When paddling in
rough water one of the greatest issues is COMMUNICATION.
- the need to
pass information back and forth while paddling
clear protocols for decision making and goal setting before and after
hitting the water.
in the group must understand the role they play, other
paddlers’ abilities and expectations. By recognizing levels
of skill, fitness and comfort zones a lot of grief can be avoided.
is to lead, what route, escape routes identified, rescue and towing
techniques to be used, all need to be discussed and clearly understood
doesn’t always mean taking the lead at the front of the pack.
However, it does mean fostering a clear and transparent exchange of
information within the group and acting decisively when a quick
decision is needed.
As a leader
remember all group paddlers are equally entitled to feeling safe and
having fun while on the water.
minor equipment failures can become epic catastrophes in the wrong
conditions. Things can get very quickly out of control in rough waters.
failure in rough seas can have a devastating effect, so it is important
that you choose quality gear and that you regularly maintain it.
wherever you paddle, always turn up with your boat and gear in full
aim is ‘not to avoid all risk all the time’, but to
clearly identify potential dangers and then manage them accordingly.
There is always a risk in sea kayaking, the goal should be to minimize
it. It can be a fine balancing act. If you avoid every risk it can be a
very tedious and unsatisfying paddle for all. You need to understand
and accurately estimate the level of risk and weigh that danger and
possible consequences against the rewards of proceeding. Some key
considerations are weather, sea conditions, air and water temperatures,
paddler confidence, levels of fitness and paddler skill levels.
Do not become
good getting out of perilous situations, rather learn to avoid them in
the first place.
sometimes a huge difference between perceived risk and actual risk.
The question you
ask yourself is “is it worth the risk”.
‘What is your
Plan B option?'
Make a note of
other landing spots along your proposed route that are suitable exit
is the single biggest factor when paddling. It constantly teaches us
humility. An unwillingness to accept conditions and adapt to them most
often gets you into trouble. For multi-day trips, schedule in extra
days in case of bad weather.
decisions stem from having no other viable options. Always have an
use a Float Plan. It will give authorities a good idea of your intended
route and a huge advantage to search and rescue teams who can organize
a more focused search pattern should you fail to arrive at your
technique that keeps a paddler in their boat is vastly superior to one
that involves a wet exit.
separated from your boat is a distinct and scary possibility. In
addition seas can become so rough that performing an assisted rescue is
impossible. Keep a death grip of your boat and your paddle securely
leashed to your boat. In rough conditions your boat could be less than
1mm from your finger tips yet lost for good! In extreme conditions you
may see a fellow paddler nearby but it does not mean you can lend any
Never paddle in
conditions you have not practised in.
rough conditions assisted rescues can be terrifically hard on gear and
positively hazardous to fingers, hands and feet. Just about any body
part can be easily pinched or crushed between two boats. Boats will
rise and fall with waves and can crash together alarmingly. Perform
assisted rescues quickly, style does not count. Re-entries can expend a
lot of energy, particularly when a sudden burst of power is required.
If you want your paddling ability to include heavy conditions and to
assist others who are in trouble then you should maintain an
appropriate level of paddle fitness.
rescue is an all round strong technique. It is quick, dependable and
can be performed in most heavy conditions. It has the advantage of
emptying water from the cockpit before the paddler re-enters. It should
be one of the cornerstones of any kayakers primary rescue techniques.
Side by Side
is one of the quickest methods to get a paddler back into their boat. A
rescuer stabilizes the other paddler’s boat by strongly
committing their weight to it and establishing a very firm grip of the
coaming or deck lines using both hands. The rescuer should drape
themselves over the swimmers boat to position their armpit over the
raised centre line of the other boat.
sling creates a step-up into the kayak cockpit. As for other rescue
techniques this method should be practiced often so it is fast to
deploy and reliable. Any rescue technique that requires fiddling with
knots or complicated set-ups will not work in rough seas.
This method is
potentially dangerous in rough conditions because the swimmer is
positioned between two boats.
rescue is exceedingly difficult in rough conditions. It may however be
the only option for a totally exhausted swimmer or someone otherwise
incapable of re-entering their boat.
This is a time
consuming weak technique and is completely inappropriate in rough
Part contents of this discussion paper has been taken from
‘Sea Kayaking Rough Waters’ by Alex Matthews.
The book is available from the club library.