Feedback: Kayak savvy saves lives
July 3, 2008 · Updated 10:25 PM
I was amazed and distressed at the front page story on the March 12 issue of the Whidbey News-Times, about the two ocean kayakers who went out west of Deception Pass State Park and were lucky to make it back alive.
From 1979 to 1989, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend 50 weekends a year white-water kayaking with friends on rivers and creeks all over Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Sierra Club River Touring Section of the San Francisco area gave my son and me and our fellow six students (eight in each class) a thoughtful eight weekend days (one each weekend) of instruction in white-water kayaking, and sponsored a rolling practice session every Tuesday night.
In late August and September when the rivers werent flowing, we ocean kayaked in our hardshell boats. Out the Golden Gate and north along the coast for 20 miles or so (helped by the current of the outgoing tide) to Stinson Beach. Or surfed at Stinson Beach north of San Francisco.
You cannot roll kayaks reliably without regular practice. If you cannot roll, you will swim or drift along with your boat and lose body heat until you become semi-conscious, helpless and die.
Furthermore, fear and the resulting adrenaline production will consume the bodys sugar even faster. We have, more than once, had to build a fire in the winter (temperatures in the 40s) to warm up a swimmer and feed him or her high-sugar content foods. Of course, alcohol is useless as a remedy, except to make the sufferer drunk and stupid.
Theres lots of flat still water in the bays for roll practice in kayaks. Learn to roll or die!
Its a pity that the News-Times was unable to point out the silliness of ocean kayaking without a roll. When learning and practicing, a roll is so simple. Clearly, the lesson to be learned was not obvious. Thats the purpose of this letter.
By the way, to get a good view of California river kayaking, take a look at California Creekin http://creekin.net/. For Washington and Oregon river and sea kayaking try http://kayak.physics.orst.edu/~tpw/kayaking/kayak.html.