Editorial [37]

By David Whyte

We are starting off the new year with a bit of colour and its not just in the pictures. I have finally got around to having one issue with a colour front cover. Thanks to Quick Print in Canberra for helping me sort it out.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the trip leaders in the club for organising events. They have been having a bit of a hard time lately but without them there would be no club. I for one appreciate the responsibility they carry in being an organiser while the rest of us can just turn up for a good time. But it should be pointed out that this is a CLUB and NOT a commercial kayaking business and the trip leaders are just fellow paddlers who want to go out for a paddle with as much freedom as the rest of us. Sure they are going to make mistakes, and it is important to stay together, but if you want someone to carry all the responsibility then go on a commercial trip. As this is a club the onus is on all paddlers to make sure they have the skill s before going on a club trips especially for the grade 3 and above.

Despite all the best efforts of our leaders you are going at some stage be in serious danger, that’s the nature of sea kayaking. Your best protection is to be able to get yourself out of any predicament. I enjoy going on club trips and like the added safety of being in a GROUP in case I do get into trouble, but I always feel if I couldn’t do the trip solo then I shouldn’t be doing it with others. As Norm said . “The sea is a terribly unforgiving of incapacity or neglect”, and it is in your best interest to be able to cope with it. The following points maybe worth noting:

  • You can’t rely on rafting up – if the seas are really choppy and there’s a big swell its very difficult to hold several kayaks together if not dangerous. You have to make sure that anything your may want or need during a trip is reachable by you without assistance.
  • You can’t rely on having a good break – if you get in an offshore breeze you just have slog it out otherwise you may end up in NZ.
  • You can’t rely on being rescued in the surf or breaking waves – See Stuart Trueman’s article about rescuing people in the surf zone.
  • You can’t rely on being able to see your fellow kayakers. Kayaks are very close to the water line and even in a moderate swell paddlers very near you can completely disappear down a trough, some times you have to stop and stare for some time before finding someone.
  • You can’t rely on landing. That beach you were expecting to land on may suddenly have huge breakers and you may need to go onto the next spot. If you are on a trip that has a lot of unlandable sections YOU need to think strongly about your skills before going on it. Have enough food accessible in case you are in your kayak hours longer than expected.

Two of us were paddling in very calm seas with only a moderate swell in what looked like quite safe waters, when out of nowhere a wave formed up and broke on us. I was a few metres further out to sea and was just able to flick over the top of it but Phil had the full wave dump right on top of him and he did a great job to brace and recover but was heading for the rocks. He pulled of the wave at the last minute. If he hadn’t had the necessary skills he could have ended up on the rocks and there would have been very little I could have done to help him. Talking to other kayakers we can relate many instances where things suddenly changed and you were in danger.

There seems to be a growing trend these days, which is unfortunate, that for every misfortune or bad luck that happens to someone they have to find someone to sue. The age of litagration has arrived to the kayaking world and we must adjust to the new paradigm. We have had good legal advice that we need to rethink how we do things. This is not just to protect paddlers but also leaders.