Standup Paddler Drowns In Lake Tahoe

A man drowned on August 23 after falling off his standup paddleboard into Lake Tahoe. Kenneth Campo, 42, of San Mateo, Calif., had both a leash and a PFD attached to his board—but not to his body—when he fell in the water and was separated from his board. The investigation into Campo’s death is ongoing.

It appears Campo “wasn’t a strong swimmer,” and that alcohol wasn’t involved, said Ed Lyngar, public information officer for Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“We know he went out and had the leash attached to the lifejacket. The board went one way, he went the other, he yelled for help and then went down,” Lyngar said.

Someone working on the shore responded, pulling Campo up from a depth of about twenty feet and then to shore. He was pronounced dead after being rushed to the hospital.

“I think cold water played into it,” Lyngar said. “We know from past accidents and from history that cold water, altitude and inexperience create difficult conditions for people that are not from Tahoe. The water’s about 62 degrees right now.”

Lyngar is increasingly concerned about the safety of the growing numbers of standup paddlers on the lake.

“We have been warning people about this for a long time. I never worry about the hardcore enthusiasts, they know they have to be safe. It’s always casual users that run into the most trouble. They don’t have fitness level, they don’t know the equipment and they aren’t using the safety equipment they should.”

After the accident, he sent a letter to the governor of Nevada urging him to consider life jacket laws and mandatory safety briefings for board rental locations. He said that the company responsible for this incident is “one of the better ones” in terms of safety.

The incident raises the age-old question: do safety precautions need to be put in place for those people that aren’t as experienced as others? What are your thoughts on leash/PFD laws? Leave your comments below or on the SUP mag’s Facebook page.

Photo Ryan Salm

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  • Ren

    Too Many LAWS already !! Do you want .. OR do you Need ..to someone else to tell you what is safe or not … when it is ONLY You at Risk ?!
    Sorry … I do not think so !!

  • Ryan

    If you’re open water paddling in the ocean, by law, you have to have PFD. I’d consider Lake Tahoe open water paddling so you should have to have a PFD. I’d say a leash attached to your ankle is good enough but if you hit your head on the board or something else you might not be able to use your board as a floatation device.

  • Stump.

    Check your facts on that statement about “open water”. Example-Molokai Channel or anywhere in Hawaii, seems they only want to put “laws” on areas that can be controlled like lakes where someone else can held accountable for accidents. An ocean wave washes a tourist off a rock, whose fault? Theirs.

  • Matt

    Even laws won’t prevent people from ignoring them. When’s the last time any of us actually drove from point-A to point-B obeying the speed limits. In this case, it would appear (from the limited facts) the individual ignored the fact he was not a strong swimmer and passed on safety. Yes, the leash would likely have allowed for a better outcome, but a law isn’t the means here.

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  • Tricia

    It doesn’t matter how many laws you have. The fact is, the rental business who gave the person the equipment, obviously, also gave him the pdf and the leash. It is the renter’s responsibility to WEAR the equipment he/she is provided with. The company is NOT at fault or liable. I can tell you I’m a strong swimmer and be unable to dog paddle but you won’t know that. There are no swimming licenses to show.

    People break rules, break laws and they cannot be policed every moment of every day.

    This was tragic, but completely avoidable had the paddler worn the safety equipment. MHO

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