Surfski Death in the US

Let us know what happened so we can all be safer paddlers.
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Mark Sundin
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Surfski Death in the US

Postby Mark Sundin » Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:51 pm

This is a terrible tragedy, and I'm posting it less in the hope that armchair experts are critical, more as a salient reminder of the need for a plan when paddling rough water in groups, ESPECIALLY where strong winds are involved.
So sorry to this poor guys family and friends.
http://skinnyski.com/notices/display.asp?Id=23697

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JohnA
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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby JohnA » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:45 pm

Very sad. I haven't had much to do with skis but it sounds like a very difficult situation to handle with just the one escort.

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby JohnA » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:45 pm

Very sad. I haven't had much to do with skis but it sounds like a very difficult situation to handle with just the one escort.

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Mark Sundin
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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby Mark Sundin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:06 am

John, I read this with dread having just completed a long trip where this type of scenario was our most identifiable risk and certainly my biggest fear.
Our trip took us offshore ranging from 85km to 130km, with big crossings every day. We paddled boats that moved faster than traditiona sea kayaks, in trade wind conditions mostly, using small sails which lifted the heavily laden boats and gave us cruising speeds of 9-10kmh. This is fast enough to put a kilometer between paddlers in as little as 5 minutes in the event that one capsized or encountered a problem.
We put in place protocols to deal with this. In the event of a capsize and failed roll, self rescue, a whistle blast, no longer than a minute after the event. Next step was a flare. Next step, no longer than 5 minutes was the VHF, which we were all carrying. Final step, no longer than 15 minutes was to set off an EPIRB, all either on our PFD or strapped to our bodies.
All three of us have years of rough water guiding and instructing under our belts so we are trained to watch out for our group. In the hurly burly of rough water paddling, where you tend to become self absorbed and lose all sense of time you're kidding yourself if you think you can just do this, it takes a lot of practice.
On the two occasions where one of us needed help the other two noticed the problem within a minute, that's how closely we paid attention to one another, and how small a group spread we were able to maintain. This was part of our pre-agreed plan for each days paddling, reiterated each morning before we cast off.
In keeping with the theory that most incidents occur before you leave the beach, we had discussed the scenario and felt we would have dealt with it whatever the catastrophe.
Our distance from help was obviously a factor in this level of preparation, but we shouldn't forget that there are days where even a couple of KM offshore might as well be the moon.
So sad.

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby James B » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:41 am

Thanks mark for posting this report. A very sad tale indeed. Your comments regarding group mutual support are spot on. Which is also supported by Matt B's article on his website. The other thing that comes to mind is the need to make ourselves visible in this sort of situation. In the article it appears that an effective search was mounted within a fairly short time from the initial report. Finding a head sized object, all the rest being underwater, in confused seas is very difficult. A strobe may have assisted. Even in day time they are very effective. Down hear on Port Phillip Bay some recreational fisherman last summer ended up in the water for many hours after their power craft capsized. They could see the searchers, but had no way of alerting them to their presence. Eventually they kicked to the shore after a long night in the water. If it had been winter they wouldnt have made it.

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby ewolin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:34 am

I know nothing about these boats, but apparently no one wears PFD's in them. Is this a sensible thing to do? Does everyone do this? And on fairly "big" water, no less, with large waves! I never go out on my kayak without a PFD, even if it's really hot (I just pour water over myself all the time). Am I missing something here, or are these people just taking big risks?

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby Mark Sundin » Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:45 am

The argument about skis & PFD's is that they're a surf craft, & the last thing you want to be wearing in the surf is a PFD, which prevents you from diving under waves.
It's not such a valid argument for ocean racing skis (as oposed to the traditional spec surflifesaving ski) which rarely go near the surf, even in the ocean racing series run around the country.
That said, our PFD are just buouyancy aids, they're not life jackets. They will help you stay afloat in the sea but not if you're unconscious or unable to swim. To an extent, in my opinion, they're a flawed safety aid, but practical if you want to have any sort of dynamism in your stroke, as well all do.
There was a test done in the navy survival pool published in Ocean Paddler a few years ago which really did demolish the argument that they're capable of saving your bacon in wild seas over an extended period, which a full life jacket will.
I actually think you're sitting in your best pfd, and not losing your boat, or not coming out in the first place is your number one priority.
When I paddle my ski I tend not to wear a PFD, but religiously wear a leg leash, after a scary incident in some big winds last year very similar to the tragedy outlined above.

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby Paddle Dog 52 » Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:34 am

sad story but if they left as a group they should have stayed that way. Going into rough water and no jacket on is a bad choice. I want to get a ski but I'll continue to wear my jacket and a VHF. I keep my VHF and cell on my jacket. In the winter in NY I take the cell and two VHF's knowing my luck. I keep one on the boat deck. Most don't wear jackets on ski's they may just keep them on deck. I guess it is OK in a Supervised close racing situation. Sad it cost him his life. I wonder what his last thoughts were?

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby Jmuzz » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:26 pm

Ski paddlers also arent wearing a skirt, baggy shorts, fleece pants, booties.
These can really impair your ability to swim, especially if the skirt is half way down your legs. Your legs may have also turned to jelly from being cramped up in the cockpit where ski paddlers legs arent cramped and are more active.

So you really do need that extra buoyancy in a kayak, more than a ski paddler who is dressed for swimming.

The smart ones will have a tether to the ski (a 6.5m long, 11kg ski will blow away like a leaf in the wind) and a PFD with PLB in it if heading into rough conditions.

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Re: Surfski Death in the US

Postby addseo1115 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:31 pm

like a very difficult situation to handle with just the one escort.
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