Over the last six months or so there have been a few incidents at sea during club paddles which compel me to comment on our Paddle Grading System and general preparedness of members embarking on club outings.
The club’s Paddle Grading System was developed by Gary Edmond for use by event organisers to “categorise” their particular paddle. It is of course hoped that members of varying paddling ability will then use it to assess the difficulty of the event against their skills and make a decision as to whether or not they are competent enoughto participate in that event.
With me so far? It’s fairly straightforward.
Ok, it is imperative that members are familiar with this grading system and adhere to it. We all know that sooner or late someone will travel 500kms or so to a club paddle rated as a grade 3 only to be told that the grade has gone up to No.5 due to sea and wind conditions.
What should that paddler do?… Retire gracefully, I hope, because it’s important that you know your limits and do not intentionally place your well being in the hands of others when you are clearly “out of your depth”.
So, before going on a club paddle, what about a little research. Get a map of the area, the larger the scale the better. Call the organiser and discuss the paddle. Ask them to give a “worst possible” scenario re the seas and weather. Watch the weather maps leading up to the paddle -call the Bureau of Meteorology recorded weather information. If you have trouble interpreting \’leather patterns, give a fellow member a call- talk to members who may have done this particular paddle.
Next, check your safety gear -you should practise using it in your boat too! You should have a paddling jacket accessible AT ALL TIMES and other warm clothing (Test can you put your paddling jacket and extra clothing on while in your boat in choppy or rough seas … without rafting up? Rafting up may not be an option in some sea conditions).
Do you have a pump? Can you use it and brace too? If you use a bailer, is there room between your legs to bail while seated.
A paddle leash is a must, as it a tow rope of at least 15 metres. Does your tow rope deploy smoothly when you need it. Are your towing points easily accessible?
What about the engine, your body! All the gear in the world is not much good if you run out of steam. Look at the required distance for an advertised paddle. Know your limits! Can you paddle the distance into a headwind? The ocean is a wilderness -it does not suffer fools gladly. At the moment, water temperature in my piece of ocean is around 10 ° C.
Please don’t make other members suffer through having to rescure you because of your bad preparation. Ok, sometimes things happen which even in hindsight are seen to be unavoidable. That’s alright -its why we paddle in groups. I suppose my beef here is that I don’t want the authorities to focus attention on us.
Let’s put our own house in order by getting as many members as skilled as we can. There are members in the club with skills to pass on and only too happy to do it.
Come to ourtraining days, ask questions and practise. Remember, T.I.N.S.F.T.I.Y.B. *)
Our Annual General Meeting for this year, we propose, to be held at the Rock & Roll Weekend at Honeymoon Bay on Saturday 4 November. The reasons are simple: it’s a great place and the Rock and Roll weekend is our biggest yearly gathering. We’ll have some more details on this soon plus advice on setting up your boat for rolling practise. Don’t miss the weekend.
*) There is no substitute for time in your boat.