Kayakers call this type of accident ‘Entrapment’ (which in regular English is a juridical term…)
However, in the world of kayaking entrapment is described as a situation where the paddler’s lower body, or a part of it (E.G. leg, foot) is caught inside the hull while the kayaker is trying to retrieve it from there during a ‘wet exit’, that is while attempting to leave his or her kayak and swim.
Imagine yourself in turbulent water, your kayak overturned, you’ve been ‘pumped out’ of it (by gravity) or you’re just trying to perform a ‘wet exit’ – and you’re ‘entrapped’.
It’s not merely a stupid situation – it’s actually a very dangerous one.
How can such thing happen?
It’s a fact: Whitewater, sea and surf kayakers who paddle monohull sit-in kayaks (SIK) attach themselves to their boats with a watertight accessory called ‘spray skirt’. This garment is made from strong fabric, usually Neoprene reinforced with rubber, and it’s tightly secured both to the kayak as well as to the paddler’s body by various mechanical means in order to prevent water from leaking in, or the skirt coming out of its place. Being well secured is especially important during a recovery maneuver that such SIK kayakers perform called ‘Eskimo Roll’ – when their kayak is upside down.
As in other outdoor sports the rule of thumb in kayaking is ‘Stuff Happens’. Since kayaking accidents are by definition events characterized by the reduced control the kayaker has over what’s going on, it can happen that SIK kayakers remain attached to their kayaks against their will, I.E. they are ‘entrapped’ inside to some degree.
Such situations are particularly hazardous if the accident occurs in turbulent water (E.G. big surf) and ‘rock gardens’ (beaches with underwater rocks), which is often the case.
Why am I talking about this?
W Kayaks are not equipped with such spray skirts, and W kayakers don’t perform Eskimo Rolls, and so far no one has ever reported any W Kayak accident involving any degree of ‘entrapment’.
Nevertheless, I feel it’s important to explain this issue and discuss it because it highlights the necessity for accelerating the paradigm shift in paddlesports safety: Most paddlers today wouldn’t even consider using kayaks equipped with spray skirts anymore, and they have chosen to paddle stabler kayaks rather than ones requiring paddlers to have a ‘Bomb Proof Eskimo Roll’ (I.E. 100% reliable under all circumstances). In other words, people have generally voted against those sit-in monohull kayaks (SIK) that demand a high level of expertise in this overrated recovery maneuver that too few people can actually depend on. The problem is that too many kayakers out there still use that type of spray skirt without possessing a ‘Bomb Proof Eskimo Roll’, and by that are exposing themselves to the danger of being ‘entrapped’ in their kayaks.