Kayak Deaths in Door County

I’m saddened to report that my post last Thursday about drownings in the Great Lakes became eerily prescient just one day later. Two young men lost their lives last Friday while kayaking on Lake Michigan near Cave Point Park in Wisconsin’s Door County, where I often paddle. The following day a Green Bay TV reporter contacted the YMCA in search of someone who could talk about kayak safety, so the Y put her in touch with some of the ACA-certified instructors who teach kayaking at the Y. That’s how I ended up being interviewed for this news report:

Today I received a call from a reporter at the Door County Advocate newspaper. Like the TV station, she was also seeking information for a story about kayak safety. I’ll post a link to that story once it’s published. (Update: Here’s the link to the story in the Door County Advocate and Green Bay Press-Gazette.)

I’m willing to help with interviews like these to pass along kayak safety advice learned over the years from mentor instructors and through my first-hand experience. These types of tragedies will never be completely prevented but if we can reach one person before he or she makes a bad decision, it’s worth trying.

Additional update: At the request of Channel 5 in Green Bay, Daren Barrett and I demonstrated kayak safety rescue techniques. The reporter interviewed Daren for this story.


  • Ken, not only did you do a good job of providing appropriate information, but I’m shocked that the TV station did an excellent job of not editing out all the important points. We need this story to be done at every TV station around the Great Lakes every spring.

    • admin

      Thanks, Sherri. I learned from some of the best, including you. I agree that the reporter, Brittany Ford, did a nice job on the story and on editing my interview to retain some of the most important points I tried to make.

  • Carolyn Horyn

    I was thinking of doing the kayak tour of cave point with Door County Kayak in August. It seems pretty safe if conditions are good. But I have kayaked before. Is this a reputable company? All the comments I read on them were positive, what is your opinion?

    • admin

      I don’t have first-hand experience with Door County Kayak but I’ve never heard anything negative about them.

  • carolyn

    In general, what are you thoughts about a fairly physically fit per son (avid biker) kayaking for the first time at cave point park?

    • admin

      Fitness is important but, as I’m sure you can guess, it’s only part of the equation for kayaking at Cave Point. Other factors to consider: Do you have the right kind of kayak? Do you have the proper training and experience for Great Lakes kayaking? Do you have an experienced kayak buddy with you? Are you dressed for the water temperature, not just the air temperature? Do you know how to self-rescue and help someone else get back in their boat in the event of a capsize? Do you have proper signaling equipment? If you’re going on a self-guided paddle, the answers to these questions needs to be “yes”. However, if you are paying a kayak outfitter and going as part of a guided group, you can (hopefully) rely on the outfitter and your guide to provide the proper equipment and to judge whether your fitness and the conditions that day allow a safe day on the water.

What do you think? Please comment!