Body Armour - Why do or don't you wear it?

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boatin stuff

Post by Alden » Tue Apr 27, 2004 2:47 pm

Today I'm definitely going to the store to buy some more lacrosse gear.

A good friend just broke a rib creeking (he didn't even really flip, just smacked a rock at high speed while leaning apparently -- i didnt see it happen). This guy is definitely a better boater than I -- and his ribs definitely have a lot more "padding" than mine do!

Also, another expert paddler I know just chipped three teeth and ripped up her face on a shallow run. So now I am also going to look at helmets with a chin guard or facemask. I must admit, part of me does not think the facemasks look very cool, but then again I felt that way about elbow pads at first, and now I love wearing them.

It's funny -- the places where you usually see people wearing facemasks are on easier rivers (like the West or the Dryway in NE) where there are lots of paddlers who are not necessarily good, but who take safety very seriously.

I rarely see facemasks worn on the harder, more dangerous runs, and I have never seen a boater whom I would consider an "expert" wearing one. Never. very strange -- but "who cares" is fast becoming my attitude this year, with all the injuries to people I know.

I want to thank everyone on here for the good suggestions regarding gear and safety, I think it's been a meaningful post for me.

Matt Johnson
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some more thoughts

Post by Matt Johnson » Wed Apr 28, 2004 6:38 pm

i believe that it all depends on your personal comfort level. if you feel safer with the body armour on then you should wear it. some people feel that it isnt necessary. if you feel safer on the river than it is better to wear it. for some people the extra protection may make them feel more confident. i guess what i am trying ot say is if you feel you need it wear it if you dont fee lyou need it dont.


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Craig Smerda
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Post by Craig Smerda » Thu Apr 29, 2004 12:19 pm

....when we where kids we used to build these huge plywood ramps with cinder blocks under them to the height of about 4ft. We would jump on our (pre-bmx) bikes and barrel down the hill towards the ramp launch into the air and usually wipe out 50% of the time. Knees, elbows, shoulders, and ocassionally your "little buddies" usually took a beating. We where young rubber people that didn't wear helmets or pads, and had no clue what the word "concussion" meant. It was fun.... we also used to tear through the woods with the same vigor.. avoiding trees, catching roots and the like... now they call this mountain biking I believe.

I'm not a safety freak but as I "mature" (ha!) I see the value of a little protection. I wear elbow pads about 70% of the time now when boating, but that's about the extent of it. I think the biggest factor for folks is vanity. We would just rather look cool than be safe. Your pfd and helmet provide some good coverage, one area I typically trash while creeking is my hands... now NRS? has some creeking gloves out there... I might look into these. Bloody knucles suck!

Hope you found this at least entertaining...

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Post by Don Williams » Thu Apr 29, 2004 9:49 pm

I'm pretty much in the middle of the protection while paddling range. I wear a good coverage kevlar helmet made with cloth rather than some of the roving and chopper gun models on the market, now a Seda previously one made by John Kaz. No face mask (I do have some friends who paddle hard stuff who use them), perhaps because playing football made me very paranoid about getting it pulled by something.

I always wear some kind of glove on my shaft hand unless it is a very deep water river, for steep stuff I go for the pair. After some scrapes I finally learned my lesson after bloodily planing my knuckles after flipping at Triple Drop on the Upper Yough. I'm splitting the purchase of a pair of the NRS Kevlar gloves with a lefty boater so we will each have one for our shaft hand.

No elbow or shoulder pads, they just seem like too much bulk and weight for the protection offered. I have taken some pretty hard hits and scrapes on my shoulder so perhaps I'm just a slow learner. I also carry a throwbag, tow harness and a dry bag with a few medical supplies.


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Bruce Farrenkopf
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Post by Bruce Farrenkopf » Fri Apr 30, 2004 3:50 am

If you've been paddling awhile and not gotten hurt, you are either fortunate or very highly skilled or both. Emphasis on fortunate. As for the rest of us unlucky klutzes a little extra protection can be handy :) .

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Post by Larry Horne » Fri Apr 30, 2004 5:28 pm

Longboatin, I would have to dissagree with you about the speed in boating. If you have ever been window shaded in a hole, with a submerged rock in the path of your head, face, or elbow.................But I know, a good boater would never let that happen.
theres a cool chart that calcs the speed and impact forces of those who choose to run waterfalls at
I personaly don't wear as much protection as I should, but for you to think you are in that much control during a flip or a swim seems a bit naive to me.

grey towel

creeking gloves

Post by grey towel » Fri Apr 30, 2004 6:47 pm

Hi there from the other side of the pond,
could you please give me more information on Creeking Gloves. Over here in Scotland most of our paddling is on shallow rock studded Burns " narrow rivers" and my hands take most of the punishment .Any information would be most helpful.
Received 2003 DVD from Bob Fries really enjoyed it .
Take care out there Dave

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Bruce Farrenkopf
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Post by Bruce Farrenkopf » Sat May 01, 2004 3:44 am

Grey Towel,
Check out the 'Creek Glove' topic on this forum. Just scroll down on the topics and you'll find it.

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protective gear

Post by NZMatt » Mon May 03, 2004 8:03 pm

Howdy folks,

An interesting topic...and not one without differing opinions. When I started kayaking I went from paddling class II to class V in just 2 seasons....I noticed some of my friends (including Karl Gesslein...aka lunatic if you don't know of him) wearing elbow pads and asked why. One of the explanations was that it gives you an extra safe point of contact if you have to slide down some rocks or take a hit. I've been wearing basic roller blading elbow pads ever since when creeking. When I swapped to OC1 and then C1 nothing changed....I still wear elbow pads when creeking or on runs where I think they'll be useful. I have taken a number of hits on these and also noticed a few times that the hits don't really center on the small hard surface of the roller blading pad, so now I've got my eye out for some motorcross elbow and forearm pads as soon as I find some that fit me and are comfortable.

Last season I bought a face guard which I modified slightly to fit my "half cut" Cascade helmet. I say "half cut" as this still provides more protection than many other full cut helmets...and it's built to take the knocks too. Highly recommen these helmets if they fit you. I bought the face guard when I found it at an end of season sale for half off. I'd been thinking of one for a while and considered that that was someone's way of telling me something. I now have it set up so I can put it on the helmet for creeking or take it off for general paddling....the long term plan is to get another helmet and have the face guard mounted permanently on one.

A friend of mine ate a rock a couple of years back....fortunately no serious damage....he was kayaking and tried to hold the brace too long (sometimes it's better to tuck and take the roll) and got pulled back a little so was slightly on his back deck and open when he eventually flipped...straight into a rock in the middle of a class IV drop. I think it the rapid is called Fat Lady (It ain't over until....) on the Independance in NY. I've heard that a number of boaters have had issues with this drop.

As to full body or shoulder armor? I'm not convinced yet, but I can definitely see how it makes sense as the shoulders are very exposed and I've definitely taken hits there. Mobility would be my biggest concern.

As C-boaters I think some padding is even more important than for the high brace is ineffective in very shallow water, so it's hard to prevent offside flips, and since we are higher, we are also more exposed when we are upside down.

I think skills and judgement are also important and should be considered first. Is this really something I want to run, something I'm ready for? The human factors (to quote my avalanche instructor) are huge considerations too. I know I'm getting more conservative as I get a bit older and it takes longer and longer to heal (messing my back up taught me that if nothing else did). Something to quickly consider before I wax lyrical any longer...sometimes we should tuck and roll.....sometimes we should do everything possible to avoid the flip....and sometimes we have no choice in the matter

I don't generally wear gloves unless it's for the cold, but haven't really trashed my hands before....except from rubbing against my boat occassionally. I guess when I creek it is normally cold....

Stay safe and have fun


PS. Martin....just read the other post....hope the recovery is swift! You asked about protective PFDs Stohlquist used to make a PFD with integral body armour....not sure if they still do. They had a Tao Berman drytop too, which might have had some protective stuff built in as well. Again, not sure if they still make it
NZMatt country, new rivers...-
Still not enough c-boaters....



Post by Ronnie » Mon May 03, 2004 10:54 pm

I was on the local creek this weekend and decided to go in full lacrosse protection to experiment with the usefulness of excessive sports protection. I also like to look like a geek occasionally. The overly sized cloves proved to be in the way and would be useless during most river scenarios. I found the elbow pads to be unrestrictive and they are low profile and can slide under or over a dry jacket. I would recommend them to NZMATT if he is looking for something unrestrictive. Being a northeasterner and living in the lacrosse Mecca you should easily find something cheap at any sporting goods store. As for the chest pad I didn’t have any impact to the shoulders and mine are not low profile like most other lacrosse chest guards. I didn’t find them restrictive but the ones in the link seem to be lower profile. As for the cascade lacrosse helmet that just made me look like a geek. It was just a helmet like any cascade whitewater helmet with a face mask. It did have a buttoning chin strap which I don’t know if it is a health hazard or not but I had no trouble with it.


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the great gonzo
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Post by the great gonzo » Mon May 03, 2004 11:29 pm

Matt, thanks for asking, my recovery is going really well, the doc told me to toss the immobilizing sling 10 days ago and I started physio right away.
I have been 5 times so far antd the progress I made in this short time is just mindblowing. I do all the execises my PT gives me 3 times a day and it shows! She told me that she has rarely seen someone recover as quickly from a shoulder injury.
I think I will be back on the water before the end of this month.

I am still checking out the options as far as armour is concerned, but I will definitely get something for paddling shallow and steeper creeks.

Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing - Henry David Thoreau


Post by Longboatin' » Thu May 06, 2004 1:50 pm

Good thing all yin's got your body armour, because I'm stickin' to my guns. Apart from this posting, I have neither seen nor heard of so many boating injuries. Mind you, i have run multitudes of trips down the Yough at scrappy-butt summer levels, with guests possessing questionable to zilch skills, and not an injury. I can fathom an injury happening to a flailing raftoid, but not a private boater, a boater supposedly studied in boating. Hey, I can also agree with Larry above, that large steaming pile of dog doo happens, that a river is a powerful, unpredictable force, but just the same we should be asking, what can I do to better utilize that force. Skills people. I think that the corporatization of boating, especially in the realm of playboating, has diluted general river-running skills. Nearly every time I go boating, I notice people just bashing down the river between playspots, like they have no idea what a clean line even looks like. They might know how to flip around in a hole, but the rest of the time they appear to run straight down rapids, and everything else be damned. I call for a strenghtening skills, rather than a blind reliance on crutches. When i see someone post a laundry list of injuries, I feel badly, but I also feel compelled to ask, what are you doing, dude.

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