Compelling self rescue story (lucky too)

I just got done reading this and thought others may be interested. Its a sober reminder of the dangers that exist, even when we are prepared.

This guy is an experienced paddler and took many appropriate precautions. In his reflection, he acknowledges some additional gear he will bring going forward though. Its good food for thought for any ocean paddlers.

maybe a dumb question
But l wonder if the organization was doing head counts. Or maybe losing track of someone for a couple of hours is normal in this event. I would not expect the organizers to realize the guy was swimming quickly in those conditions. But a couple of hours seems a bit long.

Not part of the race

– Last Updated: Jul-10-15 10:57 AM EST –

From his recount: "...I was capsized whilst doing a group down-winder, the afternoon before the morning of the MOC race"

This was a group paddle the day before before the race, not part of the race. It was not a truly organized event from my reading of it, although you have a good would think someone would have noticed a missing person at the take out after 20 mins or something.

maybe goes to paddling alone?
The mention of the safety boat being not far when he capsized had me thinking it was part of the event. If they were just out warming up, perhaps whatever head count might be part of the race had not started. And if he was.paddling without companions, no one would have been responsible for noticing he was missing.

That said, once a safety boat is on the water at all, people are likely to expect it to be actually performing full safety functions. This is an excellent cautionary tale for individual paddlers, especially how stuff can get torn away in dumping waves. It may also be a worthwhile read for the organizers of the actual event. It would be bad for them to have to answer questions about a fatality during the event, but at least they would be able to say they were keeping track of things out there and circumstances outran them. Having just an idunno with a safety boat in the vicinity would be much more damaging.

good read, thank you
The emotions he went through during and immediately after the capsize made me think of mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and how they can help re-focus during a crisis.

visibility in swell and surfski culture
The guy really kept it together in a worst nightmare situation. Here’s some context for those unfamiliar with open ocean paddling.

In your boat your head is less than 3 ft off the water, out of your boat you are 8" above the water. The swell was likely at least 6 feet. I’ve lost sight my partners many times in swell because unless you are both on a crest at the same time you are on your own. I can tell you paddling a couple of miles off shore in HI in 8’ swell and 25 kt winds is a little intimidating but absolutely thrilling.

Then there’s the difference between catching a ‘run’ and missing it. Every time you catch one that your partner does not, you move 100 yds away. Couple that with the everyman for himself surfski downwind culture. It’s like expecting your friends to wait for you skiing on a powder day.

Here’s a video from Last year to give you an idea of the conditions and remember, gopro footage flattens the waves.

4 meter swell he quotes

– Last Updated: Jul-10-15 1:17 PM EST –

not 6 feet, he estimated 4 meter swell.

For the non metric, that 17ish feet!

those conditions were deeply difficult
Pun intended, with the troughs.

I think the operative words are paddling partners. When line of sight is not going to be helpful, like here, the only way anyone will know you are in trouble is if you don’t show up at a designated time or meet up point. Can do it via counts from a a safety boat or leader, or assign buddies, but has to be one of these.

Paddling Partners - Equipment
I think folks who paddle in big wave conditions need to have the mindset that their paddling partners are not going to be able to save them if something goes wrong.

As mentioned in the story no one could see him. In 4M swell with breaking waves his paddling partners were probably having their own adventure.

I’ve only paddled surf skis a couple of times, but not real clear how you can do a rescue on a surfski in big conditions, maybe a T rescue? . I would think that aq rescue will end up as two people on a swamped boat in the waves.

l wasn’t even thinking on water rescue
Agree, sounds like the conditions were beyond that being feasible. I was thinking more alert-someone-with-boat-to-look-for-him type rescue.

Only in this case there was no one to do that. Granted it is not a certain thing to find a missing person in a big lot of water. But not knowing to look creates a great deal of certainty the other way.

self review

– Last Updated: Jul-10-15 10:29 PM EST –

edit: the title should be self rescue

In a surfski, other people do not help with a rescue. there is pretty much nothing they could do other than towing a boat or paddle back to you, which would be impossible in 17ft waves.. surfski are designed for easy remounting and big conditions. there is no boat to flood. all a partner could have done is try to catch his boat or call for help.

sounds to me
The only way you would be safe in conditions like that are to have a VHF radio on PFD or PLB or both. In zipped pockets plus tethered. Hopefully tether to radio would hold. 17 foot swell is pretty darn BIG.