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Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

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.

-Casey
 

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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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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.

Leland
 

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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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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks

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.

-Casey
 

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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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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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Discussion Starter #9
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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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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Several years ago, someone asked this exact same question on a post.

One of the replies was so good, I saved it:

Your level of safety while kayaking varies tremendously based on your personality. If you are a mellow person with good judgement, into scenic cruising and mild play boating and if you combine that with good instruction and safety training, kayaking will be very safe for you. Of course accidents can still happen but it will probably be much safer than driving to the put-in.

However, if you are like me (and most of my kayaking buddies,) and you are always pushing yourself, going for the gnarliest rapids you can find, and totally addicted to the adrenaline rush, things are going to be much different. Close calls and Injuries will be common. You will see friends die. And there is a good chance you will be killed yourself.

My advice: Live your own life, be who you are, and if you're like me... get a big life insurance policy, tell your wife you love her, and go have a ball. "Always remember... safety third!" and "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space."
 

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You could always stick with rafting...

I'm not trying to rip on kayaking... I wish I could kayak on something more than our class III(kind of) town run. But I have had my shoulder dislocate easily 3 dozen times. I had surgery once, and still dislocate my shoulder. It's an old climbing injury. I have trouble with bracing mainly.

In that light, I decided to get into rafting more. I've only once felt my shoulder close to coming out, but it didn't. I row mainly, and I don't feel nearly as vulnerable as when I'm in a kayak.

That being said, rafting can still be plenty dangerous. It just comes down to how willing you are to take things slowly and be smart about what you want to do, and how fast you want to push to class IV and V.
 

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you could think about the whole sport the way i think about each rapid:

does the fun factor outweigh the danger? if not, consider walking.
 

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The vast majority of the injuries I've seen on the river involved people with relatively little experience pushing themselves on class IV/V. While there are many people that can run and even style the hard stuff during their second or even first season, the fact of the matter is that these people are more likely to get hurt. Taking your time at the beginning and putting in lots of time on easy water with good people is clearly the safest way to go, unfortunately, for me and many others, paddling whitewater that's at the limit of my ability is usually the most fun. As said before, it depends on your personality and what you are looking for in the sport.
Compared to sports like mountain biking, skiing? etc, kayaking seems to result in fewer ER visits; being afraid of injuring yourself is not a good reason to not start kayaking. However, I've never had to deal with those mankfests in Colorado that I've seen in videos, but I guess you have to make deal with what you've got, right?
 

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Student Insurance

I'm also a local student over 25. I get insurance through my university. I've luckily only had joint pain and trauma from over training and bad form. In my experience if you don't play too hard for too many hours at a time and only run stuff that you feel mostly comfortable with you should most likely be OK. Get some insurance through your school, you can just add it to your loans if needed and then you can feel free to have fun.
 

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If you wait until everything in life is without some risk then you will be to old. That was my problem, I wanted to kayak for years but things were not right, one day I said the "He$$ with it" and took lessons. Should have done it years before, just go for it!
 

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I've always thought the most dangerious part of kayaking is just getting to the put in. But I also think if you're smart about how you approach the sport then you should be able to mitigate some of risk. You know, like making sure you can roll before taking on the big south is always a good idea. I also think you can mitigate some of the injury risk to your shoulders by doing rotator cuff exercises and by generally staying in good shape year round.

As far as the insurance goes--and I can't help shameless promotion here--check out my website at BenefitRiver Health Insurance. I started this company late last summer. It's my attempt at finding the balance between feeding my family and being able to spend time on the river. You can compare rates and purchase catestrophic coverage on the website. That said, if I were you I'd look at BCBS's Tonik. It is as cheap as you'll find and they'll pay for the ambulance rides (most others don't). Good luck

Craig
 

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General weight lifting is a good, but specifically Google rotator cuff exercises - stuff like internal and external rotations. Doing them now can really help prevent shoulder issues in the future.

To Mania's question: Depending on the source car accidents cause something like 15 to 17 deaths per 100,000 people. The overall rafting/kayaking/canoing death rate is something like 2-4 per 100,000. Rafting has a rate of .55 to .87 per 100,000 and kayaking is 2.9 per 100,000 (AW summation).

I posted a chart on boatertalk a while back with a bunch of other sports and causes of death but I can't find it now.

Check out this pdf, it has comparative accident and death rates as well as the most common injuries for both rafters and kayakers:
http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkm4uCetHPvIAmSBXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0dG83NnFlBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDOARjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA1lTMjE1XzExNg--/SIG=139ueg2u7/EXP=1206672046/**http%3a//americaoutdoors.org/pdf/InjuriesAssociatedwithWhitewaterRafting%26Kayaking.pdf

Overall most boating fatalities are due to alcohol and not wearing life jackets. But this is mainly the power boating and inner tubing crowd.

Rafters, canoeists, and to a limited extent kayakers, get into trouble when they are inexperienced and in over their heads. Kayakers who are really good and doing really hard stuff account for a large portion of kayaking deaths. The numbers don't show the same for rafters, but honestly that is probably in part because there aren't that many rafters running class V and V+ creeks. Also rafts don't tend to piton and trap people underwater.

The most common kayaking injury besides minor stuff like blisters and abrasions is shoulder dislocations.

Rafters most common injuries is from hitting something in the boat - like a t-grip or a cooler. Next up is hitting stuff while swimming. The pdf actually recommends that rafters wear face masks to avoid cuts and bruises. Maybe I should ask WRSI to sponsor me ; )
 

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I'm getting ready for my third awesome summer of kayaking. I paddle mostly class II and easy class III. Just do it man. Even if you're like me and don't go balls out. Of course I want to get into bigger water but that will come when I get completely confident in my ability to roll and brace. My advice, go buy some decent used gear take a lesson on wet exits, rolling, bracing, and getting into and out of eddies. once you have that find some other boaters to go with. You will love it, I promise. By the way I don't have health insurance either, but you can't let the possibility of getting hurt stop you. have fun out on the river
 
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