Last night I got in from a work trip to Little Rock, AR, headed home from the airport, grabbed my boat, and headed for Lake Calhoun. It was the Safety session of our annual Wednesday night SKOAC skill sessions and I wasn't sure of how many coaches would be there. As it turned out we were just fine even though we had a large turnout. I was a little worried because safety is not nearly as sexy a topic as rolling or even bracing, but the masses showed up and we all had fun getting wet. The only mishap was a set of car keys somewhere on the bottom of the lake but I won't mention any names.......
The safety session was very timely as there were a couple of 'unsafe' incidents over the past week, one that involved not enough water and the other too much moving water. My colleague in Dallas sent his teen age son, a kid in great shape and active in scouting, up to the Charles Sumner Northern Tier High Adventure Base near Ely, MN. No1 son was a 'Charlie Guide' up there for a summer and figured he paddled around 1,000 miles over the course of the summer guiding Boy Scout groups around the BWCA. Friday night the phone rang in Dallas informing my buddy that his son had been airlifted to the hospital in Duluth with severe dehydration/heat stroke. Mom had to fly to MSP and drive to Duluth to pick him up. I am sure he was very disappointed that the trip was over but he is lucky to be alive and kicking. Viking fans and many others remember the Korey Stringer tragedy from a few years at training camp. The lesson here is to drink plenty of water. If a kid used to the Texas heat and in great shape can be laid low by the heat in northern Minnesota it should give us pause. If you think you're are drinking enough water but don't have to pee or your urine is a dark yellow you, my friend, are becoming dehydrated. In this weather guzzle that water! I'm ridiculed at times for the weight of the hydration pack on the back of my life jacket but the thing is inevitably drained after a long paddle. Sometimes that bottle on the deck just is not enough water on a hot day.
In the too much water category and entire family was nearly lost due to a rip tide or rip current in Lake Superior off Duluth's Park Point. If not for the assistance of some fellow swimmers, including a guy who was 6'8" tall, the situation might have ended horribly. Whether you prefer the tide or current moniker, there are a number of places on the lake including Duluth and Marquette, where these outward flowing currents occur. The simple explanation is that when the waves are rolling in the water has to flow back to the lake somehow. A small depression can provide a path which turns into a strong current flowing out into the lake. People being swept out panic, try to swim against the current, weaken, and go under. These currents are typically only several yards wide. By swimming parallel to the shore they can be easily circumvented. A few yards along the shore rather than toward the shore is the key. This should be hammered into both kids and adults as well; swim parallel to the shore not toward it. The insidious thing is that when the waves are rolling in, the flat stretch of beach, the one where the waves seem smallest and hence the nicest place to swim, is actually where the water is flowing back to the lake in the rip. Avoid it and warn others to do the same.
Finally the two upcoming events to plug. One is the Traditional Gathering, a fun event with skinny stick people that will be held near Alexandria, MN this year. Check out the Ten Reason's to Go on the link; I like No. 9. Lots of outstanding mentors including Helen Wilson, the Rodgiguez-Owen family, and Will Bigelow. Ok, ok, so Will's not that outstanding but he does bring good whiskey.....;) It's a great event sponsored by the Northern Lights Qajaq Society, its cheap, and the learning and camaraderie is fantastic. The other event coming up even sooner is the Point to LaPointe Open Water Swim. They apparently have 400 swimmers this year, twice last years number, and need as many kayak safety boaters as they can get. A T-shirt, breakfast, and a $25 gas card are all nice incentives and its quite an event to watch from the water. Plus the more kayakers and eyes there are the safer the event becomes. Shoot an email to Kathy Noteboom, and she will send you the details. firstname.lastname@example.org
In a nutshell we need to drink more water while avoiding the rip currents as we protect the open water swimmers and hone our Greenland skills. A lot of stuff but we're just the folks that can do it. Have fun as the summer winds down on the cusp of August, and be sure to paddle safely.