Ten Thousand Success Stories!
It may be hard to imagine, but not all kayakers are in optimal physical condition and even less have a properly fitted boat. At least they don’t start out that way.
When I started kayaking I was fortunate to paddle a boat that fit my frame. I was also strong enough to self rescue in a Romany with its low back deck. Soon after I began to notice that many of my friends were not so fortunate. Although I had caught on to the traditional self rescue, hopped on the back deck for a cowboy and within a few months even had an inconsistent roll, others had significant issues inhibiting their success. The most frequent was the investment in an oversized boat which at the time of purchase felt stable and safe but when attempting to reenter was too far out of the water to seal launch onto. Other problems included either lack of upper body strength or having the physique of tinker bell, neither of which fall into the “athletic” category. Occasionally I would also run into a paddler with an ocean cockpit where the restrictive nature of the coming inhibited success.
The traditional school of thought was cut and dry: “If they won’t buy a different boat, they can’t paddle alone”. The argument was: “If they admit they can’t self rescue, surely they won’t put themselves in harm’s way”.
I challenge any reader to look a new boat owner in the eye and tell them they cannot paddle their kayak without an escort.
Traditional solution number two was the stirrup rescue. After watching entanglement issues and broken paddles it appeared that although a stirrup could work for some it was not necessarily the answer for all.
Since I was not comfortable with teaching a stirrup rescue, I encouraged new kayakers to keep trying the seal launch with the hope that as they continued to paddle they would either trade into a more appropriate boat or develop the upper body strength to launch onto their back decks. While continuing to confront students with these problems, I concocted a new method adapted from the heel hook assisted rescue. Although for each paddler and each boat it needed a bit of adjustment, the process consistently worked. It worked for everyone, even those with an insufficient strength to weight ratio. Happy as a lark I was all about teaching this to my students – and anyone else willing to listen. Over time, Bob Burnett guilted me into to sharing this solution with the greater kayaking community, so I wrote an article for Sea Kayaker Magazine.
After a few months the article was published with a grand assortment of unflattering step by step photos. Friends like Brian Hollander called from across the country to congratulate me on showcasing my large behind, and as time went by I began to wonder if the article was such a good idea. So I sent a note to Paul from SK to see if they had gotten any feedback. Low and behold this gal from California had sent a letter of thanks which they forwarded to me. And so began my friendship with Kathi Morrison. Kathi had suffered from the self rescue struggle and her husband Chris came across my article in Sea Kayaker. Chris wrote notes on the step by step and read them to Kathi as she completed her first ever unassisted rescue! Wow. If that article could help one person it would be worth all the unflattering photos. Kathi was the one. On her second attempt she had her husband film her, and they posted her triumph to YouTube. It was a great feeling to know people were using the information. Kathi and I became friends on face book and she told me of the many people she had shared the method with. Last summer her video reached over 10,000 views and that same week we had a chance to meet in person to celebrate. Very few people would have been successful with this method trying to follow my awkward photographs when compared to the smooth execution of her video. As we sat over dinner and shared stories of individuals who were ready to give up paddle sports until they were given the opportunity to learn a new way, I realized that Kathi had become a role model for the masses of real people who want to enjoy this activity. She is a regular person not a super athlete and although she struggled she kept trying until she found an answer. By not giving up she opened the door for others. Obviously although there have now been almost twelve thousand views, still only a percentage of those viewers became successful using this method. Even if it was only a thousand, even if she only helped one, Kathi is a great example of how the sea kayaking community pays it forward. Since mastering a self rescue Kathi and Chris have gone on to earn their BCU three star award, traveled to Greenland with Helen Wilson and Mark Tozer, and continue to obtain instruction from some of the best coaches up and down the West Coast.
Here is a link to Kathi Morrison’s Heel Hook self rescue video:
Back in the spring of 1991 we published “Cold Shock” by Mouton Avery. The article was widely recognized as an important addition to the literature on sea-kayaking safety. More recently, in the December 2012 issue, Moulton provided the Lessons Learned section for the safety article “Dockside Capsize,” the story of an unexpected immersion in an ice-fringed harbor.
Moulton began spreading the word about cold-water safety in 1974 and has been involved in issues relating to heat and cold related stress since then. During his decade-long tenure as the Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Physiology in Washington, DC he worked on public programs to protect the people who were most vulnerable in dangerous extremes of hot and cold weather.
For the past year Moulton has been working to establish National Center for Cold Water Safety. The Center’s mission is to study the effects of cold water and to serve as a clearinghouse for information to make activities safer for the full range of water activities. He recently put out an appeal for contributions to help fund the new Center. You can find more information on the Center and a means of contributing to it at:
The Center will soon have its own web site up and running and its 501 (c) (3) non-profit status in order.
SAFETY FIRST: FLORIDA KAYAK FISHING
Living near the ocean has its perks. We have countless opportunities to make the most of Florida kayaking, from Jacksonville tours to serious surfing, but paddle junkies and landlubbers alike can agree on one thing: the seafood is pretty awesome.
The fish tastes even better when you’ve caught it yourself, and a day spent kayaking can be just as enjoyable as the edible rewards that follow. Still, kayak fishing is a different animal—you’ll need to be prepared to handle its unique challenges before you set out.
The following tips can help you make the most of any kayak fishing trip, but if you want to learn the ropes from a true master angler, don’t forget that First Coast Outfitters offers chartered kayak fishing trips with Walter Gomes!
FISHING WITH A SAFETY NET
As with all Florida kayaking excursions, a kayak fishing trip will require certain gear and precautions. You should always be aware of the unique laws of the area you’re fishing in, as well as the conditions that await you.
- A sit-on-top kayak tends to be best for fishing—you can even find sit-on-top kayaks designed especially for fishing to help you make the most of your angling trips.
- A PFD (lifejacket) is essential in keeping you safe and legal. Even if the law doesn’t require you to wear it at all times, doing so will give you less to worry about.
- A whistle or other signaling device is required by law in many areas and can find you help quickly if needed.
- A fishing license can be purchased online from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Be sure you know the regulations as well.
- A hand-pump can be a big help in getting water out if you don’t paddle a sit-on-top and happen to capsize
- A first aid kit is fairly self-explanatory.
- Bug spray, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat are always good choices when kayaking in Florida.
- Bring a friend. Having a buddy along is great for the company and the added safety. You can keep an eye on each other and lend a hand if you have a problem far from shore.
- Know your skills. The surf zone can be an excellent place to catch fish, but you should know how to launch and land in surf before making the attempt. Also remember the importance of self-rescue maneuvers—in a sit-on-top, the most basic form is the BBF: first pull the kayak under you and get stable on your Belly, then stabilize yourself with your Butt and finally your Feet.
- Skip the booze. Hydration and good nutrition are important on the water, and alcohol offers neither. While the idea of a cold brew on your fishing trip may be tantalizing, it’s important to remember that any kind of kayaking is a physical activity and as such rarely mixes well with inebriation. Wait until you get home to pop open a cold one.
RWA Surf Zone 2 and 1: Total Control and Basics
There is nothing like a surf clinic the first weekend in January to start the year off right. Much to our students dismay we now run the classes in reverse order to prevent the temptation of taking an introduction on day one followed by a second day of total control. This combination for those new to surf has proven to be too much information and skill development to master in two days. We have found that separating this progression by at least several weeks generates better use of students and teacher time and money.
Students new to surf are challenged from the use of new muscles, the cold, the adrenaline rush of a new dynamic experience and let’s face it… overcoming anxiety. A few swims are to be expected. Walking through the along shore flow, emptying boats and heading back out can drain the vigor of even the most fit paddler. Students need to have time to practice the intro lessons on their own or with like minded paddlers before returning for additional instruction. So we started the weekend with students not new to surf. These classes are designed to teach long boat management in an expedition setting: how to safely get in and out of surf, how to hold position, rescues etc… Day two we had 4 different students, three experiencing long boat coastal surf for the first time and one who wanted to repeat foundational skills. Both days were a phenomenal success. Everyone went home tired, adequately challenged and smiling.
This entire group came to recognize: the difference between fear and excitement is attitude.
Rogue Wave Adventures