Rescued West Seattle kayaker shares his story – and gratitude

(3/16/08 photo from Doug and Anne, originally published here that night)
On March 16, we brought you breaking news about a West Seattle kayaker who got into trouble off Brace Point. The photo above was shared by local residents, as the ferry crew that helped get Scott Redfern out of the water returned their small vessel to the Issaquah. Today, we received Scott’s story, told firsthand. He also provided all the photos in the story below.

By Scott Redfern
Special to West Seattle Blog

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the rescue crew of the Washington State Ferry, the Seattle Fire and Police Departments, and Gaye Hewson, who opened her home to me. I would also like to thank my friends who have held me close to them and for their love and caring. I feel embraced by this community of West Seattle that is where I make my home. For those of you that know me but are not in touch: I am grateful, healthy and whole. I love you all.

These days are hard as winter slowly recedes. It leaves me wanting for warm and sunny days. With heart-felt sighs and grey, dreary skies, I force myself out to exercise between storm breaks, in this case in the wake of a storm.

Before I took the kayak out I went for about an hour run in Lincoln Park. I chugged up the wet, muddy slippery hills carrying the burden of my extra winter weight. Upon return from my run I look out from my apartment at the wind blown water and the white caps. My endorphins are coursing and I feel like more work. I want to push back against the depressing weather. I’ve been out there on days like this before. It seems every other day it changes direction. Today the winds and swells are moving from south to north.

I empty my bladder, grab my wet suit and pull it on. It fits like a tight glove and because of my winter thickness closing the zipper is not easy, especially with a t-shirt on. I managed to zip it all the way up today. Good thing! I put on two things I don’t normally wear, a pair of smartwool socks and gortex ski bibs. The last time I came in after a paddle both my legs and feet were cold. Enough of that, I thought. I zip on my neoprene booties. Far from waterproof, they provide traction on the beach rocks and limited warmth. Next I put on my gortex ski jacket with hood and a life vest fully secured, zipped and snug. I put on my purple Saint Thomas cap from my alma mater in St. Paul, Minnesota and a pair of ski gloves.

It’s not pretty out there and I don’t care. My thinking is I’ll just go out for a half hour. Invariably, though, I return one hour or more later. I fail to check the weather report – a mistake I won’t make again. I trudge out into the front yard like a creature from the black lagoon and grab the purple Dagger kayak. Strapped to the top are a pump, water bottle and self-rescue set up. As I take my normal path through the yard and down the uneven steps of the sea wall, I have no idea what I’m in for. The wind is out of the southwest and it’s rolling out there.

My launch spot is a quarter mile north of Lowman Park on Beach Drive. I plop the kayak into the water, standing in water to mid calf. I bend over into full flexion for one last stretch for my back and do my awkward little acrobatic entry into the kayak. I lean forward and launch myself into the wind and waves coming in at about one foot tall. Paddling in waves and wind demands devout attention. It is the quintessential present-moment consciousness exercise. Not far off shore the paddle becomes rigorous, demanding balance and enough speed to move through the waves. At this point I’m only 200 yards off shore. It begins to rain and I think, “This is lovely.” I pause my paddling to pull my hood up, pull the drawstrings down and secure the chinstrap. Out of necessity, this is a quick maneuver. My eyes, nose and mouth are now my only body parts exposed; this limits my peripheral vision. I feel like a workhorse with no lateral distractions and I like it. I correct my course and dig back in.

I pass the point of Lincoln Park where Colman Pool resides. It sits protected by its winter plywood walls. I, on the other hand, am fully exposed. The waves and wind have now grown more tall and stiff. The waves are now 2-3 feet tall, a palpable shift from 1-2 feet. The waters out there move in crazy ways as the tide ebbs out, pushed by wind. I paddle through a set of three waves into water that is shifting up and down, churning and twisting like the water in an open top washing machine. The waves dance and push their own agenda.

The opening of the kayak sits only four inches above the water line. The water was slapping me as I dodged and pushed my way through. Water can wash in from the side; a side swat will knock you over. Taking on water is highly undesirable, but inevitable in these conditions.

I now approach the path of the Fauntleroy Ferry to Vashon Island. I thought to myself, “should I cross that line”? One ferry was docked and appeared unloaded, the other one was at Vashon so I pressed on. Within a short distance the waves grew to 3-4 feet. The sets were more frequent and the churning between them more aggressive. Maybe I should have turned around I thought. No time for supposition. The wind was pushing me off shore by force. I paddled fiercely, my arms fatiguing, my mind in high focus. There was little margin for error here. In order to cross the waves and not get flooded or pushed over I had to take them head on. I thought I have to turn around and it’s going to be hairy. I pushed into the next set and went right into a 4-plus foot wave that washed over the entire boat and me up to my chest. Woo Daddy. It’s time to turn around. I am concerned and scared. I paddled hard right to make my turn left; I pushed and dug in, no time to waste. One hit from the side and I’m over and in. I did not want to go there. The situation felt ominous. I had two inches of water on the floor and knew balancing with that was an issue. The rear dagger of the kayak was stuck in its usual up position, something I hadn’t considered. The down wind ride began.

Bear in mind that I have made downwind runs in 3-foot waves in high winds and it was tenuous at best. I’m not a novice and I’m no expert, but this was larger than I’d ever seen. I’m now paddling down wind pushed by 3-4 foot waves and winds of 30-40 miles per hour. It felt like a combination of white water rafting, surfing and trying to steer a toboggan down a steep, icy, snowy slope.

Within seconds I knew I was in a state of severe compromise. The tide, wind and waves pushed me mercilessly. I was rocking from side to side like an acrobat on a tight wire. I felt myself panic deep inside as I restored temporary balance. Then the waves pushed me sideways pointed off shore. I was pointed towards Blake Island. I drove my paddle in hard left 7 or 8 strokes, steering right in between strokes. My vessel did not respond. The turbulent, uncaring water pushed me from the left, I teetered, balance alluded me and I spilled out of the kayak like a pet goldfish being transferred to a jar so my bowl could be cleaned.

The buoyancy of my wetsuit and my life jacket kept my head out of the 42-degree water. I quickly grabbed the paddle, pushed the nose of the boat out of the water to drain it (as much as possible) and flipped it over upright. I then realized that my gortex bibs were down around my ankles and that pulling them up and fastening them was not an option. I pushed my face into the bracing cold water, pulled my knees up towards my chest and stripped my pants off over my boots.

I took in a mouth full of salt water as I pushed the pants that weighed a ton into the kayak and thought I might have to let these go. The next step was to self inflate the small buoy that sleeves one end of the paddle. This acts as ballast as you attempt to reenter the kayak. My hands are now cold and wet and so are my feet. These were low concerns on the totem pole. I had never self-rescued alone. I knew what I had to do. I had to keep it together and try hard to get back up and in. I swam with the paddle to the upwind side, keeping contact with the kayak.

I took a few deep breaths knowing that if I tried too hard I would be fighting the process and not working at it in the slow deliberate process that it required. I created a lever between the buoyed end on my paddle and the kayak. I lunged and pushed myself out of the water facing the stern and face down on the kayak. My left foot was still in the water, I balanced, clinging, slowly wiggling. The next step was right leg in the hole, right knee on the seat. The next step was left leg in the hole knee on the seat. I was teetering, kneeling facing backwards, and not even looking at the water. Slow and deliberate is the only way. Now I have to rotate my entire body. I start my turn and sploosh I’m back in the water down wind, kayak upside down.

I thought to myself, “Good effort, it’s unreasonable to think I could recover in these conditions on the first try.” I was encouraged. I made fists to wring the water out of the gloves and fell the degree of frozenness in my fingers. I’m from Minnesota and had endured much worse cold. Time to regroup and make another attempt. No time to waste. I repeated the process. Dump the water, flip it, get upwind, create the lever, breath, relax and center before my leap, crawl and cling methodology. I launch myself, stabilize, shift and move into the hole. One leg, then not quite two, and I’m over and in again. I’m not angry, I’m not in fear of drowning; in fact I’m very much aliv,e and I embrace it.

I start to think, how much time do I have out here, the ferryboat is in sight and at dock. I’m preparing for my third attempt and I hear sirens in the distance. I think, “sh*t, those are for me”. I stop thinking and make attempt number three; I wanted to succeed even though it was unlikely. Attempt number three was quick and unsuccessful. I’m out there floating like a bobber in 3-4 foot waves. My arms are fatigued and the muscle fibers that control fine movement were slowing. I’m a doctor, I think; I know what’s happening. I’m back in the water and now I’m thinking O…K…this sucks, and now it’s time to try again.

(that photo’s by WSB photojournalist Christopher Boffoli)
Now the sirens are closer. I glance toward shore and see intermittent red flashing lights above churning, rising and falling white-water chop. My back to the wind and waves, I see what looks like people moving in the lifeboat hoisted three tiers up on the side of the ferry. My next thought is, this is going to be embarrassing. I wasn’t thinking, please come and get me, I’m dying out here. My ego and my internal fortitude were still pressing on. I prepare to make another attempt. I feel my body slowing. I lunge again, determined, teetering, and clinging. I realize the futility; I’m helpless against these forces of nature. Mother Nature says, not today, my son, not now.

At other times the water has been more merciful, kinder. I’ve come in from other paddles on the sound feeling downright lucky, even blessed. I’ve almost gone in, but not quite. Close escapes from teetering on the wire and not sliding out into the cold water like a clam cut and untethered from its shell. In fact, I often tip over close to shore so I can slide out of the shell. I like feeling the cold-water seep into my wetsuit like a cold slow flush, the chill of it cooling me down while I’m warm and strong at depth. From there I can trudge out of the water on the slippery stones and shells beneath me. The kayak bottom pressed against my thighs I carry the boat out letting my legs do the work. My arms hang, holding on like over-laden coat hangers.

The ferry has left the dock and I regroup for one more try. I don’t know where I think I’m going. The tide had me in her grips, her wind and waves beating me. I look up to see the ferryboat like a giant football linebacker making a J hook pattern to catch a pass. I cling to my kayak bobbing, kicking my legs to keep the circulation up. The ferry lowers their Zodiac lifeboat and I have to laugh. I don’t know why, except for the thought that this is my crazy life and here I am being rescued. Who would have thought?

A helicopter is hovering above, probably shooting film for the evening news. I’ll definitely make the evening news, I think, and chuckle again. [KING5 clip] I hadn’t freaked out and died, I hadn’t been a fool. I laugh at the unpredictability of life.

Shortly after that they pulled me out of the water and brought me to shore where I was taken to a house and a hot shower and bath. It took a while to get warm and for my blood pressure to come down. I was kindly cared for by the fire department staff and the police. They took me and my kayak home. I hunkered down for a couple of days and I did get cold easily and craved warmth regularly. The muscles in my arms ached deeply for a couple of days and felt weak.

A special thanks to: Jada Wood, the massage therapists at Seattle Athletic Club, and Catherine Sparks, my Chiropractor.

Dr. Redfern ( is a semi-retired Sports Medicine Chiropractor and resides in West Seattle. He added this note: All photos were zoomed, so the shore appears closer than the actual distance of 1000 ft.

37 Replies to "Rescued West Seattle kayaker shares his story - and gratitude"

  • andrea April 10, 2009 (5:09 pm)

    What a story! Thanks you for sharing your experience Dr. Redfern…I’m glad you made it out alright and are able to tell the tale so well to us all.

  • chuck April 10, 2009 (5:46 pm)

    I’m happy for your good outcome. I’ve ridden the ferries for 15 years now and have witnessed two other rescues. One was a kayaker who wore out between Blake and Seattle, at 2am, the other a runabout that hit a rogue wave and broke apart one morning in February, tossing two men into the water. The bored deckhands who directed cars suddenly became skilled rescuers, displaying cool teamwork. Ferry personnel take their safety training very seriously and I never begrudge them the inconveniences it causes.

  • Kevin April 10, 2009 (6:15 pm)

    Thank you for the well written account of this incident. I’m so glad to hear it had a happy ending. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

  • Huindekmi April 10, 2009 (7:14 pm)

    Good write up. Glad you made it out unscathed. And hopefully a few lessons were learned along the way. A few more could still be learned.
    First, taking on water in those conditions is not inevitable. It’s called a spray skirt. Buy one that fits tightly around your cockpit. Be sure to practice wet exits with the skirt before going out into ugly conditions.
    Second, good paddling equipment fits tightly. Rather than loose fitting gortex ski equipment, look into a gortex paddle jacket with good seals around the wrists and neck. If you plan on going out in these conditions in the future, it may be a good idea to invest in a full drysuit. The goal is to keep the water out. Neoprene gloves are great as well.
    It looks like you learned one lesson regarding self rescues. That transition from belly to seat is the tough part. It’s a lot easier if you put the free end of your paddle under the rigging behind your cockpit. Then you don’t have to rely on your cold hands to maintain the “lever” and you can keep your weight against it during the transition. Of course, being onthe downwind side helps with this. If you attempt to enter from the upwind side, the wind and incoming waves can catch the paddle float an flip you back over. But it looks like you discovered that part.
    Weather can be tough. Wind with the current can create some big, nasty swells and make it difficult to paddle. A kayaker can paddle at 3-4 knots. If you’re trying to go against a 2 knot current and a 20 knot wind… well… you’re not going to win.
    Wind against the current can be worse, creating sharp, unsettled and confusing wave conditions. It’s a really good idea to take a basic navigation course to learn how to identify and deal with this stuff.
    Finally, and this goes for everyone, know your limits and don’t go out alone in conditions worse than you’ve experienced before.

  • nuni April 11, 2009 (8:29 am)

    Is this guy getting a book deal or something?

  • Jo April 11, 2009 (8:35 am)

    Just saw film and coverage on KING5 news this morning with a big “shares his story in full on West Seattle Blog” mention.

  • Linda Lu April 11, 2009 (8:41 am)

    Scott! Thanks so much for writing this! Hope to see you Easter dinner. xo Linda & Ian

  • Cheryl April 11, 2009 (8:42 am)

    Wow! What a great (& harrowing) story! Thank you for sharing it with the readers of WSB.

  • Emma Peel April 11, 2009 (9:38 am)

    Glad to hear that you are okay!

  • Ty Bandy April 11, 2009 (10:03 am)

    Glad to hear you are OK Scott. I have a unique perspective on your story. I am very proud to say my wife, Sheila Bandy, was one of the Ferry rescuers. She has trained very hard over the years, a fact often lost on grumpy, disgruntled boat commuters.

  • Ty Bandy April 11, 2009 (10:43 am)

    P.S. The other rescuer was Graham Dewitt.

  • WSB April 11, 2009 (10:47 am)

    Ty, thanks for leaving a comment to let us know, and belated WTG for the crew. Imagine if those who work our “marine highway” hadn’t been there – not many other boaters out on a night like that, and the police/fire/Coast Guard boats are all stationed rather far away … TR

  • Jay April 11, 2009 (12:50 pm)

    You’re very lucky! I’m not a kayaker, but I learned long ago that winds from the south on Puget Sound means trouble. Any small crafter should think very hard before taking to the Sound in southerly winds. Very unpredictable! Glad you made it!

  • Mitch April 11, 2009 (1:47 pm)

    Makes Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon sound like a day sail, only better written!

  • ken pritchard April 11, 2009 (1:58 pm)

    Unclear if you had a body sock or not. if not, next thing down the list after a paddle is a spray skirt. Also, when seeing a tide rip at a point, either go wide where the waves are predictable or hug the shore, unless you really like to dance. I did see the flash of your paddle out there from the ferry as it was sitting at the terminal. I thought it must have been some guy practicing rolls in a rip, why else was he there. Glad other people saw you. If you’d washed up somewhere, I would have felt rather guilty.

  • triit April 11, 2009 (3:31 pm)

    Only guys and our macho attitude will ever do these things!! Mr. Fern says, “It’s not pretty out there but I don’t care.” And in the same paragraph, “The wind is out of the southwest and it’s rolling out there.” And we still do it!! Go figure!!

  • WestKayaker April 11, 2009 (5:16 pm)

    Thanks for illuminating what your thoughts were during this trying experience. Hopefully others will learn from your mistakes. Sounds like your bravado outweighed your experience and you got lucky–thanks to the well trained ferry and fire responders. Good job on the eloquence of recapping the event, but I’m officially finger wagging at you for being foolish. I’m glad no one got hurt rescuing you from your poor choices, as they were put in danger by you. As a sea kayaker myself I’m stunned you didn’t have a spray skirt on, or an understanding or currents and appropriate clothing for the Puget Sound waters. Here’s a glimpse of what you avoided:

  • Matt April 11, 2009 (6:02 pm)

    I caught the news report and video shortly after the incident first occurred. Thanks for filling in the details. Did you ever recover your paddle and paddle float? Last I could tell, as the video camera pulled back to wide angle, was they were caught between the rescue boat and its outboard motor and looked in danger of breaking in two as the rescue boat sped away with you.

    Things to change:
    Get and use a spraydeck.
    Practice self rescue (in rough water too) and make sure your kayak has deck lines on the rear deck that allow you to securely fasten the outrigger paddle float set-up to the deck. Shamefully, this fixing the outrigger is not part of the American Canoe Association’s cirriculum but needs to be. I second most of Huindekmi’s comments but would add that there is little danger re-entering from the upwind side using a fixed outrigger if you remember to always keep some weight on the float side during the entire rescue. Staying downwind of the kayak during a self-rescue can be difficult as the kayak will likely rotate around you with time because you are more anchored in the water than the kayak.
    Paddling down wind would have been far easier to control had your kayak’s skeg been put all the way down once you were turned to face downwind. Also, once broached sideways, the best way to turn downwind again is not to paddle forward on the upwind side but to use a combination braking/bracing reverse stroke on the other (downwind) side. If you are broaching, and uncomfortable doing so, it is better to slow the kayak down with reverse strokes rather than get to inadvertently surfing down a steep wave. Finally, practice these things the next time the wind is blowing you back towards a safe beach and you have friends around to help. Learning to Eskimo roll would be a good idea to if you find paddling in exciting conditions appealing.

  • Daniel Brenton April 11, 2009 (8:22 pm)

    This post was highlighted in the April 10 edition of Gratitude Watch.

    Thank you for promoting the value of gratitude.

  • Dave DS April 11, 2009 (10:21 pm)

    First, you are really very lucky to have survived your dunking. Fortunately for you, no one else was injured as a result of your poor judgement. Now you need to read George Gronseth’s Deep Trouble available everywhere kayak equipment is sold. Then you need to take a real sea kayaking class. Not a 15 minute demo or even a quick 1-2 day class. If you are serious about your own safety and that of others who may have to risk their lives trying to rescue you then you need to take a class with the Kayak Academy or the Mountaineers. Self proclaimed ‘kayakers’ who are inexperienced and unskilled such as yourself give all sea kayakers a ‘bad’ name. Get some training! no excuses.

  • Charles April 11, 2009 (10:55 pm)

    I second reading Matt Broze’s Sea Kayaker’s Deep Troubles. I read that early on and learned a number of useful lessons: 1) most on-the-water-deaths are the result of hypothermia; 2) most of the hypothermia is from not being dressed appropriately. You had a PFD but not the spray skirt and not a drysuit. The water temperature was 42°–what were you thinking? You dress for a swim, not assume everything will turn out for the best, especially in those conditions (the wind was coming out of the south). A drysuit and neoprene gloves buy you far more time in the water before hypothermia sets in. Others have talked about the paddle float rescue. A far faster, more reliable rescue is a paddle float roll: Inflate your paddle float, reenter the upside down boat, roll back up and pump out the boat. Or learn a roll. You belong out on the water in those conditions only if you have all the pieces in place to rescue yourself in the event of a capsize. Or so I say. Glad you lived to paddle another day. Go check out the Matt Broze book.

  • Alan April 12, 2009 (7:41 am)

    If you were out without a sprayskirt, then you ARE a novice. You don’t have the knowledge & experience to assess how little you know. See the Dunning Kruger effect.

  • Jon Sprague April 12, 2009 (10:28 am)

    If you go out in 30-50 knot winds, in March, with 2-3 foot waves without a spray skirt(doesnt sound like he even knew such a thing existed) and in just a wetsuit, no dry suit and without much training(couldn’t do a roll, or a reentry and roll?) it’s suprising that he is still alive.

  • ltfd April 12, 2009 (8:22 pm)

    Thanks to the WSF personnel. While the USCG is responsible for coordinating search and rescue efforts on the water, it is the personnel of the Wash State Ferries who make the most rescues in Puget Sound every year- they are “out and about” most hours of the day, and they are staffed by a well trained crew of professional mariners.

    Wear a dry suit when you are out kayaking on the waters of Puget Sound!

  • Steve Fries, D.C. April 13, 2009 (7:16 am)

    Glad you made it. I agree with all the above comments regarding proper equipment and lessons. The real hazard is not knowing what you didn’t know. This is what gets many of us in trouble. While I am speaking for myself, I think a lot of paddlers have an experience where we we in conditions beyond our training at some point. Good judgement is another important part of kayak lessons! Thanks for an indepth story. Steve

  • Larry Cheek April 13, 2009 (1:50 pm)

    Nearly every kayaking mishap, like aircraft accidents, is the result of a chain of human errors. It’s very instructive to analyze them. Scott’s errors were: (1) failing to check a detailed weather report, (2) deciding to paddle alone in marginal and deteriorating conditions, (3) not being fully prepared for immersion, and (4) paddling without a spray skirt. (I would never recommend anyone paddling in any conditions on Puget Sound without one.) (5) Did he have flares and/or a marine radio? Not mentioned.

    I write this not in personal criticism of Scott, but so other kayakers can learn from his experience. I’m very glad he had his capsize within sight of a vessel that was able to help quickly. In a more isolated location this incident could easily have had a tragic outcome.

    General rule: Outfit your body and kayak for the worst-case scenario on the water, not the best. Prepare for conditions that are worse than predicted. When in doubt, don’t go out.

  • Matt April 13, 2009 (8:44 pm)

    Until you have a reliable Eskimo roll you may want to leave a shock cord tethered paddle float mostly inflated under some deck lines behind the cockpit. Then if you capsize instead of going for a swim you can pull it out, lean back, and hold it directly out to one side at arms length. Then pull it down into the water to right yourself and the kayak. You should come upright laying against the back deck and looking at the sky. Of course without a spraydeck you would still have a lot of pumping out to do but with a spray deck you could paddle off (if you didn’t let the paddle go-or had it teathered). See more detail on this and other rescues in the “Rescues” manual of the Mariner Kayaks website at

  • Jeffrey Fabiszewski April 14, 2009 (7:54 am)

    Wisdom comes out of surviving, reflecting on, and not repeating our mistakes. A book or video will never teach how quick a mistake can turn into an obituary. I am glad you did not become a statistic.

    I have had the pleasure of knowing several great instructors. If you get a chance, go to a kayak symposium this year. You will find everything you need and get a chance to practice how to stay safe.
    —Jeffrey Fabiszewski

  • Wilbur April 14, 2009 (12:48 pm)

    Would the good doctor have donned a Tyrolean hat and lederhosen, grabbed a staff, and jaunted off for a stroll straight up Mt. Rainier?

  • MS April 14, 2009 (1:23 pm)

    People like this should be required to pay for the emergency services that they use due to their stupidity. Recreational kayakers should know the water conditions before they embark – Dr. Fern – big waves and high winds = danger….

  • Doug Lloyd April 14, 2009 (9:52 pm)

    Nice write-up – well written. However, needs a title. Perhaps “Clueless on the Water” might be appropriate. Anyway, I’m sure there were good lessons even for others from the reading of the incident and the news exposure garnered. Ironically, you may have made the sport a bit safer in your neck of the woods. Of course, it is only a matter of time before another similar story hits the air waves again.

  • Mike April 15, 2009 (7:16 am)

    PADDLING WITHOUT A SPRAY SKIRT IS NOT AN OPTION. and makes no sense at all. GET ONE a real one not some dinky nylon one, even better get a Tuiliq and please learn to roll before you become a statistic. Practice practice practice in real conditions. Reentry and roll in these conditions is the only way to self rescue. I don’t care what others say about paddle float rescues. As you learned they are useless. Do not rely on equipment to save your ass. Skill is the only thing that will save you. You used up all you good luck this time. Next one there might be none left.

  • Lisa J. April 15, 2009 (4:09 pm)

    Thank you for sharing your story Scott. Our CG and ferry people are really something, not to mention the others who made the calls! You learned some lessons the hard way. We live in a paddler’s paradise and I hope you will continue to partipate in what is truly a wonderful sport. You and others may be interested to know that there is an easy, safe and really fun way to learn the skills you need to avoid scenarios like this: Washington Kayak Club is offering their basic sea kayaking class from May 29-31, 09. Please see for more information or email me at Thanks!

  • Christine April 15, 2009 (5:21 pm)

    Doctor Redfern,

    If the tone of these comments seem chastising or harsh it is rightfully so. Members of the sea kayaking community are concerned for the well being of all paddlers. We are provoked when individuals take this sport lightly, putting themselves and others at risk. I hope that as an enlightened individual, you will now immerse yourself with training through reputable sources such as Body Boat Blade, University of Sea Kayaking, Kayak Academy, Nigel Foster, the ACA or BCU. This region is a mecca for paddlers, and for great training as well. I would expect you to responsibly equip yourself with proper tools (already listed in previous comments), educate yourself to begin with by reading the original kayaking I. M. manual: Deep Trouble, and finally, stop paddling alone, at least until your skills improve. There are numerous groups that you can join in your area to paddle and practice skills with, even in conditions. Getting a membership with Washington Kayak Club, the Mountaineers, or Puget Sound Paddling Network can connect you with others and help prevent this kind of scenario from reoccurring.

    If you feel that this is more than you have time for, please sell your boat.

    Christine B.
    Safety Nazi

  • Alex April 15, 2009 (8:31 pm)

    Lost in all these warnings about the need to know what you are doing out there, is the fact that once you do, going out in those conditions with other skilled kayakers is a hell of a lot of fun…

    just wanted to say that for the non-yakers wondering what the h is up with kayakers who go out in conditions other than flat calm and 80 degrees.

    if you invest in classes and gear=fun. If you don’t=death, like almost happened here.

  • Rob Casey April 16, 2009 (10:44 am)

    Some of us regularly go out in 20+ winds (up to 40kts) in the Sound around Seattle to surf waves in sea kayaks. And it only takes 17 knots to surf a board or waveski from a northerly at Golden Gardens. We love this time of year and can’t wait to go out when it’s windy, even snowing. That said, we only have those skills from years of surfing kayaks on the coast, and/or whitewater experience, thanks to solid training from the Washington Kayak Club, Kayak Academy, NWOC, Body Boat and Blade and the Mountaineers, to name a few. There’s no excuse in this town of REI’s and numerous kayak shops to have no skills or the right clothing. Take a class, find friends to paddle with whom are skilled.

    A few tips of advice..
    1) Always wear a drysuit or full winter surfing wetsuit (5/4, 6/5/4, etc). The saltwater here never gets above 50F even on the warmest days. Check kayak shops or surf shops such as Cheka Looka, now in Ballard. A good surfing full suit will cost ya $300, last for years, low maintanance, and very warm in the coldest conditions, Patagonia, Xcel, etc. If no hood, wear a neoprene hood or skull cap.
    2) neoprene gloves and booties. i can’t go without gloves in winter.
    3) Take a class from the above mentioned folks that covers rescues.
    4) Take a surf kayaking and/or whitewater kayaking class to become familiar with and comfortable in rough unpredicatable water. I’ve surfed up to 15′ waves in the sound comfortably and enjoyably thanks to my surfing skills.
    5) Wear the proper gear for the conditions – ie: spray skirt, (practice wet exits).
    6) Practice rescues with a buddy often, and in rough water. Learn to Roll. have a backup for your backup. WKC has pool sessions for rescue/roll practice.
    7) Pack a VHF radio, flares, whistle, and foodbar in an accessible waterproof bag or on ya. In another wp bag in the boat, carry extra synthethic fleece, etc.
    8) check local weather conditions, and watch the pressure drops,
    9) Use a local webcam to check real time conditions This is for West Point..

    I’ve done 5 rescues in Shilshole bay. Help prevent me from doing more! With the ‘warmer’ weather coming, more caos happens on the water. I also teach 1 on 1 with folks in Ballard, if you need more training.

  • Paul Fishman April 18, 2009 (6:48 pm)

    Scott…first: I’m glad you survived to tell the tale. I think all my thoughts have been articulated above. I’ve been in at least one very dicey situation on the mighty lower Columbia River where a combination of wind, tide and waves made me wonder if I would make it – all while trying to get to some other paddlers who were in deeper trouble while I was. We all made it – but lessons were learned. Don’t paddle alone – period. Have the proper gear and protective clothing. Rescue: practice, practice, practice. We’re all glad you’re telling the tale instead of being a statistic, and hope you have many more years of great paddling.

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