A quick check of flooding coverage in Houston shows that kayaks, which have spiked in popularity for recreational paddling and fishing in the last decade, are now playing an important role in rescue efforts.
Part of the reason? They’re tough, easy to transport, and lots of people have them.
“They’re indestructible, they’re not inflatable so they’re rigid, and they’re easy to store,” says Cody Ackerman, head of the Outdoor School at REI-Austin. “To me the big thing is if you own a kayak, you also own some lifejackets. In these situations, that’s more valuable than a boat.”
In the last decade or two, kayaking has grown to become one of the leaders in outdoor recreation activities, he said. Kayaks typically sell for between $600 and $1,000, and more people than ever own them.
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“As people moved away from canoeing, kayaking has really become popular,” Ackerman says. “There are more options and prices are lower.”
Experts, however, warn that conditions are dangerous, and only skilled paddlers should attempt water rescues. Just because you’ve paddled on Lady Bird Lake doesn’t mean you should load your kayak and head to the coast.
If you’re in a flooded area and hoping to evacuate and have access to a kayak, though, consider strapping one to the top of your car before you attempt to drive out.
“If you get stranded, it gives you options,” Ackerman says.
And if you’re not an experienced paddler, stay home.
“I’m nervous about people taking kayaks who aren’t from there,” Ackerman says. “Not knowing the area, I”d be very concerned about where the water is flowing, and are you prepared to paddle that flow and not end up in the Gulf?”
One Austin man, Aaron Gonzalez, posted an online call Sunday asking if anyone in Central Texas had kayaks they would loan to help in rescue efforts. Later last night, he posted a photo of his vehicle, boats strapped to the roof, preparing to head out to help with rescue efforts. He could not be reached for comment today.