Surf Kayak Safety and Rescue

Photo by Tony Hammond

I went on the Glenmore Lodge Surf Kayak gathering weekend.  It was led by elite surf paddlers Tracy and Ian Sherrington and a couple of other staff and there was about 14 of us punters there.  We all had a great time trying different boats, surfing on easy waves then surfing on the Shitpipe, a great and mostly consistent wave on a reef which means you can sit alongside and watch before you join in.

We did some safety and rescue training, here’s some notes while I remember.

If you have a capsized paddler out their boat in deep water you can do a deep water rescue similar to on a river.  The problem is that decent surf kayaks are much lower lying than a creek boat or sea kayak so getting the paddler back in will end up with the boat being filled with water.  I did this the first time and then paddled through the surf with me and another rescuer on either side of the victim in his swamped to empty on shore.

One way to keep the boat from not getting swamped is to have the rescuer and victim boat parallel but facing different directions. A second rescuer holds the bow of the victim’s boat down while the victim climbs onto the rescuer’s boat and into his boat.

Another way is to have two rescuers side-by-side put the victim’s boat onto their bows, the victim then climbs onto the bow and into his boat before being pushed off.

If you are being blown into the surf zone get a helper to drag you out to sea.

More likely you’ll have a swimmer and swamped boat in the surf.  Easiest way to get in is have the casualty swimming into shore, probably holding onto their paddle and paddling with it.  A rescuer can nudge the boat onto shore while full of water.  Rescuer should stay a safe distance away from a swimmer, a common problem is the rescue boat causing an injury.

Another way to bring a swimmer to shore is have them hold onto the back of your boat as rescuer, possibly holding onto the back of the cockpit.

Boats should always have airbags in them.  Many of the experienced paddlers at the gathering didn’t get their foundation safety and rescue right so that’s worth practicing.

Keep a first aid kit, warm drink, clothes, group shelter etc near.  Use a mobile phone (but beware that touch screen is unlikely to work with wet hands so consider a simpler waterproof model), possibly a locator beacon and possibly VHF radio around (but beware VHF is line of site only so contact is often limited).

Signals are similar to on river, pointing in direction of travel, hand on head for come to me. if unsure go to shore.  Distress signal for swimmers is clenched fist waving side-to-side.

Swim lines on boats are important, especially since a lot of surf kayaks seem to have tiny grab handles.

Beware of rip currents and paddle along the shore or in a ferry glide if you get one.

 

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2 Replies to “Surf Kayak Safety and Rescue”

  1. If you want to use one of my photographs, (for example, the one above) shouldn’t you ask my permission? Or at least include a photo credit? Simple courtesy, I would have thought.

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