Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kayaker and/or hunter?

Should a guy who buys a $250 Walmart kayak and takes it out on Lake Superior be called a kayaker? Should a guy who buys a license and a rifle and heads out into the woods be considered a hunter? I had the pleasure last weekend of providing a little mentoring for NumberOneGrandson, the 14 year old grandson of Gurney Granny. He had taken the Wisconsin DNR's Hunter Safety Course (required by the way) and passed. And trust me, there are a few who don't pass. He had the proper gear, knew about safe gun handling, proper tree stand safety, and absorbed the constant barrage of advice and information being thrown at him by me, PodMan, and TheKingOfIronwoodIsland, and Grandma. Even though he had a nasty cold he managed several hours in the stand, even though no deer were sighted. He seemed to enjoy it however, and is ready for the 'real' gun season (this was a special youth hunt), which begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving. With a bit more experience under his belt I think we can safely call him a hunter.

I received the following article from the RetreadRanger, who is in mourning due to the untimely demise of his beloved Yankees. The headline reads, "Shaken by deaths, extreme athletes vow to press on". Apparently these guys paddled out to an island, ran to the top and back down and then jumped back into their four double kayaks and paddled back towards the mainland, even though the forecast 6' seas and 40mph wind gusts had materialized. They were all wearing either shorts or tights but no wetsuits. Someone apparently had a radio becuase the Coast Guard responded and was there in 90 minutes or so. Some of the quotes in the related article are telling.... "the group had discussed, then decided, to risk the return voyage from Anvil Island, despite increasingly choppy water.", " He scrambled into the middle equipment hatch of the kayak containing Mr. Juryn and his male paddling partner.", “The weather conditions were forecasted. They were known. It was a poor choice on their part,” “They (the Anvil Island kayakers) wore life vests, but otherwise they were all poorly dressed for the conditions.” , “We should have turned back,” Mr. Faulkner lamented. “But this is our love. We were all experienced paddlers, and we were carried away by our own testosterone.”, "We were all wearing tights or shorts. We were exposed. Wet suits would have saved their lives, but you never really think it will be you.”

While these are not the $250 Walmart kayak types it still raises lot of questions in my mind, including the 'experienced kayaker' label that the Globe and Mail puts on these guys. It also raises questions about the whole concept of extreme sports. I admit to being biased; I subscribe to Sea Kayaker and let my subscription to Outside lapse. My interest in riding a mountain bike down Mt McKinley, running an 'unrunnable' river in Outer Slobbovia, or swimming across Lake Superior has waned in my dotage. I'd would like to get some feedback on this incident however. How crucial are extreme sports to our psyche and should someone have to risk their life to bail your ass out when you screw up? Are you 'experienced' if you decide to press on after an exhausting run, deteriorating weather forecast, and no proper gear? Open someone middle hatch and climb in during high seas? Does this aid or hinder the general publics perception of kayakers as a whole?

Let er rip blog readers, it will be fun to hear the range of opinions. I just wish we didn't have to dissect a tragedy like this. However if it makes one paddler think before launching I guess I'm happy.

PS Just read KiwiBirds post on the same incident. More info is available in the link on her site.


Ranger Bob said...

Yankees? Was there a team called Yankees? It sounds familiar, but I don't think about baseball anymore. The doctor says it's not good for me. I have to go and take my pills now. They make me feel better.

Adam Bolonsky Dot Com said...

Hi DaveO,
thanks for posting this. Three years ago here in Massachusetts, two young women died in Nantucket Sound after launching borrowed recreational kayaks in the fog on Columbus Day weekend.

The Sound can be an awful place: huge shoals, fast rips, breaking waves, then an enormous slough which opens to the open Atlantic.

In the wake of the women's deaths, some amazingly wrong-headed legislation was written here aimed at kayakers, when in fact the women weren't kayakers, really, but just a couple of college kids horsing around on a weekend off from college.

It took enormous efforts by a couple of groups ( and Charles River Canoe and Kayak) to get the legislation rewritten so it was sensible and better for kayakers who would have otherwise been hampered by the law as written.

I guess it's a public relations issue: if the media could better distinguish between kayaks as sea kayaks and kayaks as the latest trend in short, inexpensive rec boats made for tooddling around down by the seashore on a bluebird day in August, fewer groups would have to run the gauntlet in local legislatures.