Over the past few months, writes Andrew Ingram, South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) has responded to a number of surfski paddlers in need of help. Almost all of them were hypothermic and in a desperate situation.
Local surfski legend, Dawid Mocke, who has 20 International Ocean Surfski titles and has been the Surfski World Series Champion for four consecutive years, made a passionate appeal, together with NSRI, for the paddling community to improve their safety precautions before there was a fatality (see www.nsri.org.za/2014/11/safety-appeal-to-paddlers).
Tragically, on 15 November, during a surfski race off East London, competitor Mark Feather died while competing. After this NSRI has been asked by many paddlers for recommended safety precautions and tips on what to do if search and rescue is needed.
There is seldom one simple answer so we have put together a number of suggestions that we believe should be taken into account.
Weather and sea conditions can change fast and paddlers must remember that they need to stay afloat and warm for however long the rescue period is going to be. Even with emergency beacons and flares, a rescue can take hours, depending on place, conditions and accuracy of information.
You can read the NSRI's advice at www.nsri.org.za/2014/11/paddling-safety-precautions.