Saturday, June 10, 2006

Eskimos and Staying Put

After the practice on Saturday, Carol mentioned that Wayne Hurodowitch had said that instead of teaching newbies how to exit their boats, instructors should be teaching them how to stay in their boats. Both of us agreed that it is best for a kayaker to stay in the boat, but that it is probably unrealistic for most people. Rolling is one of the last things sea kayakers are taught. The early focus in safety training is on self-rescues, like the paddle float rescue and T-rescues.
Thinking about it while writting about the rescue session, I wondered if that is really the best approach. In white water kayaking, one of the first things you learn how to do is roll. The theory is that you should only come out of the boat if there is no other option. Most eskimos couldn't even swim, so they rarely left the boat. It is possible to stay in the cockpit of an upside down boat and get air by swimming or sculling.
Maybe it would be best to focus on teaching people to stay in the kayak? It would make rescues easier and eliminate the need for pumping out an open cockpit in rough water. In cold water, it means that a lot less of the person is in the water..
The reality is... the majority of paddlers are purely recreational and don't venture into conditions where a rescue is that tricky. Many are not particularly athletic. Most paddlers paddle in a group, so there are plenty of people to facilitate a rescue.

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