Netarts Bay Incident

I’m certainly not going to wade into the second guessing game that goes on with these sorts of incidents, but if you’re a sea kayaker or coach it would be worth your while to read this incident report about the events of October 4th in Netarts Bay off the coast of Oregon. Personally, I only have two rather general impressions; The first is that I feel for the author of the report, I totally hear where he’s coming from.  Secondly, the sea is very big and we are very small.  Nothing brings that closer to home than when we’re trying to solve a scary problem out there.

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6 Responses

  1. deborah

    have read that (& the ensuing comments) a few times. Agree that to post an incident report in such honesty & humility took balls & great perception. So this is not about bashing the instructors.

    One thing I took away from this was a validation of my own core belief: students should not blindly follow where instructors say to go, no matter how big the rep or even if they are branded as “scared” by others. In the comments there is a statement that one of the instructors asked the group “who is scared to do this?” in a completely loaded context. Still, it’s up to the individual student to show backbone & independence to say “I am” if that is the case.

    An apt student processes their personal, environment, and group dynamic factors in risk analysis. Among the greatest reward an instructor can (or should) feel is when their students progress enough to do this & vocalize the results. The finest instructors I’ve had welcome student perspectives & thoughtfully based positions that don’t align 100% w. the instructor’s.

    I decided not to do a coldwater, windwhipped, open water paddle amid strong currents in deteriorating conditions in early spring here in MI. It was ultimately (and wisely) called off by the trip leader, a man of many years experience paddling in that specific venue. Meanwhile I knew of one other person who was very uncomfortable about doing it and was pressured by a relative and by a “name” paddler who lived in their area. I told her the decision was hers to make & to stick by it. That’s what I would have said had I been among the students at Netarts.

  2. deborah

    LOL Keith,

    you know you’re rarin’ to go… you made 2 or 3 comments in the original alder creek forum IIRC

    well shoot, IDC, I’m not a member of the Cool Club.
    So here we go:

    it’s pretty unwise (is that obsequious enough lol)

    not to have a headcount done in front of and known to ALL (not just a list on the windshield that one person knew about – what if that person was one who didn’t make it in)

    not to take a valid group assessment… just asking “Is anybody scared?” creates a loaded context.
    Male paddlers (generally) won’t admit to being scared in front of other men, let alone women.
    Women paddlers (generally) won’t admit to being scared to avoid being typecast by male paddlers & instructors.

    launch 16 people without some kind of onshore review. Basic, basic, basic stuff even for mild water paddles.

    the very nature of paddling big surf makes it very difficult if not impossible for four instructors to keep sufficient tabs on the status of 12 students. What happened to the idea of an onshore spotter? Back in 1198 Nigel Foster’s seminal book (N.F’s Surf Kayaking) emphasizes the need for a spotter.

    to realistically expect to do assisted rescues in very heavy surf.

    If my excellent surfing friends (boards, boats, SUP) have impressed one thing, it’s that YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN IN THE SURF.
    It takes a split second to do shoulder/spine/neck damage in the surf. Even w. a helmet.
    It takes a split second to get knocked out by your own boat, a rock, the sea bottom, or another boat.
    The best intentioned, most highly skilled coaches simply can’t intervene fast enough in those situations.

    Lastly – and not a single commenter in the original thread raised this –
    I feel really sorry for Shay, whose kayak got holed and was apparently lost (?)
    I hope it has since been recovered & is repairable. Most students don’t go to events expecting to lose their
    boat. That sucks, and hard.

    The instructors are often sponsored paddlers and/or get the pro discount (yes we know about that) which is cool. If Shay did lose her boat I hope Sean and the other instructors along w. Alder Creek are going to step up and help her replace it.

  3. derrick

    Well, the only real critique I’ll offer here is to say that I think coaches are often over confident and often have too many students to manage when it comes to trips & rough water/surf classes. In these situations you simply don’t have enough people to manage things when it goes bad. Personally, I try to envision the worse case scenario and if I feel my “team” couldn’t handle it, I won’t do the class. Each of us as coaches have to make personal choices and should always err on the side of caution.

  4. deborah

    A spotter dedicated to nothing else except keeping a head count of students & instructors in the water. A spotter w. myriad ways to signal (agreed upon signals established beforehand) and who also has a VHF radio and cell. A spotter who is dressed and boat-ready to get in the water if such response is needed.

    At GLSKS 2009 a student who was at risk for drowning (could not release sprayskirt on her rented kayak) was rescued by an instructor who was ashore (not part of class) who ran for her boat, paddled out, released the skirt, gave reassurance to the student, and helped the student back in her boat.

    Process if you will how many minutes that student was upside down and flailing occasionally to the surface for a breath – and that no one else already in the water noticed her distress and came to abate it.

    The instructor who performed the rescue functioned as a de facto spotter.

    Why not make it part of every in the water class, whenever practical, esp. in rough water or surf sessions.

    I cannot say w. any certainty this could have been done at Netarts, but I can say it needs to be discussed as an option – always.

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