Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dogma - it's not just a movie

So there's a right way and a wrong way to do most anything.  Actually, there is normally more than one right way (and more than one wrong way for that matter).  Too many times I hear people talking in absolutes - "my way is the one true way".  And not just in politics - it happens in kayaking too.  While there are points in technique, group management, etc. that are universally agreed upon there are also some points that are open for debate.  The key thing for most people to understand is that many things are situational and the more 'right' ways you know how to do something the better off you will be.  Don't just learn one thing because your friend does it that way or some supposedly famous kayaker does it that way.  Learn to think and evaluate for yourself.

One particular area this comes up is in regards to sea kayak rescues.  The T rescue in particular has lots of little details in its execution that are open to interpretation.  So when teaching the T rescue I focus on the things that are necessary and then get people to understand their options, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.  Some would say that it is best to just teach one specific variation to keep it simple for students.  The problem is that there are too many details - I've seen too many real life rescues that where people have enough trouble remembering the big points so trying to get them to memorize the little ones is unrealistic.  It's only us instructors that really sweat the details - most folks just want to get back in the boat.

So here are the big points (and the little ones) to the T rescue:
1.  After the wet exit the swimmer needs to hold onto their boat and gear.
(flipping the boat over makes it easier for the rescuer to grab but more susceptible to the wind)
2.  The rescuer needs to get to the bow of the empty boat and hold on with both hand.
(the swimmer can hold onto their own boat - simplest - or they can transfer to the rescuers where it is easier to keep track of them - but takes more time and movement)
3.  The empty boat needs to be drug up the rescuer's boat to drain any water.
(an upright boat is easier to drag up your own but then must be flipped to drain; an upside down boat will drain automatically as it is brought up)
4.  The boats should end up bow to stern and the rescuer must lean onto the empty boat to stabilize it.
(the rescuer can grab the coaming - it's always there - or the deck lines - if they exist - which are more out of the way during the re-entry)
5.  The swimmer needs to get onto the back deck of their boat, belly down, facing the stern.
(the swimmer can give their paddle to the rescuer, making it easier to get up, or they can hold onto it to make sure they do not lose it)
(they can 'climb' up - simpler - or they can use the heel hook which is easier for most swimmers but puts more torque on the rescuer)
6.  The swimmer slides their feet and legs into the cockpit then rotates towards their rescuer into an upright, seated position.

During one rough water rescue class I saw two students practicing their T rescue.  The swimmer flipped his boat over and lost his grip on it (another disadvantage).  But luckily the wave action took him right to the stern of his boat.  At the same time the rescuer moved in and a surge put the bow of the empty boat right in his lap.  They were in perfect position to proceed to drain the boat.  But because they had been taught (by a world famous instructor) to transfer the swimmer to the bow of the rescuer's boat they took considerable time to rotate the boats together, have the swimmer move around to make the transfer and then return to their T position.  It was a complete waste of time and made things much more difficult than necessary.  They were following dogma.  They should have been thinking.

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