Real Seriously Rough Water Self Rescue Practice: for discussion

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  • #21640
    Roland Stefani

    The recent capsize experience posted by Roberto Dominguez, prompts me to forward the following idea for discussion.

    For years I’ve had the idea that there should be a self rescue practice session in actual rough waters.   Such a session would be dependent on the existence of storm warnings and high winds in the weather forecast!    The location would be off Lighthouse Park and it should be planned in advance with the agreed cooperation of the Coast Guard who would present in case assistance is needed.   Obviously such an event is weather dependent and would involve short notice and pre-planning.   Perhaps someone in the club will take the initiative on this.

Viewing 7 replies - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
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  • #21753
    Nick Heath

    I served as a volunteer for 22 years in a land/water search and rescue team that practiced on a regular basis. I’ve seen quite a few practice sessions that were all too realistic. One definitely learns from such sessions, but  at an excessive level of risk.

    Recall the 2012 tragedy at Skookumchuck

    – a routine training trip to show new RMSAR volunteers how to go through the rapids at high flow and perform a rescue – which resulted in 2 deaths. And yes… Coast Guard were in attendance….


    Roland Stefani

    Skookumchuck Narrows is all about currents.    The concern I raise here is training in an environment that adequately teaches both self and and assisted rescue after capsizing in heavy wind and waves, and also developing one’s skills (in real world conditions) to avoid capsizing.   We are fortunate in Vancouver, to have these real world conditions at our doorstep!

    Ken Bigelow

    One could always take a trip to the Skookumchuck Narrows and play around when its going off. Find the zone of comfort and bail when it gets to big.

    Roland Stefani

    I had forgotten about the Newton Wave pool practice session that Bob Maher mentioned.  But that had to be well over 10 years ago.  It was after my experience at that wave pool session that I got the idea of rough water rescue practice because I was dissatisfied afterward:   Honestly, I found doing self-rescue in the wave pool just as easy as doing it in flat water.   That was a surprise.  The experience left me wondering what it would be like in real world conditions:  cold water, fierce wind, white caps, etc.   Rather than risk learning about that in a real world experience that I might not survive,  the idea of doing rough water practice with safeguards logically followed.

    Mike Gilbert asks: “Very few are skilled enough to be on the water in conditions requiring immediate action by Coast Guard.  Why would you want to be out there in the first place?”.    Exactly my point, though I am not suggesting the practice in hurricane like conditions (more below)!  Rather few are experienced  and that is exactly why a rough water practice session is needed.   Why go out unprepared or untested if we have options?

    Part of the Coast Guard’s mandate is public education on water safety.    So I doubt the Coast Guard would not be willing to consider participating in a well-constructed proposal from SKABC..

    It’s not that we would place people in a dangerous situation that is certain to require action by the Coast Guard.    I am confident we have leadership skill sets in SKABC that can address the on rough water challenges.  I don’t actually believe the coast guard will be needed to do an actual rescue with any high probability.  As always safety would be a priority and practice leaders would have the discretion up to the last minute of calling the event off if it just too fierce out there.   As well, I’m sure the leaders would test the concept on water themselves before offering it to the general membership.   Rather, the intend as I propose it is primarily for the Coast Guard to be on watch, firstly, to bail us out if a self or assisted rescue runs into trouble beyond the capabilities of the leaders to handle (unlikely).  Second, to provide feedback and suggestion for improvement.

    I do believe we do need to wait for storm warning or big wind warning, otherwise it could be a wasted effort.    Every time I’ve kayaked Lighthouse, it’s been very mild.   The month of October or November is probably a good time to do it.

    Mike Gilbert

    My thoughts:
    1.  The members of SKABC do not need to practice in rough water as proposed.   Very few are skilled enough to be on the water in conditions requiring immediate action by Coast Guard.  Why would you want to be out there in the first place?
    2.   It is very doubtful the Coast Guard would consider being included in such a practice.
    3.  You do not need to wait for storm warnings or big winds.  The waters off Lighthouse Park and / or Porteau Cove are known for their afternoon winds and higher sea state.  Just use what you find.  They will almost always be bigger than anything the club’s members normally practice in for doing wet exits and re-entries.
    4.   If a club function be sure the lead instructor and any assistants have practiced and are confident in doing solo and assisted re-entires in bigger conditions and know what they are doing.  Otherwise there is huge risk to people getting hurt.
    5.  Why would you look to bring someone like Gordon Brown over from the Island to do this when there are as capable instructors right here in the Lower Mainland?

    Heather Harbord

    A combination of the two suggestions above would be fantastic.  Someone should try to contact Gordon Brown if he’s still here, and see if he would run the one off Lighthouse Point.

    Bob Maher


    Several years ago SKABC held a Rescue Session at the newton Wave Pool in Surrey. There was an attendant who regulated the wave speed and size for us. There were also two Life Guards on duty. Everyone who attended was able to do several Wet Exits, Self Rescues and Assisted Rescues.

    It wasn’t the real thing but very close and the Waves gave everyone a real challenge. Something to think about.


    Bob Maher


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