2008 Safety Reminder

Posted by Robert N Pruden on Jan 2, 2008

Greetings one and all!

After a long year of hard work and very little paddling, I sat back to think about the news stories I have read regarding kayaker deaths. There were many deaths during 2007: something like 4 or 5, if memory serves. Most of those deaths occurred when very well experienced paddlers went out onto the water under dubious conditions and failed to make it back for various reasons. Some took chances under weather conditions that rendered their safety equipment ineffective, others simply got themselves into situations what were beyond what their experiences could get them out of. If I recall properly, all were fit and confident that their previous experiences were sufficient trainers for the rough considtions that they found themselves in.

All died!

They left us wondering about their judgement and maybe our own ability to judge conditions. Most of us left off reassuring ourselves that we would learn from their lessons. I think about these deaths any time I prep the VJ to go out on the water. I remember all too well my own experience with that class 6 rapid that just about killed me (link below). Of course, it was me who just about killed me?

How much do we really learn while we are making decisions to go out in rough conditions or expressing uncertainty about a route through unknown terrain, for it is at that time when we truely have to think hard about our next move? How much influence do these stories have on our decision making when faced with uncertain odds? How many of you are sitting back right now thinking that you don't need to read this reminder because you are always careful?

Our greatest risk while we are out on the water is the unknown and that uncertainty is compounded when we become complacent - when we stop looking carefully for hazzards or accept hazzards as status quo for what we are used to. Odds are, some day one of those hazzards is going to wake us up rather suddenly and when it does, we will rapidly become uncertain.

Our experiences serve to guide us through good and bad times. They are our teachers. Sadly, the experiences of those who took a complacent step forward and never returned become stories that other folks tell. I am greatful to share my story with anyone who wants to hear it. I survived a major goof. Learn from it and paddle for many more years to come.

I opted not to talk about safety equipment this year because I felt that we were being sent a strong message regarding complacency. Go out there and paddle confidently but remember one thought: a live weenie is a weenie who is the first to back out of a dangerous situation and gets to paddle for at least one more season - the machoistic I'm-not-backing-down-first kind of paddlers are the ones I speak of today.

Robert N Pruden

My Story