Sharing a lesson on failed leash in cold waters

8 years 10 months ago #15196 by swimskier
Yesterday I went out on the lake Geneva with the Northern 20..35 km/h wind and the air and water temperature about +5 C. I had asked a couple of buddies to join, but they had other commitments, so I decided to go on my own (Mistake no. 1).

I was wearing a drysuit with thin under layer (Mistake no. 2) to avoid excessive sweating, PFD, poggies, neopren cap, and a leash. The leash was attached with a velcro strap to the foot strap of the ski and the other end to my PFD with a carabiner hook. I carried my mobile phone in the front pocket of the PFD along with a whistle.

I paddled out and first turned down-wind for a few hundreds of meter before turning up against the wind staying within some 200-300 m from the shore. I was then knocked off by a cross-wave and didn't have trouble remounting the ski. When I was about the get going, I was knocked off again and this time I couldn't immediate grab hold on the boat. I knew that I had the leash so I calmly took a stroke or two towards the boat only realising that the distance was getting greater. I then saw the snapped leash in the water and knew that there was no way I could catch it up anymore.

There were no boats in sight, nobody on the shore. Fortunately, I was only about 150 m away from the shore, so I decided to swim back pushing the paddle in front of me. It was actually not easy swim in a dry suit and I knew I wasn't properly dressed for any prolonged swim in these temperatures. Instead of couple of minutes of pool swim over similar distance it took me way longer to get back on the land.

After climbing over the wave breaker I noticed a couple of guys sitting on their sailing boat. I signalled that I had lost my boat that was bouncing away more that 500 m further down on the lake. Using the motor they went to bring the ski back (with GPS and the GoPro attached to it). From the GPS data it turned out the the ski had been drifting between 3 and 5 km/h, and the GoPro footage showed the snapped leash already when I fell of the first time.

This happened on a lake in moderate conditions and luckily in a spot near enough the shore to safely swim back. Had I been much further out, I would have used the phone to call for help, but it would have been a very chilly wait for it to turn up..

The lessons that I supposedly already knew:
1. Always use a SOLID leash
2. Dress for swim.
3. In cold waters stay within safe swimming distance from the shore, if you're alone.
4. Always carry a mobile phone.
5. I will order some flares to carry in the PFD pocket.

Nelo 560 SCS, Nelo Cinco E XXL, Epic V8 Ultra,

Previous skis: Epic V14 Elite, Fenn Elite Glide Carbon, Epic V10 Ultra G2, EPIC V10L Elite G1,
Previous K1s: Nelo Cinco SCS XXXL, Vajda Infusion 2 XL Elite, Epic Legacy XXL Marathon,Elio Sprint-P Marathon

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8 years 10 months ago #15197 by Cell
Do you press out most of the air in the drysuit? I know its hard to swim anyway but it gets easier with less air.

I have the paddle attached to the surfski so that it slows down the surfski instead of me.

Its nice of you to share this experience.

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8 years 10 months ago #15200 by AR_convert
Glad to hear you were able to learn some lessons without too much strife in the end.

One thing I picked up on was that you attached your leash to your foot straps.

I have had footstraps pull away from the screws on a couple of skis now.

Once as I came off the ski in surf and my foot was stuck in the strap , another time when I used the footstrap to lift the ski in a race portage.

The issue seems to be either the material tearing at the screws or the stainless screws stripping the thread in the usually alumimium sliders and coming away.

So with some extra force the footstraps may not handle the load a leash places on them.

Always looking for the next boat :)

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8 years 10 months ago #15202 by swimskier

Do you press out most of the air in the drysuit? I know its hard to swim anyway but it gets easier with less air.

I have the paddle attached to the surfski so that it slows down the surfski instead of me.

Its nice of you to share this experience.


Yep, blurping the extra air out trhough the neck seal is good practice and also avoids a possible akward situation of having all the air in the legs pulling you upside down in the water.

Nelo 560 SCS, Nelo Cinco E XXL, Epic V8 Ultra,

Previous skis: Epic V14 Elite, Fenn Elite Glide Carbon, Epic V10 Ultra G2, EPIC V10L Elite G1,
Previous K1s: Nelo Cinco SCS XXXL, Vajda Infusion 2 XL Elite, Epic Legacy XXL Marathon,Elio Sprint-P Marathon

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8 years 10 months ago - 8 years 10 months ago #15203 by swimskier
Brett, thanks for pointing out that the foot straps may not be as secure as I thought.
I'm wondering about the best DIY leash attachemnt point for my V10L, like using the foot plate rails with some steel hardware. All ideas warmly welcome and I guess there might be others with similar concerns..

Nelo 560 SCS, Nelo Cinco E XXL, Epic V8 Ultra,

Previous skis: Epic V14 Elite, Fenn Elite Glide Carbon, Epic V10 Ultra G2, EPIC V10L Elite G1,
Previous K1s: Nelo Cinco SCS XXXL, Vajda Infusion 2 XL Elite, Epic Legacy XXL Marathon,Elio Sprint-P Marathon

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8 years 10 months ago #15204 by jbrings
It is scary how quickly a seemingly harmless situation can turn into a nightmare! In winter I generally paddle my Epic V8 - almost zero chance of falling out and re-entry is really easy. Is good extra training too!

A combination of paddle leash and leg leash may be an additional measure to reduce the risk of losing your ski in the future.

Thanks for sharing.

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8 years 10 months ago #15206 by Kocho
Glad it's *you* writing the story and not someone else on your behalf ;)

One more thing - have you tried to use the paddle to swim? That seems to offer faster swim speeds for me. I have not tried it for extended periods, but might be something to try when you see the ski go away. It will probably still outpace you though... But swimming with the paddle (as opposed to pushing it ahead of you) might be something to practice next time... Basically, you hold the paddle inforont of you with arms stretched and kind of wiggle your body and without too much arm paddling you pull yourself forward ;)

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8 years 10 months ago #15214 by Nige
I started paddling many years ago in the era before leashes, and therefore have developed the habit of never letting my ski go : I keep my feet hooked in the straps until I can grab the ski.

While the previous discussions are all very useful and good, it amazes me how much reliance is placed on a leash (and I'm not specifically referring to this incident): to me the leash should be the secondary safety device, not the primary one.

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8 years 10 months ago - 8 years 10 months ago #15219 by Kayaker Greg
Last two tip outs in the last few days, and its been awhile, both times one of my feet has still been in the straps with me upside down and actually tweaked my hammy coming out in the surf on Saturday, told I shouldn't wear my leash going out in the surf but glad I did because otherwise I could have had my ski wrap around a pole as it got pulled into the estuary with the wind and waves and I would have had a hard job getting back to shore with the rip holding me against the force of the waves and not really going anywhere in a hurry.

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8 years 10 months ago #15220 by Ric
Nige, that's all good and well, until a paddler finds themselves in big water capable of pulling you away from your ski.

There have even been times when my footstraps have been pulled loose (the velcro parted) due to the tip-out.

But yes, all in, I'd say its best to hang onto your boat and paddle whenever possible, rather than to rely on a leash. The leash should be the backup plan.

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8 years 10 months ago - 8 years 10 months ago #15221 by Kocho
Having a paddle leashed to the ski could also help anchor the ski in the water and slow it down, should the other leash fail. Plus it allows your hands to be free from holding the paddle, should you need to do some other stuff, like call for help or help someone else get on their ski... Keeping my feet in the foot straps when upside down and tmbled by a wave is dangerous, I feel - can easily either damage my ski or injure myself: the ski has tremendous leverage and while it is OK in flat-ish water where you just fall off the ski to stay put, it is definitely not OK to do it in surf or similar conditions... (not that I have enough experience with a ski in such conditions, but the little I got tells me I would not want to have my ankles twisted by my size 15 flapper with a 10 foot lever...)

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8 years 10 months ago #15223 by smilicus
Last week my wife and I just realized how important a leash is (paddle or ski leash) and knowing your own limits. We were out playing in the bay close to shore since the wind was 25km/h plus and were forecasted to pick up some more as the time passed.

The bay is quite safe, but we felt better be safe than sorry and did not venture to far out. While we did a few warm up figure of 8's we saw another guy going out and he did not look very stable on his ski. 10min later, he was in the middle of the bay and the wind picked up to almost 40km/h and falling off continuously. In the meanwhile, I have broken a rudder cable and came out since I was going in circles like dog chasing his own tail.

My wife was already waiting for me at the beach ready to call it a day and soon we could see that the other skier was in trouble and his ski has been blown/rolled by the wind to fast and far for him to reach (no leash). Since we have spec ski's she had to go and help the guy since my rudder was broken. When we finally got him , his ski and paddle back to shore with the help of two swimmers, the wind was far over 45km/h. True South Easter in CPT

I think that leashes are there to help make the sport safer, but more important is to know your own limits and use some brains over brawn when deciding to go out or not.....

Regards

Smilicus
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Everyday's an Adventure

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8 years 10 months ago #15224 by kevin brunette
I do quite a lot of downwind paddling, with this mostly on the Miller’s Run in Cape Town with the wind generally in the 25 knot range.
In our paddling group, using a leg leash and having a paddle leash has become a routine safety standard, with these being purpose designed leashes, attached to secure anchoring points on the boat. Also, we encourage taking a cellphone and flares. In the last few months, three separate rescues were made possible because the paddlers were able to stay with their boats and call for help when they were in distress.
I have come off my ski on several occasions when doing downwind, and have been thankful for the attachments that I have to my ski and paddle when that is all I had to keep my ski from being taken by the wind.

FENN Bluefin, XT, Swordfish S
Author and publisher at South Easter Communications of books in the SURFSKI series, aimed at recreational to advanced paddlers. Look at the Facebook page Surfski know-how and visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/southeastercommunications

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8 years 10 months ago #15225 by Sandy
Agree with previous comments in that IMHO when paddling on open waters it would be prudent to wear a leash and pfd and dress accordingly.....real easy to agree. As to leashes the point about SOLID is a very good one. Obviously staying with your ski is a good idea and holding on is the first line of security , the backup of course being the leash and I would guess there is not much argument here. As to "solid" , many reports of leash failure (sounds mostly like velcro failing and tubing coils breaking). Just rigged up for my self a leash using 1/4" heavy duty bungee cord with a clip on one end for the anchor point on the ski (a small wenchell ss clip which is probably overkill)the other end tied on to a stainless o-ring threaded through the belt with quick release from an old whitewater pfd. all very simple , unobtrusive , easy on and off and WAY more solid than a velcro/tubing coil bogey board leash.Played around with this setup yesterday and it seems to stay out of the way better than the calf/ankle strap setup. The choice as to whether or not an individual chooses to use a leash (or wear a pfd , or get comfortable swimming a mile in the waters you choose to paddle in , or dressing to accommodate a swim , or carrying a comm. and or signaling device......)well that choice is up to the individual. I am still frankly astounded at how many choose to eschew these simple and effective precautions when paddling on open water .

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8 years 10 months ago #15226 by Kayaker Greg
Heard one of the paddlers in the surf on Saturdays break out had his leash break at the key ring attachment, basically straightened it out. A paddle leash seems like a good idea for a back up but I'm a bit concerned about another leash to get tangled in when exiting.

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8 years 10 months ago #15227 by Kocho
All leashes should have a quick disconnect at least at the end near the paddler that can be operated without looking at it. That said, it's always an entanglement hazard to have lengths of leash/rope/bungie, but one has to balance the 2 risks. Kitesurfers (and white water and sea kayakers) carry knifes or special rope curring hooks (very compact and light) for just that purpose - to cut free if needed. I guess it goes against the "freedom" of paddling a surfski or a SUP to go out with all that equipment, but one has to assess the risks - when I go on my local river I often don't take anything but the PFD and often not wear it when it is warm (it is a coast guard requirement to have one, not necessarily to wear). But if it is windy, I add the leash. If it is cold, I do wear the PFD. If I go in open water on the bay - I add a VHF radio and a paddle float and more layers of thermal protection than I would wear on the river in the same temps...

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8 years 10 months ago - 8 years 10 months ago #15230 by guitouni
I also experienced a minor similar misfortune: I always have a boat leash, but once I fell in 1 to 2 meters swell and 30+ km/h wind, I tried once or twice to remount in vain because of few bad waves and because it was the "bad" side of the boat ( don't know if it's the same for you guys but remounting is much easier for me one one side than on the other ). So, stupidly, I untied my leash to go to the other side of the boat. The only point I forgot is that there is nothing more slippery than a carbon fiber boat without "lifeline" in the waves :P ... My boat started to drift at an incredible speed. Luckily for me, I just had to swim few meters to catch it back.
During the swim , I had to let my paddle go, so I had to swim to it once I was tied to the boat again.

Lessons of this day for me:
- do not underestimate how fast a surfski can drift
- don't be stupid and untie the leash when in water... :silly:
- get a boat leash ( which I already had ) AND a paddle leash as soon as there is wave or wind. My paddle leash is only a piece of thin rope tied with a carabiner to my pfd.

Now, I sometimes don't know where my boat and paddle will end, but at least we will always be alltogether ;)

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8 years 10 months ago #15231 by guitouni

A paddle leash seems like a good idea for a back up but I'm a bit concerned about another leash to get tangled in when exiting.


My paddle leash is tied to my pfd, this way it is not too annoying.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kayaker Greg

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8 years 9 months ago #15298 by robin.mousley
Just my 2c on leashes.

I use two leashes - belt leash from boat to belt and paddle leash from boat to paddle.

The belt leash is a coiled leash with a quick release clip on the belt end.
The paddle leash is a 5mm light rope.

I don't believe any safety device is a 100% guarantee, but every measure you take (whether it's just being fit or wearing the right clothing) pushes the odds in your favour.

I like the paddle leash because it acts as a backup, but also allows you to dump the paddle when you need both hands for something else. For example I've quite often had to help other paddlers adjust their footplate or (on at least one occasion) try to rig an emergency rudder line. Being able to drop your paddle and not worry about it is great.

I've come off plenty of times over the years, and never had a problem tangling the two leashes that I couldn't fix in seconds by remaining calm and pulling the two apart. I think part of what works is that one is coiled leash; one is rope - the two different materials seem not to tend to tangle.

I sometimes leave the belt leash in the car - for example on a calm sunny day when I'm not going offshore. But it's habit always to have the paddle leash on. That way I've still got at least some attachment to the ski should the weather (or my plans) change. After having used leashes for about 8 years I feel very exposed without one.

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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8 years 9 months ago #15299 by robin.mousley

A paddle leash seems like a good idea for a back up but I'm a bit concerned about another leash to get tangled in when exiting.


My paddle leash is tied to my pfd, this way it is not too annoying.


With respect I'd say that in our conditions, leashing your paddle to yourself would be missing the point. For us, in offshore downwind conditions, the point of a leash is so that you don't lose the ski. The reason is that if people, either in choppers or boats, are looking for you, it's much easier to spot a 6m ski than a tiny blob of a person in the water. YOU MUST NOT GET SEPARATED FROM YOUR SKI.

Cheers
Rob

Rob

Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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