Author Topic: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols  (Read 823 times)

Off-Shore

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Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« on: January 08, 2017, 07:20:13 PM »
I'd be interested to know what others are doing in downwinders to ensure safety and all paddlers present at planned  "rendezvous" points along the way

In our 10km downwind run "The Port Shelter Express" we have 2 Rendevous meeting places along it. The first is behind a small peninsula that juts out into the run and has a small lighthouse on it and we can all gather behind the peninsula out of the wind. The 2nd is when we get to a point parallel to the start of an island before the last technical portion of the run where there is a groundswell coming in from the left to contend with.

When we did this run we set out with 6 of us, and at the first Rendevous point only 5 of us turned up. We waited for 5 minutes and then 2 of us clambered up the rocks to see if we could see him but there was no sign. After 10 minutes a Surfskier who started after us came by and we asked him if he'd seen our friend. He had not. We then attempted to call one of the paddlers relatives who was at the start with us but could not get through. We also did not receive any message or call from the paddler and could not reach his phone.

The wind was too strong for us to paddle back up to the start and with paddlers getting cold we decided to head as quickly as we could to the finish.

Fortunately when we arrived at the end of the run our friend was already on the jetty. He had rightly decided conditions were too wild for him and had headed for the shore shortly after starting. He'd found his phone was dead so could not call us so took a taxi to our ending point to meet us (also the right thing to do). We were all mightily relieved to see him. 

After this situation we are reviewing our safety protocols as clearly this could have turned out differently. I'd be interested in hearing what is best practice or what others are doing with regard to Rendevous points, buddy systems, phones, walkie talkies etc.

« Last Edit: January 08, 2017, 07:23:46 PM by Off-Shore »
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PonoBill

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2017, 07:36:51 PM »
The bigger the run, the less well rendezvous works. As you realized, there wasn't much you could do to look for your friend. When it's particularly sketchy we sometimes stay together, but I view downwinding as a solitary sport that you do with friends. I'm slower than all my buddies. It sucks, but there you have it. I won't hang them up except at the end, with the single exception being when Headmount (Bill Boyum) and I agree it's just a good idea to stick together. Even then I feel like the ugly girl on a blind date. Usually I'd just as soon everyone go hard and we'll meet at the end.
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laszlo

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2017, 08:44:51 PM »
I  remember that in the early days of downwinders in the Gorge (at least early for me, back in 2010) there was much more attention to staying together, occasional rendezvous points and generally looking out for other paddlers. Since then, as the sport has become much more popular, I have observed a more laissez faire attitude.

People tend to be competitive, and for some paddlers there is more interest in who beats who, with the lowest times, even during a casual run. Hard to do that if you stop to let other people catch up. It's about who is the "fastest". Differences in skill level also make staying together very unlikely. My group of paddling buddies are fairly well matched and not so obsessed with "winning". Whoever is leading on a given run will stop and wait for the others, sometimes several times during a run. If a paddler who is less experienced comes with us someone will definitely stay with them.

supuk

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2017, 09:42:38 PM »
The bigger the run, the less well rendezvous works. As you realized, there wasn't much you could do to look for your friend. When it's particularly sketchy we sometimes stay together, but I view downwinding as a solitary sport that you do with friends. I'm slower than all my buddies. It sucks, but there you have it. I won't hang them up except at the end, with the single exception being when Headmount (Bill Boyum) and I agree it's just a good idea to stick together. Even then I feel like the ugly girl on a blind date. Usually I'd just as soon everyone go hard and we'll meet at the end.

for me its the opposite its all about having fun as a group, taking bumps side by side every one hooting and hollering down the drops, ect ect kinda like surfing but were the more people the better.  Generally I'm the one having to do the waiting but thats cool its nice to stop and have a quick chat and chill out a second when you off shore in the peace and quiet. We always stay within sight of each other and make sure we all know what is going on especially if there is some one who is struggling a bit and needs a bit of encouragement. Over here in melbourne it doesn't seam quite the same i sense a lot more competitiveness and more every man for them self but its been good to stretch my legs a bit :)
« Last Edit: January 08, 2017, 09:44:18 PM by supuk »

yugi

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2017, 03:26:36 AM »
Coming from ski mountaineering and fleet sailing trips it’s a reflex to discuss an itinerary and stay grouped. Like SupUk I enjoy long downwinders riding side by side, sometimes enjoying the same wave. It’s fun to be planing and chatting at the same time. It’s extremely easy to manage if the slightly faster rider is willing.

Then, of course, there’s:
- the ego type. Need I say more? They’ll be the way they are. Don’t count on them to be saving you. I sometimes wonder whether I should save them, but invariably do anyway. Favors given are returned but not necessarily by those who you gave them to.
- the type who goes a different  way. Usually the “no idea of where they’re heading” kind of paddler. Typical nOOb move but it can be surprising how some decent paddlers haven’t learned to look and master where they are going. Or too lazy to go sidewind. If they aren’t willing to make an effort then I also let them be.

Mostly among our downwind core team we’re pretty chill and enjoy the company. We do long downwinders (20 miles) so it ends up just being more fun to stay together and chat and share the fun along the way. I try to remember to tell new joiners I’ll happily wait for someone in the same line as I am but if they choose to go another line it’s a clear statement they choose to leave the group. I’m not going to get sucked in to going a bad route to take care of someone I’m not responsible for. I do make it clear up front. More than anything it awakens them to pay attention and make an effort. Otherwise they just seem to expect you to be making the effort. People can have weird expectations if you don’t spell things out for them. (lessons learned from mountaineering too)

For the most part our downwinds are not very exposed. One can head to shore and there’s a road and plenty of cafes the whole shoreline. Good mobile coverage everywhere. I’m very comfortable going it alone and often do. Yet in cold waters a mile or 2 out it’s better to be grouped. Shit does happen and can happen fast. We have avoided 2 possible casualties, a lost board and a broken kite line [kiter in our group]. Both in cold waters and beginning to get faint. Lucky to have a partner nearby when needed.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2017, 04:30:24 AM by yugi »

Eagle

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2017, 11:37:55 AM »
Normally we stop every couple of miles.  We do ride side by side the odd occasion - but generally one is faster than the other and pulls away.  That is pretty normal and ok.  Everyone paddles at different speeds and we all catch different waves.  We simply re-group and carry on.  So in that way it is solitary but together as well.  I find it very hard to go at a slower speed than what is normal.  Seems to affect stability and is much more mentally and physically tiring riding waves. 

So the best plan is to stay way at the back of the pack and let everyone go first and get way ahead -> then catch up.  Can go full speed and keep much better tabs on where everyone is.  Works for DW and AW.  So far that has worked perfect.  Many times have been thanked for staying back with the stragglers.
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cruzanboard

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2017, 12:56:59 PM »
For me it depends on the setting.
If there is shore nearby that is reasonably accessible, I dont do meetups as much.
If it is open ocean with steep cliffs on the shore (like Davenport) defiantly set meetup points every couple miles.

Off-Shore

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2017, 05:28:59 AM »
Thanks for all your comments. Our rendevous points have worked well over time, but every time everyone has showed up... It was just this one time that one of the crew did not, and this sent us into alarm mode and we realised we did not have the right protocols in place.

As a back country skier who is used to wearing PIEPS Avalanche beacons and carries the gear to search for and dig out fellow skiers (which thankfully I have never had to do), I too have experienced both in the snow and on a downwind run, where people who just won't listen to briefings and head off in their own merry way endangering themselves and the rest of the group. In backcountry skiing this can be fatal, and so I just don't ever go out again with people who don't follow the protocols or clearly don't think they did anything dangerous or wrong. Sure I did some crazy stuff when I was younger and ignorant of the risks, but those were different (and kid-less) times.

The issue is all about degrees of conditions. In 20 knots, of wind and 30 deg C temps you get away with things that are just not the same if it is 40 knots of wind and +5 deg C. Conditions also change, so what starts as manageable may not be for everyone at the end.

There is also this race mentality when in a group where some people want to always be in the lead. We are fortunate wit some very fast people who are the most responsible who will sit down and wait. These are the people we need to put at the front, and tell everyone else to stay behind them and stop when the stop (or at least at the rendezvous points). I also think having an experienced person at the back who is prepared to stay behind the slowest person (or a boat) would be best. yes very frustrating for them, but having done this roles in the past, it is possible to hang back and then blast forward and hang back again and so on and have a good run. I know if I want to have a full on downwind run, I just need to go with the fast crew on a separate run, but if we want to grow the sport and get novices interested in the sport we need to have the patience to stay with them.

I also think having a buddy system within the group could work (either 2 or 3) that need to look out for each other would help

I'm also thinking about having some cards encapsulated with some brief instructions and numbers on it to hand out. This would include what to do if you pull out (call or text me).

The fear we had in this case, if you look at the video again you will see a lot of moored boats at the beginning. To get to the upwind mark and to the East of the first island you need to paddle diagonally across the wind, and if you happened to fall while passing the front of a moored boat, your board could go one side and you the other and the wind / current is so strong you cannot reach up to your ankle to get your leash off (one reason to wear a waist leash)... and drown, which we know has happened before..


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coldsup

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2017, 04:30:09 AM »
waterproof walky talkies a good idea.......

but setting your VHF to the same channel if a couple have them does the job - quick check call now and again. I've only done that with a safety boat as I was only one with a VHF.

Normally on the rare occasion we get out...we just stick together roughly.....but we could be far better organized for sure.

yugi

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Re: Downwinding safety - Rendevous points along route protocols
« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2017, 04:59:59 AM »
...
I also think having a buddy system within the group could work (either 2 or 3) that need to look out for each other would help
...

Good point. If more than 5 then split into smaller groups.

A base rule of risk assessment in mountaineering is:
if in a group less than 3 or more than 5 one takes on on a lower level of risk.

If your buddies are happy to swim as plan B then that's fine too. Just agree on it up front. Like I said, a nOOb to a group may have expectations that the core team would never dream of.

 


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