More Deep Trouble is another collection of death and disaster stories featuring sea kayakers, compiled by Sea Kayaker editor Chris Cunningham. More Deep Trouble is a follow up to Deep Trouble, and like the previous book includes the Lessons Learned from each event.
I mentioned More Deep Trouble to Tsunami Ranger John Lull. John has years of sea kayaking and instructing under his belt. He is the author of Sea Kayaking Safety and Rescue and has a keen, scientific mind (he is, in fact, a scientist). “I remember that book,” he remarked (referring to the first Deep Trouble). “It was all about a bunch of dumb people doing dumb stuff.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist.
Interestingly, Deep Trouble was referenced on this website recently in a comment which suggested that such stories stymie rational discussion of sea kayaking risks. The writer of the comment also seemed to suggest that people might be put off the sport of sea kayaking altogether by reading stories like those in Deep Trouble.
What is the merit of Deep Trouble and More Deep Trouble? Aren’t they just kayak-specific versions of the Darwin Awards? It does say on the back cover of More Deep Trouble that “thousands heeded Deep Trouble’s tales of tragedy” but how do we know? Moreover, is it possible that exposure to the dark side of sea kayaking could prevent people from taking up the sport in the first place?
Cautionary tales do have value. Consider this quote from Bismarck: “Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others”. When we study how bad things happen on the water we can benefit. For example, we can examine how we prepare for our own excursions in light of what we’ve read: what equipment we bring along, and who our paddling partners are. Most important, we can learn to think about what we’ll do when something goes wrong. A lot of kayakers never take that into consideration, like the young men in The Fifth Paddler, a story in More Deep Trouble about kayakers in Baja.
In the introduction to More Deep Trouble, Chris refers multiple times to the quality of being human. It is, after all, human to screw the pooch. Beginners err, but seasoned kayakers do too. Consider Sean Morley’s story in When It All Goes Wrong. Labeling ourselves as “beginning” or “advanced” kayakers is probably counterproductive. All these bad things happened to people who thought they knew what they were doing. Forget about what you know, or think you know. Humanity, vulnerable and prone to error, is the common denominator in all these kayaking debacles.
Reading More Deep Trouble we see how the all-too-human frailties of overconfidence, under-preparedness, and just plain thoughtlessness lead to disaster with monotonous regularity. What I’d like to hear now is how one of these stories prevented a tragedy, for example if someone wrote in to say, “Because I read More Deep Trouble, I bought and brought a VHS radio along on my last kayak trip and it saved my life when (blank) happened”. That would lighten the gloom and justify all the brave and selfless people who allow their stories to be told in the hopes that someone might heed the warning.
There’s more to More Deep Trouble than tragedy, though. In these stories we also learn about sea kayaking (and sea kayakers) in a variety of well-written tales. We learn about equipment we may be unfamiliar with but that could save our lives; each story is extensively analyzed in the Lessons Learned sections. We learn about destinations we may never visit and people we will never meet but with whom we share a love of adventure and of the sea. We vicariously experience exciting events like bear attacks, sudden storms, and heroic rescues. And if we read with compassion and impartiality we are reminded to check our egos at the put-in when embarking on our kayaking ventures.
Whether you’re a kayaker or not More Deep Trouble makes for entertaining, instructive, and in some cases riveting reading. Check it out! You can order More Deep Trouble by going to