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Thread: Floation

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2004


    An incident today got me thinking. I was out in what's absolute survival conditions for me (gusting well above 40 knots and with some powerful waves) and with my energy levels dropping. I had just turned on the outside and was working hard to stay ahead of a biggie when I saw a guy lying in the water just upwave of me pull his helmet off. It took me some time to locate his kit but it turned out to have been washed some 25 meters downwind which saved me from crashing into it but would also make it hard for him to catch up with. I didn't quite understand why he pulled his helmet off but assumed it was to wave at me with to avoid a collision.

    The situation made me somewhat uneasy but with conditions being very demanding soon forgot about him. He hadn't been more than perhaps 150 meters from the sandy beach.

    To cut the story shorter the man had thought that he was going to drown and had pulled off both his helmet and his hooded vest as he felt he wasn't able to breathe - a panic reaction that must have made matters worse. Luckily for him a skilled kiter had offered him his board for floatation and had towed the two of them in while body surfing.

    For me the question becomes if I should have turned around to check if he was ok. The most obvious answer is yes. But I really didn't have a surplus of energy or concentration to go searching for another sailor. It's also a question of what I could have done. I very much doubt that I would have been able to tow him in. It seems more likely that we would have taken some good rinsing together and with a real risk of him pulling me under in a new panic attack.

    Yes, I do partly write this to try and relieve myself of guilt. But wavesailors ought to ask themselves if an impact vest with a bit of floatation could be helpful both for saving energy, reduce the risk of panicking and to make it easier and less risky for others who may try to give you assistance. I always wear an impact vest myself. I know for fact that the guy in question had no floatation, but I also know that he'll never again venture out in survival conditions without.

    LATE EDIT: This thread was by commentators immediately turned away from the issue of floatation to the issue of my faulty reasoning and/or actions. As I had admitted feeling guilty from the start, that amounts to breaking in open doors. Rod has since deleted his posts at my request but you'll anyway find some of them in others quotations. He was also not the only harsh critic. I do in principle agree that sending the right message to others that may end in a similar situation as me, is more important than than having regard for me. As Ola wrote this is a matter of life and death. But for that exact reason I've also felt very bad about the whole thing. I've felt bad from the moment I talked to the guy on the beach and much worse after I woke up the next morning to read a series of insensitive comments from senior members. If there's one thing that really irritates me about many people it's their unwillingness to admit mistakes. Personally I admit mistakes all the time. I make a lot of them. What I didn't realize is how hard it is to put or keep things in the right perspective on an open forum.

    Getting the last word on this thread through back editing is a lot to ask. But these are my main take aways:

    If someone is actually about to drown in the impact zone on a big day not much can help them. A helicopter will probably arrive to late. There are of course exceptions. For example Pozo can be pretty gnarly but you'll be surrounded by very fit and skilled sailors and will also easily be spotted from people on shore. The beach where the incident happened was very different. We were never more than about three people out at the time in a huge bay. Hardly anyone on the beach.

    If someone pulls their helmet off or does something seemingly unlogical in the water take it seriously.

    But - and I hesitate to write this as it may bring back that ugly undeserved light on my own person - think twice before jumping in to try and perform a rescue as that can double the number of casualties. You need to be able to safely hold on to your board while offering it as floatation aid to the drowning and/or panicking person. In the storm last thursday that would have been impossible. I would probably have lost my own gear before reaching the panicking guy and could only have offered myself as flotation. The fact that I didn't understand that he needed help may have saved us both. I do not know for how long or how far in he had drifted when he was finally rescued by the kiter but find it likely that he was not swallowing water and may have been able to stay afloat until he reached the shallow.
    Last edited by boards_Tomas; 19th October 2017 at 10:32 AM.
    The infamous wavewriter

  2. #2
    Deleted at the OP's request
    Last edited by rod; 18th October 2017 at 10:56 PM. a blog about looping

    UPDATED Feb 2016

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    I think there are 2 points here i) what you should have done and ii) what implications are for safety kit

    On i) Given you were unable to help - even though you were uncertain of his needs and unable to get back to check - I think you should have gone immediately to the beach and immediately called rescue services AND seen if anyone else on the beach was able to help, then watched to see how things developed so that you could call them again if he self rescued or was rescued by someone else. Yes it blows your whole day, but if he had drowned it would have impacted you (and him) forever, ii) I think there is a big advantage to carrying a small phone at all times, so that you can quickly call for help for others (not just windsurfers but whoever) or yourself if needed - and in serious survival conditions we should all seriously think about a flotation/impact vest. I also think it illustrates that we all take too much reassurance from other people being on the water at the same time

  4. #4
    You should have checked up on him or at least do what smidge writes. I suppose next time in such a situation, you will.
    Ola H.

    Simmer Style Boards and Sails

  5. #5
    Senior Member Graemef's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Seabrook Kent
    Hmm.. guy in the water with no kit, you at least hesitate to ask if he needs a tow. Lucky us kitesurfers (many of whom are old guard windsurfers who don't hesitate to offer assistance)are around to help.

    By tow I mean you offer your rear footstrap to drag him down to his kit.

    Doesn't everybody use an impact vest? I though all you loopers use it as protection of choice.

  6. #6
    Senior Member PK1111's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Brave of you to post Tomas.
    As you state, these were survival conditions, so not easy to always make or implement decisions.

    Personally, I’d always try to assist someone in that situation. If it means dropping in to the water to check on them, it’s a no brainier. You can always offer them a floatation platform with your board, and help drag them in.
    Im not a fan of flotation aids, but then I’m a very good swimmer, which I think should be your first defence.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Navegante's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    40 48'N 14 26'E -Western Med - West South Atlantic
    Quote Originally Posted by rod View Post
    Someone waves at you, with no kit and you just sail past... If I was you I'd delete this thread.
    what a coward comment!

    to delete the thread...
    Last edited by Navegante; 13th October 2017 at 12:35 PM.

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