If you have a weekend free this summer and looking for kayak training in a very relaxed environment, make your way to the Ontario Sea Kayak Centre, located 2.5h north of Toronto in Parry Sound.

For the first time they are offering a series of theme weekends covering a wide variety of topics including Greenland Paddle building and rolling.

Paddle building and rolling is fine and all but I want to highlight two other programs also going on. The first is that I'm teaching a navigation and weather themed weekend coming up in just a couple of days. We will be covering stuff like trip planning, on-water navigation and the basics of weather forecasting as well as getting out and checking out the sights and sounds of Georgian Bay’s 40,000 islands. In the past have you gotten lost listening to a friend trying to explain the wonders of navigation? I will try to sort it out for you. It will be practical, nerdy but certainly not boring.

Another weekend that looks amazing and you should for sure think about attending is the leadership and risk management weekend hosted by Alec and Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin of Have Kayaks, Will Travel Paddlesport Coaching in Chicago.

Over the weekend they will be covering the latest and greatest kayak rescue techniques as well as how to manage incidents on the water. Of course it won’t be all rescues all the time and they will also be working with students to improve strokes and paddling technique. With a small class there will be lots of one on one time. I know these guys love having fun on the water so I know you are going to have a great time.

Looks interesting? You can find more info about the training weekends here.

Published in Events
Friday, 26 April 2013 15:15

New Rescue Technique Using a Lap Bag

I recently stumbled upon this very interesting video hosted by a buddy of mine, JF Marleau from the BC sea kayak school, SKILS.

The video demonstrates a new twist on the classic paddle float rescue by using a waterproof lap bag in place of a traditional paddle float bag. Take a look, it's really interesting:

I decided to contact JF to find out more information:

1) Tell me about yourself, what you do with Skils and how long you have done it?

That is a tough one. I am one of the main instructors at SKILS, I am also a co-owner and the guy running the office. SKILS has been in business since 2003.  I have been guiding and teaching kayaking across Canada for the past 16 years. I am also a maniac of kayak fishing.

2) In a typical year, how many days on the water are you paddling/teaching?

I have been on the water teaching and guiding between 100-175 days per year for the past 16 years. Don’t forget to add another 40 days for personal paddling and kayak fishing.

3) How did you guys get the idea of using your lapbag in place of a traditional dry bag?

Like criminals in a court of law or during an inquiry commission are saying “I do not recall'', we have been doing it for so long. Maybe because a long time ago, we used kayaks with no day hatch to guide or instruct long expeditions and we needed to keep things handy to ensure safety, efficiency and comfort. The lap bag provides a much easier, faster and stable access than the day hatch. Furthermore, you can carry more gear on longer courses or trips. You can even have make-up handy if you are from the big city like Toronto...just kidding

4) How has the response been in BC? Do other instructors use it in their lessons?

In BC, most of the kayak guides, kayak instructors and advanced paddlers carry a lap bag which is a purse for kayaker. It might be because SKILS trained most of them and they like the idea. A lap bag is very common in BC.

Watershed Ocoee Waterproof Duffel

5) Any tips or tricks you have discovered over the years using them?

During the paddle float rescue, you will notice that your lap bag does not do "a yellow or red rainbow", the weight inside the lap bag provides a counter-balance during the paddle float rescue which is more stable than a blow up one if you are athletic and you do not carry an excess of weight in your lap bag.

Using a drybag instead of a real lap bag completely sucks. It takes too much time, you are more prone to lose stuff and it tends to get wet more often.

Yellow is the best colour because the daylight makes the contents in your drybag highly visible vs the red, blue or camo. Furthermore, Yellow is a highly visible color and enhance safety

Make sure you pick a lap bag with a good seal. Watershed are the very best though Orlieb has a long lasting fabric but the seal is not as good.

Published in Teaching

Rescue team with no number.

Hope they got their phone number sorted out soon. We might need them!

Credit: criggo.com

Published in Funny

It’s never a good sign when rescue officials refer to you in the local paper paper as, "incredibly under prepared, inexperienced and did everything wrong."

This comment was dished out by Senior Sergeant Luke Shadbolt after the Lowe Corporation Rescue Helicopter in New Zealand had to go and pick up a father and son duo that planned to paddle down a 60km section of the Tutaekuri River . The pair thought it would taken them 5-7 hours to complete.

"They were located near the Maungatutu end [of the river], having travelled about 5km in 24 hours. The planned trip was about 60km long on the river which has a low water flow at this time of year and is not normally suitable for this type of kayak trip.

"With their speed of travel it would have taken about five days to cover the distance they intended and that would have involved a lot of walking."

The article also made a summary of some of their other mistakes:

  • The pair wore light clothing and were poorly equipped to stay out overnight.
  • They were wearing life jackets but had no means of emergency communication.
  • A cellphone they took with them was "useless" as the area had no coverage.

You can read the full story here.

Photo credit: Martin Cathrae - Creative Commons

Published in General News

What the heck happened in Chicago this weekend?

Crews rescue 62 kayakers swamped in Chicago River during storm

Chicago police and firefighters had to rescue the novice kayakers on tours along the North Branch of the Chicago River when a severe storm swept through the city.

The city of Chicago has already issued citations against the two kayak companies, Waveriders Kayak Tours and Kayak Chicago for “violating restrictions on operating watercraft in hazardous conditions”.

A couple of questions that somebody could ask:

How many staff were out on the water that day and why could they not get people off the water in time considering the group were novices?

Was somebody back at the tour operators office watching the radar knowing that the conditions were ripe for a sever summer storm (high heat & high humidity)?

I understand that summer storms can come up seemingly out of nowhere but the National Weather Service did issue a severe thunderstorm warning for the west suburbs at 11:25am and then updated it to include Chicago at 12:24pm. The storm hit between 12:45 and 1:00pm. All of those warning should have given the tours enough time to get off the water.

Thank goodness nobody was physically hurt.

What a disaster.

Update: CBS Chicago followed up with one of the tour companies looking for some answers.

Update #2 - July 4, 2012 - Dave Olson, the owner of Kayak Chicago has written a very good report of what happened from his perspective that day.

According to Dave, the incident on the water was much more controlled then the media is reporting and that everything about the incident was blown considerably out of proportion.

I am truly appalled that the Marine unit and the Chicago Fire Department are taking credit for all of the rescues and make it sound as if there were over 30 people capsized and swimming in the river. They made the situation sound 10 times worse than it actually was. They never even made mention of the fact that our guides did the majority of the rescues.

It’s a good read.

For those who are business owners you might want to download and review these tips on how to deal with the media in a crisis. Its part of the large resource repository of free resources for instructors and outdoor professionals.


Video Capture Credit: WGN

Published in General News


GCaptain had a great article yesterday called, Emergencies at Sea – Practicing What Can’t be Practiced. The takeaway message from the article is that it’s critically important not to forget the little details of any rescue and practice them as well. This also includes inspection of all emergency gear. A good example they provide is to actually pull the man overboard life ring from the wall and toss it overboard. Apparently the rings are difficult to get off the wall as they are designed not to get lost in the daily business of the ship and it takes more time then people think.

This got me thinking about rescue practice for canoes or kayaks. As paddlers we tend to focus on the primary element of the rescue which is getting yourself or your partner back in the boat. With time we get that dialled down but as you know there is a whole lot more little details that often get overlooked.

3176 canoe rescue (#5 of 9)

Here are a couple of thoughts and ideas to think about the next time you get out practising rescues:

  • Try to calling for help using your VHF radio or waterproofed cell phone while floating in the water in the actual conditions you are likely to swim in. If you have to pull gear from your boat, don’t let water get in.
  • If you had to call for help at any point throughout your day paddle, could you be able to describe verbally your location to authorities over the radio with relative accuracy?
  • Pull out your flares and do a full inspection. Are the instructions still legible? Are they expired and need replacing?
  • Fire off an expired flare. Ever done it from the water? In a real emergency, can you reach them from your canoe/kayak while floating in the water? Update: Sheilap reminded me that it's illegal to do. See the comments below.
  • Practice rescuing your partner while they are fake-injured. Common injuries include sea sickness (no balance), shoulder injuries or weak arms. How did your technique change? A dislocated shoulder can easily be faked by shoving your arm in your PFD.
  • If you are not the “PFD-on-at-all-times” type paddler, when was the last time you fell out of your boat and tried putting on your PFD in the conditions you will likely swim? Was it harder then you thought?
  • Have you given a good blast of your whistle lately? Does it still work and can your paddling partners hear it in high winds?
  • Try swimming with your boat to a nearby shore.
  • Pull out your mini first-aid kit while on water to fix a blister. Was everything you needed within arms reach?

Have you got ideas for lesson common things to keep in mind? Share them in the comments below.

Top Photo Credit: BASK-Rescue-06292008--0106 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Bottom Photo Credit: 3176 canoe rescue (#5 of 9) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Published in Safety

The official trailer for the new instructional DVD, Sea Kayak Rescues was just posted on Kokatat’s Vimeo page today. It features Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme from Body Boat and Blade International as hosts and Bryan Smith from Reel Water Productions capturing all the excitement on film.

Sea Kayak Rescues DVD

Here is the description on the Vimeo page:

[blockquote]World class sea kayak instructors Shawna Franklin and Leon Somme team up with award winning filmmaker Bryan Smith to produce Sea Kayak Rescues, a comprehensive, modern guide for easy, safe and effective kayak rescues. Using stunning slow motion to illustrate critical skills and exciting real time footage of rescues in tidal races, rough water and the open coast, this film sets a new standard in sea kayak instruction.[/blockquote]

Sea Kayak Rescues Trailer from Kokatat Watersports Wear on Vimeo.

I was sold in the first 30 seconds of the trailer. Look for it at your local paddling shop sometime in August.

Thanks for @bryanhansel for the tip.

Published in Video

What, are we in grade 5 now?

Barry Richardson of Madison, Wisconsin was arrested recently for disorderly conduct when he tried to impress the girls at the beach by swimming out and dumping a non-swimming canoeist into the lake.

A 61-year-old man (who couldn’t swim) and his son were paddling in separate canoes coming back in towards shore. They were about 15 feet from the beach when Barry Richardson decided to jump into the water fully clothed and help the older gentleman out. In the confusion he dumped the canoe over and the gentleman started to panic when he couldn’t touch bottom. Thank goodness he was wearing a properly fitting PFD.

[blockquote]The suspect told police he grabbed the victim's canoe but didn't mean to topple the canoeist into Lake Mendota.

When the son saw his panicked dad trying to get out of the water, he jumped in and confronted the suspect as he got out of the lake.

"The suspect said it was just a funny prank and offered to buy both a drink," DeSpain said. "Socializing with the man who just sent his father into deep water was not what the son had in mind."

Instead, the son pushed the suspect to the ground and waited for police.[/blockquote]

What a jerk.

You can read the full story here.

Flickr Photo Credit: Pulling Dad from his sinking canoe / Ryan Brooks / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Published in General News

Refuge Retreat Fall '08

Well here is one for the books.

A man in a kayak (not the guy in the stock photo above) in Mesick, Michigan was stopped by officers of the Department of Natural Resources doing safety equipment check on small boats. They told the paddler he needed a PFD but the man replied that he had enough paddling skills and was adamant he didn’t see a lifejacket. Never had, never would.

You can see where this is going.

The officers let the guy go with a warning only to have to rescue him moments later when he flipped his kayak in the 51-degree water.

After pulling the man into their boat and taking him to shore to warm-up they promptly wrote him a ticket for failure to wear a lifejacket.

You can read the full story here.

You can't make that stuff up!

Flickr photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/celloc/2922098608/ - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en_CA

Published in Funny

Bow Rescue

The Bow-rescue video posted on Paddling TV this past week is pretty decent. It clearly demonstrates the key steps to this quick and dirty rescue but there are a couple of suggestions I would make to the demonstrators to make their rescue quicker and more reliable.

Published in Teaching
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