On Saturday 15th of November a downwind ocean race was held in East London, South Africa. One of the paddlers, Mark Feather, was lost at sea during the event and was later found deceased 40 km past the finish on Monday morning.
East London – The Dischem Automall Pete Marlin Surfski Race was rocked by the disappearance of one of the paddlers during the race on Saturday but with the help of the local community a huge search party was deployed in an attempt to locate Mark Feather who remains lost. However the search for him will continue.
Our sport is risky. Ideal conditions for us involve big waves and strong winds. And sometimes accidents happen. Yesterday, the Pete Marlin world series surfski race was held in East London, South Africa, and shit happened.
Alex Matthews is a Sea Kayak instructor from British Columbia. Bob Putnam lent him a Think Eze surfski for the winter (eeek - that's cold!). Bob said that Alex "had been resistant, almost anti-surfski." Clearly though, sea kayakers are a tough breed and Alex is now hooked on surfski and has been playing in a tidal race called Baynes Channel. The first thing he had to do though, was practise remounting the ski.
Chasing 3m breaking waves in 35kt gusts is the best fun you can have outside of tangled sheets – but gear failure can be a much bigger issue. You have to be mentally and physically prepared for things to go wrong…
Monday, 1st March, 2010 saw one of the strongest southeasters of the season hit Cape Town. Cape Point was registering an average of 40kt, gusting to 46kt. Roman Rock lighthouse showed an average of 39kt.
Remounting your ski is an essential skill. Fall off in cold water offshore - you need to get back on that ski immediately before you get cold. Fall off in the surf zone - you need to get back on fast before the next set comes in.
And yet, how to remount is one of the commonest questions - especially from beginners. What's the "straddle" method? How does it differ from the "sidesaddle" method?
I watched the ski roll downwind, and knew that I'd blown it - big time.Not only was I faced with a 300m swim to the beach but the wind was blowing it offshore - with my paddle and my GPS.And I'd just started advertising the ski for sale.DAMNATION!
The GPS track showing the ski's last moments as it dived for the rocks at 15kph
Having had one or two close scrapes in my time I've had opportunity to reflect on them (with relief) and learn something (like not repeating said stints again), but my most recent (repeat act) has bothered me sufficiently to feel the need to share it with you. Who knows, it might help prevent someone from being as complacent (stupid) as I was recently...