Subject 14's Experience

Debra S. – Paddler and Non-Swimmer

Debra is a non swimmer but loves kayaking and has been kayaking since 2013. She’s been on boats but finds it’s not the same as when you’re actually handling the craft yourself and are 100% responsible. She took a kayak course, ALWAYS wears her lifejacket, carries a safety kit and cellphone with her and always has at least two people with her when she heads out on the water, because she feels that if one friend gets in trouble, she won’t be able to help them.

Watch Debra S. go through the experiences below.

Stand-Up Paddleboard
Fishing Boat
Cold Water Tank
Warm Water Tank

Debra has always been a strong advocate for lifejacket wear. She states, “My lifejacket comes on as I’m stepping out of my car. I don’t wait till I’m in the water. That thing is all tightened up and everything’s done. And I check that I have my whistle on the lifejacket. Cell phone is in my dry bag. I have my safety kit, and everything is at my fingertips.”

If she’s getting on a boat that somebody else is maneuvering, she’s the first to ask, “Where’s the lifejackets?” She would then get one if one wasn’t offered to her, check it out to make sure everything was working, and put it on to make sure she knew how to use it because she says, “I’m not waiting for somebody to save me, I want to be able to save myself!”

Being a non-swimmer, Debra is not afraid of water, but she likes to know as much as she can about a subject that she has no control over. “I’ve seen the whitecaps on Lake Simcoe. I play it really safe. I have an app on my phone. It tells me about wind speed and wind direction.”

“I’m not waiting for somebody to save me, I want to be able to save myself!”

Debra thought the Virtual Reality (VR) experiences were a very good representation of an unexpected immersion. She stated “I'm paddling away, and then suddenly I fall and I'm like, wow, this could happen in a split second. And in real life if I didn't have that lifejacket. I'm toast.”

With the 2 dunk tank experiences Debra felt a complete fear of the unknown. She knew she was going underwater but didn’t know when. She is normally a calm person and doesn’t panic but the fact that she didn’t know how to swim, she fell in unexpectedly and she was underwater in cold water – those factors combined made her panic.

“Wear life jackets because they save lives. So, wear them.”

Debra stated due to fear she felt helpless. “My feet were not touching the bottom and I’m lifting my arms up - I opened my mouth and I started actually breathing in the water. And then it's like, okay, I need to get the pool noodle and kept trying to grab it and was in a panic - because even a second feels like 10 minutes when you've taken in water. And I think it's that panic mode that your brain goes into, and it says you can't help yourself."

After going through the 4 experiences Debra says that her commitment to lifejacket wear went from 100% to 2000%. She stated, “If the dunk tank temperature was Lake Simcoe in June, I don't even want to think about it, because we start in April with our kayaking and we end in November.”

I tell people all the time “Wear life jackets because they save lives. So, wear them.” She also says “I know you want a tan, but seriously, it could be the last tan you get. And then you have the hot doggers on the Sea Doo’s that decide to do circles around the kayaks and then you end up with these waves so you don't know when you could tip over.”

“And if I did tip over, and I felt I could not get out of the water on my own and somebody had to rescue me, then I would have my lifejacket to save me. And if I didn't have my lifejacket on, I think I would be dead.”