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Safety Practice

Discussions about safety techniques almost invariably include comments about how difficult or impossible it was to do various things in the “heat” (or cold) of real rescue situations particularly with such occasions occurring in rough weather and water. But it is not clear to what extent such techniques are impractical or are just inadequately practiced. Ask any professional rescue worker about the importance of serious practice and repetition of rescue techniques and what do you think they will say? What should we expect from amateurs who rarely if ever practice towing someone on the back of their surfski in calm or rough water and who rarely if ever practice calling with their radios in calm AND rough weather?

If you want to have a reasonable idea about what works for you under what circumstances you absolutely have to practice whatever safety technique you expect to be able to use - on a regular basis. You can start out in calm conditions to get such procedures well thought out and memorized - then gradually take them out for trials in rougher conditions (with enough safety backup for insurance) to see how well they hold up and whether your methods and practice need to be modified, simplified, etc. to give you maximum chance of success in difficult circumstances.

Techniques to Practice

Self Rescue Technique Descriptions

Rescuing Others Descriptions

[suggestions for additions and changes would be very welcome here]

Self Rescue Practice

  • Remount - this may seem like one of the most obvious no-brainers. But we have seen a number of very skilled boaters who rarely fall in the water turn out to have pretty miserable remount technique simply due to the lack of practice they get because they so seldom fall in the water. This is not a skill to be taken for granted. Nor should it be assumed that it transfers equally from one surfski to another. Surfskis can vary greatly in ease of remount. You should practice remounts with any new or borrowed surfski before venturing into rough water and/or harsh conditions.
  • Paddling without a Rudder - for an OC this becomes the equivalent of paddling a V1 - probably a worthwhile exercise in boat handling and steering with a paddle. But for a surfski, you lose your steering and take a significant loss of stability. What/How much can you do to paddle to shore without a rudder?
  • Simulate Broken Steering Cable - try jamming something into rudder/boat gap to fix the rudder parallel to boat and see how well steering works. Also test temp bungie fix to allow 1 foot steering - both systems that are mounted on the back of your boat and setups that loop around the stern then attach to the rudder yoke. (Note - there is nothing to hook to on most OCs or Vegas that use common OC steering setup unless someone adds attachments to the sides of the steering cap - there is no yoke or T like most surfskis have).
  • Paddling with 1/2 paddle - simulate broken paddle
  • Paddling with feet out - for any situation when more stability is needed. One foot out on either side or both feet out. How well can you steer and make progress? Does the well depth of your ski allow your feet to be easily kept in the water. Can you adjust how much your feet and legs are in the water as necessary to adjust for more speed and less resistance?
    • Changing paddle length - Does changing you paddle length help? Is it a good idea to risk separating your paddle or getting it out of alignment in a high risk situation? Can you mark you paddle to give a warning before you pull it too far apart? Can you mark it so you can see where your preferred alignment is even in rough conditions?
  • Swimming prone on boat (right side up or upside down) - technique for lost or broken paddle.
  • Swimming - lost boat. How easy/effective is this? with PFD? with Paddle? on your back or belly? With your winter wetsuit? In a drysuit (try lying on back and paddle with and without your paddle)?
  • Using any kind of location device
    • VHF
    • Flares - test one of your current vintage to see if it works and you remember how to use it?
    • Strobe
    • Streamers/Dyes
    • Whistle/Air horn
    • EPIRB/PLB - is your registration (if required) current and can you describe how to initiate rescue signal? If there is a test mode, can you engage it and does it work?
    • If you have SafeTrx installed on your mobile phone, can someone at home track you, tell if you are off course/stopped and communicate with you (and you with them)?

Additional Rescue and Rescue Avoidance Techniques

  • 3 strokes then a brace - this is Boyan's drill for emergency paddling to keep some momentum while staying upright. It gets you practice for your brace on both sides (do you neglect one side due to feather?) and gives you a mantra to focus on and help keep going in turbulent water.
  • Throwing your legs out for stability - some prefer both legs on one side for the best stability (Oscar C. & Boyan Z.), tuck your paddle under one arm near the blade for a long moment arm of stability and being able to use both hands. With some practice which do you find more effective in rough water?
  • Sculling on either side with your wing paddle - a very handy skill to have when you are not moving forward and want to stay upright
  • Ability to stop quickly by either falling in or throwing your legs out in the water as if you have to stop to keep from running into something - see how fast you slow down from either. This response needs to be automatic when you really need to stop.

Rescuing Others Practice

  • Location Devices - this applies to rescuing others as well as rescuing yourself.
  • Group Tracking - can you use SafeTrx or some other group tracking app to locate a group member?
  • Assist a ski with a broken/lost rudder - do any of the rescue assist methods work for this? rafting together with 2 or 3 surfskis? Is is better for the broken ski to be towed and have the paddler carried on a rescuer's ski?
  • Rafting with surfski where paddler is in boat but needs help - keeps falling in or has lost paddle, etc. 2 and 3 ski rafts.
  • On Boat Carry - for paddlers who have lost their boat or cannot remount
    • Front of boat, Back of the boat - which works better? May not be the same for all surfskis given differences between amount of flotation in front and back of different surfskis.

Safety Olympics

Discussion 2020

Staging competitions for safety techniques has a number of potential advantages:

  • Have safety backup provided by other participants
  • Always good to have another opportunity to practice
  • The additional stress provided by competition may create at least in small measure a bit of stress like what accompanies real life rescue circumstances (though obviously the stress element is very hard to simulate and one of the most difficult aspects to deal with in real life situations)
safety_practice.txt · Last modified: 2023/06/03 12:09 by preavley