Ok, kids it’s time to have a chat about making sure your canoe or kayak is properly secured on the roof of your car before you drive off down the road. It seems that a driver in Atlanta, Georgia didn’t properly tie down the kayak and it promptly blew off the roof of the car and onto the Interstate 75 causing a multi-vehicle accident and sending one woman to the hospital. It could have been a whole lot worse. According to reports, the owner of the kayak will be charged by the police for failing to secure the load.

By secure, I’m not talking about you reaching up through the car window trying to hold the boat down or even using two pieces of yellow rope around the boat. In a pinch the proper canoe or kayak tie-down kit with foam block and straps will work but I suggest spending the cash on a proper roof rack. The boat will be more secure and it’s less likely to shift around in the wind.

If you are at all nervous that you are not securing your boat properly, here is a quick primer to help get you going:

Published in General News

I’m really shaken up. This morning I got this email from my good friend and teaching partner-in-crime, Bonnie Perry:

Is the paddler who died just the other day [on Lake Superior] the same fellow from Madison who was in our Paddle Canada Level 2/3 and BCU 3 star [last August]?

I clicked through to Dave Olson’s always entertaining blog, The Lake is the Boss where I confirmed what I had been fearing; that Robert (Bob) Weitzel was a student on the advanced kayaking course that Bonnie, Erik Ogaard and I taught at Naturally Superior Adventures last August (2011).

The news hit me like a sack of bricks. This wasn’t some yahoo paddler out in a short, fat recreational kayak in jeans; this guy knew what he was doing. He was prepared.

Bonnie Perry teaches a towing clinic at Naturally Superior Adventures.

I have been reading regular drowning and accident reports in the press since this site went online six years ago and I have probably read what seems like 200+. I feel bad for people but it has never really hit me like this one did as I taught him some of the skills to get out there.

It’s not that I have survivor’s guilt or that I’m second guessing our teaching by asking myself, “Did we do everything we could for him?” In this case I believe we did. The course went really well and we worked through all the required skills for the certification.

But still, I’m shaken by the news in two different ways.

Firstly, Bob was a good paddler. I remember when he first came on the course he was in a very twitchy Greenlander Pro. That’s a crazy boat that only 3 people in the world can paddle with confidence so it’s no wonder he looked nervous on that first day. Once we got him in a different boat Bob’s confidence increased and his skills quickly developed over the week which was great to see.

All day today I have been asking myself, “If it could happen to Bob, could it happen to me?” Of course it could. As we move up the ladder of paddling competence, we sometimes feel that we are more invincible. The problem is, as we get better, to keep things interesting, we push the envelop and go out in bigger conditions or take different risks. There is nothing wrong with that of course. Paddling (and life) would get boring but we need to remember that risk management is just as important to you today as it was on the first day of your paddling career.

Out paddling with Bob Weitzel.

In Bob’s case we will likely never know exactly what happened. We do know the reported weather conditions which were roughly 30mph wind, 42F water and waves around 2-4'. The conditions were up there for sure but he had also good skills. It’s impossible to say what was going though his head when he was standing on the beach that morning deciding to go out or not.

The other part that has had me shaken today is the realization that as an instructor, it’s critical to make sure that you teach the skills to the highest possible standard.  You owe it to them to teach the paddling skills for their level but even more importantly show them how to critically evaluate their skills as well as the conditions they can paddle in.

If you have a student on your course that just isn’t getting it (but maybe just enough to pass the certification), you owe it to tell them that they passed but they still have a long way to go before going out in slightly rougher water. Your students don’t know what they don’t know and it’s our job to show them the way as well as set proper expectations for when they are on their own.

I just feel terrible for Bob and his family and I want to express my deepest sympathies for their loss. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

PS - Bryan over at Paddling Light also wrote a very good article on risks in the outdoors that you also need to read. It's very good.

Published in General News

Eric Soares

I just heard the shocking news posted on Sea Kayaker Magazine’s Facebook page that Tsunami Ranger founder, Eric Soares has died:

This morning we got the sad news from Michael Powers that Eric Soares passed away yesterday following a skiing accident atLake Tahoe. Eric was well known around the world for the extreme coastal kayaking he did with the Tsunami Rangers and for his many contributions to the kayaking community. He wrote several articles for Sea Kayaker on surf, safety and teamwork. In his most recent article for us, “A Change of Heart” (SK August 2008), Eric wrote of surviving an aortic dissection and the changes that brought to his life. While his physical heart was flawed, his true heart was not. Eric had extraordinary and infectious energy. He never took himself too seriously and you couldn’t help but follow suit when in his presence. We will miss him. Our deep condolences go out to his wife Nancy, his family and his Tsunami Rangers brothers and sisters.

I can’t state how huge of a loss this is to the kayaking community. Eric along with Michael Powers started the Tsunami Rangers back in the mid-80’s and pretty much single handily invented rough water sea kayaking. Long before I had the skills to get out in rough water myself, I loved reading his book, Extreme Sea Kayaking.

Eric also was a regular contributor to the paddling blog world via the tsunamirangers.com website. His articles covered a wide range of topics that were always well written and drawn from his extensive experience. I’m going to miss his regular updates...

Sad day indeed...

Update #1: John Lull posted a comment over on Eric's last blog post about what happened. Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

Update #2: Moulton Avery emailed me with the following update:

He must have fallen and damaged his aorta.  He was skiing at Tahoe and emailed me from Stanford Hospital saying he was scheduled for another aorta operation next week.  He said:  "c'est la vie.  I'm upbeat".

I was worried, but he was such a dear and wonderful man and possessed such a vibrant force of life that I convinced myself he'd weather this storm, just as he did the many that came before it.  An indescribable loss.  Mates are paying their respects on his site.

Eric was a giant among men, larger than life, he leaves a great void.  I know exactly what you mean about his exploits and the pix.  He would want us to remember him with a smile on our faces, but that's gonna take some time.

Photo Credit: tsunamirangers.com

Published in People

Boyce Greer on the right. Photo credit: unionleader.com

Sad news in the paddlesports world this week. Boyce Greer, a leading investor and part owner of Liquidlogic/Legacy Paddlesports was killed this past weekend while whitewater kayaking on the Payette River in Banks, Idaho.

Greer, 55, was head of vice-chairman of Pyramis Global Advisors, the institutional investment arm of Fidelity Investments and lived in Amherst, N.H., with his family.

Legacy Paddlesports released the following statement, "While we knew Boyce principally as a committed and accomplished whitewater paddler, a great business partner and mentor, and a constant friend, we always knew that he was a husband and father first and foremost."

Reports are that he died from head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. You can read all the details here.

My thoughts go out to his wife and three kids as well as the staff at Liquidlogic/Legacy Paddlesports.

Photo credit: unionleader.com

Published in Industry Stuff

Streching Out

I generally have an unwritten rule that I don’t write about canoe or kayak drownings. There is so much better paddling related stuff to write about like that 99 year old grandmother who decided to learn how to kayak for her birthday.

That being said, I recently found an article in the Columbus, Indiana newspaper, The Republic that was so heartbreaking and sad that I had to mention it.

Last Saturday two men from Pinedale, Wyoming decided to paddle down the Green River in western Wyoming. 26-year old Matthew Copper and his step father, 48-year-old Franklin Parks loaded the three kids (aged eight, four and toddler) into their canoe and took off down the fast-moving river which also happened to be above the flood stage.

Tragedy struck when the canoe tipped over in the moving water and the 4-year-old member of the family drowned. Luckily emergency crews were able to rescue the men, 8-year-old boy and the toddler as they were in the area due to getting a phone call just before by a bystander concerned that the adults and kids were launching in the flooded waters.

The two men were charged by prosecutors with aggravated homicide by vehicle, criminally negligent homicide, operating a watercraft while intoxicated and reckless endangering. Cooper is also charged with child endangering by a parent.

I hate reading these types of stories. I don’t know the full history or exactly what happened or even what the gentlemen’s paddling skill level was. Either way, it’s clear that their decision making and paddling skills were influenced by alcohol and it’s sad that a child had to pay with his life for the poor decisions the adults made. The adults who were supposed to keep him safe.

Photo credit: Streching Out / heidi schempp fournier / CC BY-NC 2.0

Published in General News

Pyranha LogoThis is not news you want to wake up to reading, let alone just before Christmas.

Alan Catterall, a 51 year-old staff member at Pyranha Mouldings died yesterday (December 23) who was thought to have been cleaning out the giant oven used for moulding whitewater kayaks.

There are not a lot of details at this time and the local Cheshire police are investigating the incident to find out what happened.

I wanted to pass along my condolences to the family and can’t imagine what they are going through at this time. My thoughts are also with the employees of Pyranha Mouldings as it a terrible accident.

Pyranaha Mouldings is the parent company of Pyranha Kayaks as well as Venture Canoes & Kayaks and P&K Kayaks.

More info: bbc.co.uk and liverpoolecho.co.uk

Published in Industry Stuff
Tuesday, 14 December 2010 16:47

Log Mistaken for Capsized Kayak

Floating Log. Flickr Photo Credit: svacher

Several rescue crews were assembled at the shores of the Kennebec River in Maine this week after several people reported seeing a capsized kayak with a person clinging to it.

The kayak turned out to be a debarked log floating in the water.

More info: kjonline.com
Flickr Photo Credit: svacher

Published in General News

Paddlefloat Rescue Practice. Photo Credit: David Johnston

Strange story came out of the UK at the beginning of November. Grough Magazine reported that a sea kayak instructor and his two students were starting a kayak lesson when the local ferry crew observed somebody falling the water.

The article doesn’t specifically mention what happened to the instructor but the comments below mentions that he might have slipped and fallen into the water unconscious.

It ended up that the instructor had to be rescued by a small boat from the Coastguard Rescue Team from Rothesay. A helicopter was able to spot the students and shadowed them until the lifeboat could also take them onboard. The instructor had to receive medical attention at the local hospital.

Accidents happen all the time but it’s a good reminder that instructors are not immune from trouble and something can go wrong to the best of them. In guide or instructor courses we usually practise rescues and group management with the idea that something goes wrong with a student (not the instructor). When was the last time that you thought about what would happen if your co-instructor got injured while out on the water? What would happen? Maybe it’s time to develop an action plan if you don’t have a clue.

Update: Richard let me know that the RNLI has posted a follow-up article about the incident. It has more details on what happened as well.

Published in Industry Stuff
School Bus AccidentWho is the luckiest man alive today? The driver the school bus in the photo below. He only sustained minor injuries when he was able to move out of the way of a flying kayak sailing through his bus front windshield during an accident.

The woman in the SUV who hit the bus head on after crossing the middle line of the road is listed in serious condition and was airlifted to a local hospital. The accident took place yesterday (October 30) in Hossick, New York.
Published in Safety
The river dam where the accident took place (Tanjug)
The river dam where the accident took place (Tanjug)
Let's look at the canoe accident that happened over the weekend in Slovenia. I know that I mentioned it earlier a couple of days ago but some new details surrounding the tragedy are finally coming out in the press.

For those who don't know, I am referring to the one where the town of Sevnica's Mayor and another country legislator organized the final descent of the Sava River in a canoe. A hydro electronic dam that was under construction was almost completed and would block off the river to small boats in a number of weeks.

Here is what we know so far...

Published in Safety
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