Visibility vs Conspicuity - Kayak Lighting for Kayak Fishing

Visibility vs Conspicuity: Improving Visibility on the Water

Promotional piece reposted from the Yak Gear blog on February 4, 2014.

Visibility is the basic word that the paddlesports industry uses to promote the products that make you visible. We have all heard horror stories similar to the Lost Pearl (Virginia Beach), Norwich Lake (Massachusetts), or Lake George (New York) story where kayakers go unseen by oncoming power boats and are knocked from their kayak, injured, or even killed.

The Products:

With innovations and product development in the industry, kayakers and kayak anglers have many different options to help improve their visibility. For example, the new Railblaza Visibility Package provides the safety conscious paddler with everything you need to paddle safer while on your next adventure. The kit is centered on one Railblaza StarPort Base and one Railblaza TelePole that have an attached orange safety flag – for daytime visibility – and the new NaviLux 360 Degree Light – for 360 degrees of nighttime visibility.

With other options such as the LuminaLED Utility Light (battery powered or rechargeable), the Yak Gear LuminaLED Flood Light, the Railblaza FlagWhip, and other visibility packages from industry manufacturers, access to these visibility accessories is becoming increasingly easier for all paddlers. In turn, paddling safety on the water is dramatically improving.

Regardless of all these improvements, there is no product that can guarantee you are ALWAYS seen on the water. All we can do is make visibility a cost efficient priority of yours. However, we think the visibility problem is solved once you install the visibility and safety accessories.

With visibility solved, how do you stay safe?

It now comes down to, what we call, conspicuity. How conspicuous are you? How much do you stand out? How much attention are you drawing to yourself? How obvious is it that you are there?

Visibility and Conspicuity are very different. Visibility speaks to whether you can be seen. Well, yes…you sure can be seen. You can be seen just like Waldo can be seen in every Where’s Waldo book ever published, just like every chameleon to ever walk the earth can be seen, and just like every Number Lock key on every keyboard can be seen. You’re right; you can be seen. But if you are anything like us, you know that Waldo always hides from you, chameleons are camouflage, and the number lock key always disappears when you go to use the keypad.

Conspicuity speaks to the likelihood that you will actually be seen! Without getting into a long, drawn out vocabulary lesson, let’s put it this way: Waldo has never been known for being conspicuous.

How to be More Conspicuous on the Water:

Once the visibility products have been installed and prepared for your paddle, there is not much more that we can do for you. It’s plain and simple – we made you more visible, now it is your turn to become the most obvious Waldo ever to paddle a kayak and reel in a redfish. Here is how:

1) Use the Products to their Full Potential

When you see oncoming power boaters near, do not assume that you have automatically caught their attention. Waving your paddle, flag, or lighting pole can help increase the likelihood that you are seen. The NaviLux 360 Degree Light comes with a “Directional Light Shield” that slips over the light quickly turning the 360 degree light into one focused beam of light, to be used as a flashlight type warning signal to others that you are around them. Likewise, the Yak Gear LuminaLED Flood Light can be used as a safety beam for notifying oncoming boaters of your presence.

The LuminaLED Utility Light has a Rapid Blink Amber or “Distress” setting that can be quickly switched to turn your kayak into what looks like a small scale night club or rave on the water.

Also, all Railblaza visibility accessories mount to a base featuring a quick release slide-locking mechanism that allows you to remove the flag or light quickly, sit or stand up, and start waving it around.

This is not only good visibility, it is good conspicuity.

2) Wear Bright Clothing

Cammo may be stylish and bright orange might be a color that you swore off in the 80’s, but wearing nature tones on the water is helping you no more than Waldo’s red and white stripe shirt helps him. There are plenty of name brand performance shirts that come in bright colors, including one of our favorites, Fish Hide, which integrates a neon stripe on the back of their shirts. Other articles of clothing that can help are hats, and bright color spare shirts/towels to wave around if you are in immediate danger.

3) Be Aware of your Surroundings

At Yak Gear, we use the phrase “controlled paranoia” to stay safe. Yes, paddling should be relaxing. However, always take note of your surroundings. Being aware and always looking over your shoulder will give you more time to protect yourself from any possible dangers. We know what you’re thinking, “I get it, but isn’t paranoia a strong word?” Yes, it is! However, the possibility of danger on the water is deserving of such a strong word.

For more on the legal side of visibility on the water, check out Legal Regulations on Kayak, Canoe, and SUP Lighting.


canoeing, gear review, kayaking, paddleboarding, safety

Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.

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