Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chapter 14: Surf Zone Accidents

A common theme in the two kayak surfing incidents at Kalaloch Beach related in this chapter relate to swimming in through the surf. This is a skill that I don't see very many kayakers practicing, myself included. I have had to do it a couple of times for certification courses and have taken a couple short swims in through the surf over the years, but I have also seen some otherwise very skilled paddlers struggle while trying to swim in to shore in moderate conditions.

This video shows one method for swimming with your boat and paddle, but this would be a dangerous method to use when swimming in towards shore through breaking surf. The kayak should be kept in front of you (closer to shore than you are). A waterlogged kayak being rolled around in the surf can cause lethal injuries if it is slammed into your head or body. I'm not sure a back-stroke such as that being demonstrated would be very effective in the surf even if you weren't towing a kayak. George Gronseth talks about using a feathered paddle to perform a backstroke. In other words, you need to aggressively use your arms (or paddle) to make headway in rough conditions. Also, practicing in a calm pool does not prepare you for swimming in through surf. This video is only useful for showing a recreational kayaker how to swim to shore after capsizing a rec kayak on a calm lake.

Have you tried swimming in through surf? Did you swim with your paddle or did you ditch the paddle? Was this an intentional practice run, or was it after an unintentional capsize and failed re-entry attempt? What are your thoughts on the chapter?


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