Monday, July 19, 2010

Dutch seakayakers in deep trouble...

- The incident report is now also available in an English version: click here;
- Axel posted 2 posts about the incident on his weblog: The incident, The incident revisited.

5 weeks ago an incident with a group of seakayakers was "breaking news" in Dutch media (radio, TV, web and newspapers). I can't remember this happened ever before in the past 15 years (= the period I am involved in Dutch seakayaking). For some extent the buzz will have been because there was no other news in summertime (we call this: "komkommertijd" the Dutch expression for the "silly season"). But it was a really serious incident: a group of 9 paddlers got into trouble in big and steep breaking waves of 2-3 meter above the sandbank "de Razende Bol". The group got split up, 3 paddlers lost contact with the group, 2 of them capsized, 1 lost his kayak, the coastguard and 2 lifeboats from the KNRM were involved in the search- and rescue operation. Fortunately,no one got really (physically) harmed: the lifeboat rescued the capsized paddlers and the 3 lost paddler finally had radio contact and managed to get back to the group. One of the swimmers was brought into hospital with signs of hypothermia - but in the evening all were safe and healthy home. A broken seakayak and 9 broken ego's were the final harm.

The incident has raised many questions in the Dutch seakayaking community: Who was involved? Were the paddlers experienced seakayakers or not? What happened? What went wrong? What were the conditions? Could this incident have been avoided? What can we learn from this? Answers to these (and many more) questions can be found in the extensive and thoroughly report the group has published last week. You can find this report (in Dutch) and read it yourself via the website of Peddelpraat, or by clicking HERE. (The report reads like a new chapter in Seakayaker in Deep Trouble - the book of true stories and there lessons from Sea Kayaker magazine by Matt Broze and George Gronseth).

For the non-Dutch readers: I am sure there is an English summery on it's way. The group consisted of 9 experienced kayak-guides and coaches. The conclusion of the group is that the incident occurred just because it was an informal meeting of tour-leaders, paddling "as friends together", forgetting and neglecting some real essentials of leadership and safety. The group realizes they made basic mistakes. On the other hand: their experience and trained nature contributed to the "good" ending and prevented to some extent things getting worse - All realized it could easily have ended much more dramatical.

I have great appreciation and admiration for the open and honest way in which the group has reported about the incident! It makes all of us aware of our vulnerability. Don't say this can't happen to you...

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