Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I see a lot of mismatches in kayaking lately. I suppose they have always been there, but I am now noticing them more and more. To be clear, I am not talking about the matching up of a paddler with the right boat. I am talking about skills, the order in which they are acquired and in what order they are learned.

Once someone has a good handle on the basics and has a forward and somewhat decent sweep stroke and low brace, they usually start looking at going out in more challenging conditions. After all, they reason, they have learned and practiced T-rescues and can, should all fall apart, wet exit and be rescued. So it seems, at least in the calm conditions they have experienced. Now, they want to get out in the big stuff.

This occurred when I was giving a class at a symposium. The title of the class was Bumpy Water, and the men who showed up wanted to get out in those waves outside the harbor. I told them that part of the class would be a wet exit and a rescue. Sure, they all said, that would be fine. So off we went.

At first it was all bows to the wave as the white knucklers carefully paddled with somewhat rigid postures (a sure sign of discomfort in conditions). Gradually, as they acclimated to the water, I could see them relax. So, I started taking them more and more parallel to the waves with instructions on how to edge into the on coming waters. At first they could not understand how I could sit there and take photos while they struggled to stay upright. I assured them it was a butt-in-the-boat thing and would come with experience. Then it was time to do a rescue, and this is where a glaring mismatch really showed itself.

Over a man went as another charged in to do the rescue. But wait, this was in conditions that none of them had ever experienced and certainly had not practiced. What each of them discovered was that they could not get to the bow of the over turned boat. Try as they might, they would approach only to be washed away by a wave. Then, of course, it took for ever to turn around for a second go at it while the other man soaked in the drink. I ended up doing the rescue.

What they lacked was the ability to do a hanging draw stroke and to do one in waves. It was one thing to stay upright in waves but quite another to face one's work, get both hands out over the water and let the paddle support them as they drew up to the other boat (when I teach rescues I emphasize the importance of getting to the bow fast, on the first try, and to never let it go).

We all know that if we are in conditions of, say, #3 and want to try conditions #4, we need to do so in the company of paddlers comfortable in #5. If we want to go out in conditions it would serve us well to have rescue skills and to have practiced them in those conditions. That would be a good match.

Paddle safe...


RoyM said...

The other strokes class that they should have been doing BEFORE they went out to the waves is the 360 stroke class....until they are proficient at rolling, they really don't belong doing the surf thing.

going for the woopie...without the preparation....bad for all concerned.

Best Wishes

steve said...

I agree, rescues are an often unpracticed skill especially in conditions. Today I tried to get everybody in the water and out of their boats. Most just looked at me as if I had gone overboard, but some did and were better off for the practice

JohnB said...

Excellent post. WORD!!!

Silbs said...

Wow and thanks. I appreciate the comments and always welcome an 'atta boy from my mentor.

RoyM said...

agree totally, the reason I believe in the roll so strongly is that if you can't self are really no good rescueing someone else...

The learning of a good solid dependiable roll should be the desire of every dedicated kayaker and any kayaker that wishes to be of any service to others in conditions.

Best Wishes

SherriKayaks said...

Rolling is certainly an important skill for paddling in rougher conditions, but in Dick's class, the ability to roll would not have helped any of those students perform the rescue needed by the paddler in the water. When I was learning to paddle whitewater, a very astute instructor always urged me to practice "class 4 moves in class 2 water". In other words, you need to be perfecting your basic skills to such a degree that you are comfortable doing them even when the conditions get tougher and the consequences are more serious. If you can't do a super effective draw in calm conditions, you are not ready to move up to waves. Beginners should be encouraged to keep working on those basic strokes and rescues, but in ever bumpier water, preferably with a more experienced and skilled mentor watching over.

Silbs said...

Sherri, that is a great posting. Thanks.

RoyM said...

I agree Sherri

rolling would not of helped them put people back in their kayak in this point was that instead of going out to the glory of surf class...they should of spent some time working on their roll.

Because the thing they were asked to do...would depend completely on them being able to be proficient at self rescue first.

This is the case where two beginners trying to help each other can mean two bad stories.

They should forgo the glory wave riding and helping other people back into a boat in conditions until after they are at a point that they actually belong trying it in those conditions.

My emphasis is more on the safe continuing of learning in a sequence that makes more sence...that is total self rescue in conditions before being asked to help someone else...making the possiability of two victums.

Lifeguards , for example do many skills before atempting to rescue someone else....self rescue should...IMO be first.( and not just waving the yellow flag)

(all that being said, all classes have value as did this's just the order the classes are in that I dissagree with , first things first)

Best Wishes