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What Is the Likelihood of Drowning for Paddlers in Small Boats?

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

what is the likelihood of drowning for paddlers in small boats

Enjoying boating experiences using small boats like canoes or kayaking is such a joyful yet exciting activity for those in love with watersports. Paddling across lakes and rivers will help you to savor the beauty of nature and relax after hours of work.

Even though this hobby is extremely popular among tourists, there are still many risks and threats while paddling. Hence, understanding the answer to “what is the likelihood of drowning for paddlers in small boats?” is important as it may increase the possibility of paddlers being alive in the case of boating accidents.

If you are looking for an article that explains this question thoroughly with real statistics, this is perfect for you. In this post, we will compile potential causes of drowning for paddlers who travel on small vessels, as well as provide numbers of related accidents under these categories.

Also, other safety tips for paddlers will also be highlighted throughout the article to help paddlers memorize this knowledge easier and stay safe. Continue reading to learn more!

Real Statistics and Cases of Drowning Among Paddlers on Small Boats


When paddling with small boats, you are twice as likely to drown, compared to those who travel by larger outboard motor vessels. In fact, according to the US Coast Guard statistics published in 2020, 45% of total boating accidents are reported to involve small paddle boats.

Surprisingly, 75% of deaths caused by small-boat incidents are the result of drowning. These numbers unexpectedly turn to paddle into such a dangerous activity. To be more specific, it is calculated that 20% of total deaths involve paddlers. Meanwhile, personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes and rowboats account for 31% of all boating-related fatalities.

With these shocking statistics, some boaters may immediately conclude that paddling on small-boats isn’t worth trying. Still, there are potential causes that significantly raise the probability of being in accidents and drowning. Let’s have a look at them in the next part!

Causes of Drowning Among Paddlers

According to USCG research, the leading causes of boating-related mishaps include lack of attention, alcohol usage, and infractions of boating rules. Nevertheless, there is a difference when it comes to boating fatalities.

Regarding fatal boating accidents, the most important factor is boat size; the majority feature small boats. This happens because smaller boats have more difficulties in maintaining stability when going on the sea. This is exacerbated whenever the water is turbulent.

The other primary cause of death is paddling. One in every five boating fatalities relates to paddling at the time of the collision. This is because paddling causes extra instability and irregularity, which magnifies the already significant potential of small-boat incidents.

Paddling is susceptible to human mistakes since it relies on a person’s understanding and expertise. Unfortunately, a minor error can lead to a major accident with a tiny boat, which typically leads to death.

How to Reduce the Risk of Encountering Accidents While Paddling

Even though paddling with small boats is likely to be more dangerous than traveling on big vessels, it doesn’t mean that you should completely stay away from this interesting activity. Don’t let their threats prevent you from enjoying the waves and the beauty of nature.

Hence, having crucial knowledge and skills on how to minimize the risks of drowning while paddling is very important. These tips below will provide you with some of the ways to stay safe in the case of drowning, therefore please follow them thoroughly:

  • Always wear a PFD or keep enough floating gear nearby. The use of a life vest is required by law in several places.
  • Never go paddling by yourself. In case of difficulties, it is advisable to paddle with a companion or small group. To begin with, practice using your boat in shallow water with guidance to strengthen your skills.
  • Make sure your boat is appropriate for your size, and don’t overweight it, since this might cause it to become unstable and capsize.
  • Before venturing out on the lake, check the weather forecast. Make certain that you are adequately prepared for a shift in weather.

For more information, check out this video:


Paddling in small vessels may still be a pleasurable and risk-free hobby. It’s simply that while people participate in these activities on their own, they tend to be risky. Just consider safety as your priority at all times so we can maintain sailing enjoyable and safe.

We hope the information provided will help paddlers to stay safe and have fun with their small boats. Did you enjoy the article on what is the likelihood of drowning for paddlers in small boats? Do you want to add anything else? Please let me know and leave a comment below.

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