this sport and be left with a $50,000 hospital bill because I was an idiot and had no insurance.

As with anything, I know there are risks involved. But what are the chances I end up footing a hospital bill if I take the right precautions and am relatively cautious with the things I attempt.

Thanks so much for any advice you can give me.


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Old 03-26-2008   #2
nmalozzi's Avatar
Front Range, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2007
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 330
I'd recomend getting some cheap health insurance plan that is geared towards just covering you for hospital visits and such. I just signed up for a plan that I found online. Mine runs 140 a month, but I got a pretty in depth plan with doctors visits, dental, and vision. When I searched online I was quoted all sorts of plans, and there were some as low as like 50 a month. Not sure what they included, but it seems like 50 a month for a little piece of mind in and out of the water would be awesome.

Just search "health insurance finder" in google, and tons come up. That is what I did, and I got a killer plan for that 140 a month.

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Old 03-26-2008   #3
River Gypsy
Swannanoa, North Carolina
Paddling Since: 1986
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 255
I'm a semi-pro kayaker and have no insurance. I sure wish I did, but let's face it - in most cases pro kayaking doesn't pay for shit.

You can get hurt doing anything. You are statistically more likely to get seriously injured or killed in a car accident on the way to the river than you are kayaking on the river.

That being said, I've had more friends seriously hurt or killed kayaking than I have in car accidents. Most of them occurred on class IV+ and above.

I think if you're working your way up the skills ladder and boating class IV and below your odds of having a serious injury in the next few years are reasonably low, probably lower than some other things you regularly do and think nothing of.

If you're dying to kayak, follow your passion.

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Old 03-26-2008   #4
no tengo
mania's Avatar
Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 1,768
does anyone have stats for accident rate for cars vs kayaking/rafting?
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Old 03-26-2008   #5
Fort Collins, CO
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 36
Originally Posted by mania View Post
does anyone have stats for accident rate for cars vs kayaking/rafting?
There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes.

In 2003 there were 6,328,000 car accidents in the US. There were 2.9 million injuries and 42,643 people were killed in auto accidents.

In 2002, there were an estimated 6,316,000 car accidents in the USA. There were about 2.9 million injuries and 42,815 people were killed in auto accidents in 2002.

There were an estimated 6,356,000 car accidents in the US in 2000. There were about 3.2 million injuries and 41,821 people were killed in auto accidents in 2000 based on data collected by the Federal Highway Administration.

For boating deaths, see Charlie Walbridges site on American Whitewater. Less then 12 per year or thereabouts.
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Old 03-26-2008   #6
atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4

Thanks so much for the quick replies.

I posted this question on another forum also and pretty much got the same responses.

I think I'll take some lessons first and see how much I like it before I spend a lot of money on gear and what not. I can't imagine myself not liking it though. I can't get enough of the water when I'm on a raft. The kayak has got to be that much better.

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Old 03-26-2008   #7
Laramie, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 1994
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 171
The biggest factor that is going to come into play in regards to injuries is going to be how hard you want to push yourself and what type of boating you want to get into. If you want to be a balls out creek boater running class V within your second year then I would say the odds of injury are considerable. Mellow river runnning and playboating is an absolute blast, can keep you challenged for a lifetime, make you an incredible boater, and build the skills that will make you a bad ass creek boater when that day comes and you feel comfortable with the risks involved. I forget who it was but when I was starting out I was told that the best, safest way to progress was practicing class V manuevers on class III water, whether it be eddyhopping/boofing or looping in your local hole. In playboating probably the most common injury is a dislocated shoulder, if you have had issues with your shoulders in the past or are nervous about that, lift some weights.
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Old 03-26-2008   #8
Gunnison, Colorado
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 73
Kayaking is an awesome sport. I'm sure you'll love it. Crap can happen anytime and anywhere, that's the spice of life. You could paddle a IV one day and get hurt worse jacking around on a II the next. The biggest thing is to just have common sense and paddle within your bounds. You will always have to push yourself, but do it reasonably and with other boaters who know what they are doing.
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Old 03-26-2008   #9
atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 4
Shoulder Worries

Actually I do have some concerns about my shoulder. It's only my left shoulder, and I think it's because I sleep on it. I try not to, but sometimes I just wake up on that side and my shoulder ends up in a little pain. I don't think it's anything major, but maybe I'll look into lifting some weights.

Any other advice with preventing shoulder injuries?
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Old 03-26-2008   #10
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 646
I see four ways that you are likley to get injured kayaking:
1) Gash on your hand or head that requires stitches. This results from running the tight shallow creeks we have in Colorado.
2) Dislocated shoulder in big water
3) Drowning
4) Accident while driving to kayaking

As other people mention, you can strongly control your risk by not being too aggressive.

Overall, it's worth the risk.

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