What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Paddling , Rolling , Rescues , Surfing
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owenw
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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby owenw » Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:19 pm

Although I've now been paddling ocean racing skis for a while now, I still feel much more "secure" in any/all of my sea kayaks (especially the Taran or Nordkapp) in "interesting" conditions. I know my roll is pretty close to bombproof and practice it from time to time in rough/windy conditions.

I have 2 Stellar skis; an SR (Beginner/Intermediate) and an SES (at 41.5 beam it's definitely Elite). I'm fairly comfortable on the SR in most conditions and can re-mount OK; however, the anorexic SES is (for me) totally different. Remounts ok in glassy conditions - don't know about rough stuff as I'm not game/competent/silly enough (at my age) to risk it. I use the SES only in flatwater and for flatwater racing. I have assisted others a few of times in a 2 ski rescue by putting one foot into the other ski whilst alongside which stabilises both craft and have then assisted the other paddler back on. Infinitely more difficult than an assisted sea kayak rescue.

In conclusion, from my experience for solo stuff, in flat/calm conditions I can easily re-mount or roll so its line ball; however if bad enough to cause me to "swim" (moderate on "fat" ski, extremely rough in kayak) I'm much safer in the kayak. (Note to self: must practice those ski re-mounts more!)
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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Adamjf5 » Fri Feb 20, 2015 12:16 pm

Of course a kayak is safer than a surf ski.

Maybe a better way to ask the question is "in the hands of an advanced level paddler, what is safer a kayak or ski?" By asking the question this way, you can assume that the kayaker has a strong roll.

Personally I have never paddled a ski, but common sense says a kayaker who is attached to the boat via knee braces and spray skirt can't be generally be separated from the boat in challenging conditions and is therefore in a safer condition than a ski.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby owenw » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:12 pm

Adamjf5 wrote:Of course a kayak is safer than a surf ski. Personally I have never paddled a ski,

Never paddled a ski, yet you can definitively state the kayak is safer - WTF? You mention separation; you come out of a kayak, you are separated. However many ski paddlers (and it is compulsory in most ocean races) wear a leg leash and therefore remain attached. Further, it is interesting to note that in some recent ocean races, sea kayaks had to "buddy up" with another for safety reasons, whilst skis didn't. Mate I paddle both (and have done so for some time) and can advise you it simply is not a black or white answer.
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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby oiddad » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:28 pm

Owen,
If one was to swap to a ski for the first time what one would be recommended? Thinking of doing so if the right one 2nd hand becomes available that way if it's not for me I figure I can resell it to get my hard earned back.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby mick M » Wed Feb 25, 2015 7:10 am

Isent the 18X a decked in ski?

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Mark Sundin » Wed Feb 25, 2015 8:00 am

owenw wrote:
Adamjf5 wrote:Of course a kayak is safer than a surf ski. Personally I have never paddled a ski,

Never paddled a ski, yet you can definitively state the kayak is safer - WTF? You mention separation; you come out of a kayak, you are separated. However many ski paddlers (and it is compulsory in most ocean races) wear a leg leash and therefore remain attached. Further, it is interesting to note that in some recent ocean races, sea kayaks had to "buddy up" with another for safety reasons, whilst skis didn't. Mate I paddle both (and have done so for some time) and can advise you it simply is not a black or white answer.


So this is kind of the heart of what my original question was about. In the 20 Beaches race, admittedly in epic conditions (have a look at the pic below closely & you'll see just how big it was), 210 out of 304 competitors finished. Most of the DNF either turned around, or did one lap & said enough, probably a dozen were 'extracted' by the multitude of rescue craft.

Image

A few years ago in the same race, when it was open to all craft, about half a dozen sea kayaks were rescued, and in the post mortem it was widely considered that those guys had either badly underestimated their ability, or their gear, or both. There were rudder failures, imploded hatches etc. The organisers still remember the huge problems a flooded sea kayak presented to a rescue craft, and promptly banned them. A ski is way easier to haul onto an RIB, being light & with no floodable area.

The buddy system Owen talks about was my idea, to try & convince the ocean race people to allow sea kayaks back in to these races. To me it made sense, sea kayakers aren't the ruthless competitors that the ski guys tend to be, a team copncept with a safety element made sense, and two sea kayakers paddling together greatly reduce the chances of a support boat having to rescue a flooded boat; they should be able to sort it out themsleves.

The result was a field of - two - sea kayaks for the next ocean race, & the ocean race organisers promptly went back to regarding us as a bit of a joke.

But, Owen, Rhysie & Dru all echo what I have found speaking to any non-elite ski paddler. The difficulty in remounting whilst tired, in bouncy conditions, greatly reduces the window of conditions that most are prepared to paddle a ski. The 'just climb back on mate' thing is repeated like a mantra, but it's the elephant in the room, the truth is most guys wouldn't risk having to remount in serious conditions, in the same way that most of my padling partners would trust their roll. I bet less than a third of the field that even finished the latest 20 Beaches would have considered going for a paddle that day, only the prescence of the support craft made it a viable thing for most of us.

I'm not arguing one is safer than the other, just trying to make the point that some of the widely repeated 'truths', always need to be challenged, and not just accepted. As Owen says it's not black & white.

Mark.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Adamjf5 » Thu Feb 26, 2015 9:30 am

Last time my post didn't seem to work, so I am posting again.

I should not have said with surch certainty that kayaks are safer than surf skis, especially not having ever paddled out a surf ski- as was pointed out. But I still think a kayak is a safer vessel for the off-shore kayaking. It is horses for courses. In the surf zone and near the coast in warmer waters, sure I can appreciate surf ski is probably the most seaworthy in the hands of an able paddler. But off-shore in cold waters? Surf ski still the most safe? I find that hard to believe. The deadliest scenario I can think of is losing your boat in rough seas and high winds. It seems a surf ski is not a safe place to be in those type of conditions (emphasis cold water, high winds). I would have guessed that even in warmer waters, high wind environments a kayak would be safer than a surf ski, but it seems I may be wrong about that- given the responses here to my earlier post.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby mick M » Thu Feb 26, 2015 1:26 pm

After paddling with a bunch of clubies, i think mark is right, the re mount is the elephant in the room, most strugeld with the re mount, my poor role , even my re enter role was more efishant , mabe its just one of those overlooked skills that shold be practised more, and as mark has sead, sea kayaks in open water races are often misunderstood, i know this from beeing involved with the Gippsland Charger paddle marathon, which is back on in May , the other scrutiners thort we wold need more safty boats for the sea kayaks in the marathon.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby fer » Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:12 am

I dont think one is safer than the other, it all goes to the skills of the paddler. Both have dangers and safeties (the craft and the skills).
Having said that, most skis are paddled on closed waters so if those paddlers go out they will find stuff they are not used to. I would like to think sea kayaks are used mostly on sea conditions but I know that is not true, so they same will happen when they are taken out. However the distinction is how easy is it to fall from a ski as opposed to a sea kayak. That will vary according to the craft (there are skis that are more stable than many sea kayaks and sea kayaks that are tipier than most skis) but in general sea kayaks are more stable than skis.
If we take the unskilled paddler or the one that think is good but is not, the one on a sea kayak will feel more stable (in general, not always) and will more likely go where he/she may find him/herself with mud (or water) over his/her head and will need a rescue.
I also know that except a bunch, most paddlers on a race are not racers, they just do it for fun and if the conditions are 'big' (for their skills) they will try anyway because they paid the fee and that covers a safety net that will get them out of the trouble if the sh...t hits the water (that is when they capsize and their pants are washed). That safety net is not there when they paddle by themselfes. The bunch of real racers in general have the skills to not need supervision.
I remember when I used to compete in flat water kayaks (yes, many years ago) some of the races where on rivers with many motor boats around and even though many used to capsize they got out of trouble by them selves (swam to the shore, empty the boat and back to paddle) but those races were for racers, not open to general public... but I digress...

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby David Winkworth » Fri Feb 27, 2015 3:32 pm

Interesting post Mark...I don't paddle a ski but permit me to make a couple of points.

*Ski or sea kayak..whatever...skills are important. Ignore them at your peril.

*Sea kayaks are not race boats - they're load carrying tourers. With the exception possibly of the new breed of kayaks like the Taran, I find when trying to race a sea kayak they get a bit sullen. The bow lifts and that extra half km/hr just will not come. Having said that, many are well set up for rescues generally - all round deck lines, fitted hands-free pumps, good bracing for rolling etc. So, as long as you accept that a sea kayak is not a race boat, you can take your time to get to your destination.

*Deck lines: why don't skis have deck lines...or at least bow and stern loops? My brother once had to rescue a ski paddler and his craft on a bumpy wind-against-tide Swansea Bar in winter. A desperate situation he said.

*I like to think of a sea kayak as a craft you can live in. I've often had breakfast at sea and I've even fired up the Jetboil between my legs for a quick cuppa. Try that on a ski.

*Remounting a ski is difficult for some as you say but really, if it's re-entry on a ski or a sea kayak, your first shot is your best shot.

*'Not skis or sea kayaks but there's a lesson here: Remember those two SOT guys who drowned on Port Phillip Bay a few years ago? New boats, poor skills, light clothing, cold water and strong winds were the ingredients for that double fatality. Since then I've been doing a little anecdotal survey of SOT paddlers whenever I'm out paddling. I ask them two questions: Do you have a paddle leash and can you re-enter? Too often the answers are "no" and "never tried" respectively.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Mark Sundin » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:06 pm

David Winkworth wrote:Deck lines: why don't skis have deck lines...or at least bow and stern loops? My brother once had to rescue a ski paddler and his craft on a bumpy wind-against-tide Swansea Bar in winter. A desperate situation he said.


Bow & stern handles are starting to become part of the new designs, but decklines are universally missing. Why? The best reason I can come up with is that they just don't look cool, and I imagine you'd struggle to keep a 6m ski at 11kg if you had to include deck fittings & lines. And yes, their absence makes rescue ski-to-ski a very tricky thing in rough water. We've worked out a way to tow a ski using the footplate, but it took some experimenting, otherwise without a bow or stern anchor that's also nigh on impossible.

David Winkworth wrote:Remounting a ski is difficult for some as you say but really, if it's re-entry on a ski or a sea kayak, your first shot is your best shot.


Absolutely. The advantage we have as sea kayakers is a plan B, re-entry & roll, and plan C, paddle float re-entry & roll, neither of which drastically drain your energy as fast as the ski remount, which is Plan A (but which should really be plan O, for ONLY).

New stable entry level skis have broadened the base of 'athletes' who can paddle them, to the point where you no longer really need any sort of paddling background.

The Port Phillip Bay thing was definitely a tragic reminder of the dangers of a lack of education on saftey & self rescue.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Redback » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:41 pm

Interesting topic Mark, - thanks for posting.

I've been paddling (on and off) for more than forty years (starting as a cadet clubbie on spec skis) and I think I've paddled most types of craft out there at one time or another.

Personally, I feel much safer on a ski than in a kayak. They're swamp-proof, easy to remount (with caveats) and vastly more agile in rough seas.

I regularly go out on a ski (the SES is my weapon of choice) in conditions I wouldn't even dream of attempting in a kayak.

Remounting? Like anything, (rolling, remounting, paddling, whatever...) it's a skill which must be practiced and which requires a certain degree of strength and coordination.

For those that have the requisite attributes, I think a ski is the safer option, but the normal precautions must always be taken (wearing a leg-leash for example).

Insofar as learning to remount is concerned, - I was coaching a group of newish paddlers the other day and got them to do a remount in rough, but controlled conditions before we ventured offshore. Everyone of them tried to remount from the leeward side of the craft, - with very limited success.

When I got them to try it from the windward side, all bar one got back on first time. Simple knowledge like that can make a huge difference when you're battling green and white mountains several kilometres offshore.

Incidentally, for anyone thinking of making a transition from Sea Kayaks into Surf Skis, I thoroughly recommend looking at a Stellar S18S. Stable, slippery (through the water) solidly built, practical and versatile, - and it's got bow and stern handles as well as side handles built into the cockpit! It's a great boat.

...and to the person who said you need to replace skis every few years because they gain weight, - sorry, but that's actually complete rubbish. Skis only gain weight if they've been holed and repaired and/or not adequately dried-out.

They don't magically acquire mass without reason. The laws of physics still apply to surf skis...

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby oiddad » Fri Feb 27, 2015 4:51 pm

Redback thanks for the thoughts and a response to "which ski to begin with". I was actually looking at the Fenn Bluefin as a few I know were talking about it as a transition boat. I would hope I should not have too much trouble going from an 18X Sport.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Redback » Fri Feb 27, 2015 5:29 pm

There's no doubt the Bluefin is a good ski.

It's similar in dimensions to the S18S and lay-up-for-layup roughly the same weight. I haven't paddled them back-to-back, but my memory tells me they have similar levels of stability and performance. Transition from an 18X should be easy for either.

I found the (new model) S18S to easier to handle out of the water because of the built-in cockpit handles, but if you have long arms, that may not be a problem for you with the Bluefin.

Fenn have improved the cockpit markedly with their recent skis and the reduced hump-height has made their skis a lot more comfortable.

The last Bluefin I looked at still required tools to adjust the leg-length though. Maybe they've changed that now. I hope so, - I could never work out why they persisted with that inconvenience.

The last thing I'd point out is that because the S18S has storage hatches front and rear (which are surprisingly practical) it also has bulkheads front and rear. These add significantly to the strength and rigidity of the boat.

My advice would be to closely inspect both boats and trial-paddle them before purchasing either. You'll know which is the one for you after a short time in the seat.

Good luck!

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby owenw » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:37 pm

Add the Think Eze (or Big Eze) and the Epic V8 to the beginner, stable skis. Have carry handles to make carrying easier (as they are wide) and are fun to paddle and stable as aircraft carriers.

My good ladywife is a fairly experienced paddler of both sea and race kayaks (she paddles a Pace 17 and races a K1) but she absolutely loves going downwind, when the wind is up, on her pink striped Think Eze.
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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby fer » Fri Feb 27, 2015 7:49 pm

Mark Sundin wrote:
David Winkworth wrote:Deck lines: why don't skis have deck lines...or at least bow and stern loops? My brother once had to rescue a ski paddler and his craft on a bumpy wind-against-tide Swansea Bar in winter. A desperate situation he said.


Bow & stern handles are starting to become part of the new designs, but decklines are universally missing. Why? The best reason I can come up with is that they just don't look cool, and I imagine you'd struggle to keep a 6m ski at 11kg if you had to include deck fittings & lines. And yes, their absence makes rescue ski-to-ski a very tricky thing in rough water. We've worked out a way to tow a ski using the footplate, but it took some experimenting, otherwise without a bow or stern anchor that's also nigh on impossible.


Skis were for the elite, they know how to remount and they need to keep the weight to minimum because for them seconds count. The need for handles, decklines and other 'safety' items came for those that are not elite but would like to think they are. Dont have the skills but want the same as the tops keeping weight to minimum to gain a second that in reality doenst matter.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby owenw » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:09 pm

One of the other great things about a ski is their basic simplicity without any complications. They are made purely to jump on and paddle.

They are not designed for carrying gear, living out of, expeditions, exploring caves, running gauntlets or all those areas where a sea kayak excels.

However they are fast, light, easy to carry etc; but most of all they are just simply fun to paddle :D
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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby Camanche73 » Fri Feb 27, 2015 8:55 pm

I would look at worst case scenario-kayak worst case, capsize, lose hatch covers trying to get incorrectly stowed safety gear out, kayak sinks.
Ski worst case ends up capsized and have a buoyancy aid. (this doesn't account for hole in hull)

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby feraltek » Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:55 am

I've never paddled a ski so this is just an idea, maybe ignorant of considerations I know nothing about. Why not mold a few indented hand grips into the deck surface of the ski.

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Re: What's safer, a ski or a kayak....?

Postby schroeds » Sun Mar 01, 2015 7:16 pm

Which is safer? Safer in what conditions? With what skills level?

Whilst an interesting way to flush out the often half-baked and occasionally enlightened views, I don't see the validity of the question; who chooses between the two crafts based on their safety relative to each other? You either wanna go fast, you wanna tour, you wanna play or you wanna mix it up. It's like asking which is safer - touring or racing?

What I do know is with skills come safety. With skills also comes complacency. As we develop skills, we might head out in more serious conditions. It's just as easy to out-run your skills whether on a ski or a sea kayak.

So...what's safer? A sports car or a four wheel drive?


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