A man apparently drowned in the waters off Avila Beach on Sunday, June 18, after falling off his kayak.
According to the Sheriff’s Spokesman, Tony Cipolla, at about 5 p.m. Sheriff’s dispatch received a report of a possible drowning off Avila Beach, triggering a response from the Sheriff’s detectives, the Port San Luis Harbor Patrol, Cal Fire, the Highway Patrol and Coast Guard to find the man, whose name was being held pending notification of next of kin.
Normally, the rule of thumb is not to go surfing or kayaking on the ocean by one’s self but to have a “buddy” along for safety, or using the “buddy system,” as it’s called. That didn’t work in this case.
“A male subject reported he had been kayaking off the coast of Avila Beach with a friend,” Cipolla said, “when that friend fell out of his kayak. The man paddled over to him and found his friend unresponsive in the water. The man tried to help but was unable to rescue him. The man then made it to shore where he reported the incident.”
The call came in about 5 p.m. and searchers reportedly recovered the victim at about 7 p.m. Depending on the water temperature at the time, someone falling into the cold ocean waters doesn’t have a lot of time before hypothermia takes over.
In waters 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, experts say it takes from 1-6 hours to die of hypothermia. By contrast, it only takes about 30 seconds to drown.
It’s unclear how long it took for his buddy to paddle over to him in the water, but it appears by then the man was already gone.
Cipolla said the incident is being called an accident, and no foul play is suspected.
Kayaking on the ocean — or even in a protected area like Morro Bay Harbor — can be fun but is potentially dangerous. Anyone who wishes to kayak in open waters should not go alone and should practice getting safely back onto their kayak from the water.
Kayaks can be unstable and tricky to get back on top of. This is especially true when there’s a sizable swell or wind waves. The wind can very quickly blow a kayak away from a person in the water leaving them stranded, treading water and struggling to stay afloat even as the cold starts to wear them down.
Also, you should always wear a life preserver when doing any kind of boating, whether it’s a kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, or even going fishing in a small boat. Coast Guard regulations may require it, too.