The NSWSKC has emerged from the recent turmoil over liability in a much stronger position. We have now amended the Constitution to protect Instructors, Paddle Leaders, the Club, The Executive and other members from legal actions. In addition, waivers must now be signed before each paddle. Our old insurance, which turned out to be useless, has now been replaced by a policy which gives much more protection.
On the proactive side, we are scheduling more training events to upgrade the skills of all members and enable more paddlers to become instructors. The pool of experienced paddlers is growing rapidly, along with the membership — now approaching 240.
A recent tragic kayaking accident in Greenland pointed out how well-trained NSWSKC members are in world terms. A Danish woman, Lone Madsen, died of exposure when her Skerry kayak capsized on the West Coast of Greenland. Lone Madsen had paddled extensively in the Arctic and was well known for her exploits. Her paddling partner on this trip was Tore Sivertsen. The pair were caught in a sudden gale which quickly whipped up large waves. When Lone Madsen turned over, Sivertsen could not come to her aid because they had never practised assisted rescues. Neither paddler could right themselves with Eskimo rolls and instead depended on paddle floats which would have been useless in the conditions. In any event, Sivertsen reported that Madsen’s paddle had floated away during the capsize due to lack of a paddle leash. Sivertsen, unable to turn his Prijon Seayak into the wind, was forced further and further away from Madsen and never saw her alive again.,
If Lone Madsen had been a member of the NSWSKC, she would have been introduced to assisted rescues very early in her paddling career and given every opportunity to learn to roll. In fact, without this ability, she would not have been able to participate in any but the lower grades of club paddles. In addition, she would have learned bracing and surfing skills which could have kept her from capsizing when the conditions deteriorated. (And Tony Sivertsen would know how to manoeuvre in a strong wind by running downwind to pick up speed before starting his turn.) It is very sad that this adventurous and capable woman died because she apparently never had the opportunity to learn the basic techniques which the NSWSKC teaches to its members.
A welcome development in the Club is the increasing participation of women members on overnight paddles. On a recent trip to Murramurang National Park on the NSW South Coast, there were three women and four men. The Executive has often wondered why there were relatively so few women participating in our events. We discussed this topic at length on the Murramurang paddle, especially as the group dynamic developed. Some of the men were goal oriented, while other men and all the women were happy to have a good time. At first the group stayed together in spite of the different philosophies, but after a while the strains started to show. The stronger paddlers kept pushing the pace. They would wait impatiently for the slower paddlers to catch up, and then surge ahead when the rear guard came within 100 meters. Conditions were benign, so safety was not compromised, but the slower paddlers became demoralised and the gloss started to come off what had been a very enjoyable weekend. Sarah Adler, a professional outdoor education specialist and participant on the Murramurang trip has written an article in the Newsletter which examines the issue from a female perspective.
Now that the Club has the liability hassle sorted out, it is time to work on the group dynamics of our paddles so that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.