Re: Fw: [whatcompaddlers] Surfskier death due to failed leg leash.

debbie natelson

A few have informed me that the attachment never made it.???   Not sure why it gets lost in the forwarding, but here it is again.  


--- On Sun, 10/9/11, debbie natelson wrote:

From: debbie natelson
Subject: [SoundRowers] Fw: [whatcompaddlers] Surfskier death due to failed leg leash.
To: "SoundRowers members" Date: Sunday, October 9, 2011, 10:47 PM


This is rather sobering and tragic news.  Learn from it what you can -- such that we never have to read another tale like this.

While the conditions in this recap are rather extreme, the final outcome could have happened in 3-4 ft seas, right here in Puget Sound.  


--- On Sun, 10/9/11, zach handler wrote:

From: zach handler
Subject: [whatcompaddlers] Surfskier death due to failed leg leash. [1 Attachment]
To: "whatcompaddlers@..."
Cc: "zachhandler@..."
Date: Sunday, October 9, 2011, 8:52 PM


I am writing all of you to let you know that a surfskier died in Minnesota on Friday.  I was one of the four people that was paddling with him that day.  I am attaching the description of the days events that I previously wrote up as an announcement to the Minnesota community.  Most paddlers here are marathon canoe racers, so the description is written to them rather than to experienced surf ski paddlers.  The bottom line is that he died because the velcro wrap that attaches the leg leash to the ankle failed, and he was left in in big seas without a boat.  He had an expert paddler next to him at the time, but the nature of our gear is such that in big waves we are not able to help each other effectively. 

There are many things that need to change about our equipment.  Our lives depend on a wrap of velcro around our leg.  That is insanely stupid but we all do it.  There is a  paddler here in Minnesota that wears two leg leashes going to the same leg.  That is not paranoid; that is smart.  Most boats have no way to attach a tow line, and none of us carry tow lines.  That means that if someone loses their boat, you might be able to paddle after it but you'll never be able to bring it back to them.  I plan to do end pours on my v12 and drill holes to attach a tow rope. I am going to modify a sea kayak tow rope so that it will have an industrial strength suction cup on the end in place of the carabiner.  That way I will be able to tow any boat, even if there is no tie down point on the bow.  I never used to carry flares or a strobe light on me, but that will change.  I used to keep my marine radio and cell phone on my boat rather than in my PFD.  That has to change too.

To appreciate the story I should explain to you lake Mille Lacs.  It is a lake in central Minnesota that is essentially a circle 15 miles across.  It is a surf skiers dream.  A road goes around the lake, so whatever direction the wind is blowing there is a perfect 15 mile downwinder to do.  On windy days 8 foot waves are common.

You should also know something about Todd Ellison.  He was 50 years old, and as fit as any 50 year old can possibly be.  He would rank among the top few marathon canoe racers in the Midwest, and one of the top handful in the entire nation.  He was almost as impressive in an ICF sprint Kayak as he was in a canoe.  He loved canoe racing, but he was addicted to the speed of a K1.

More importantly, though, Todd was an amazing human being.  I have probably never met anybody who was as lighthearted, playful, and curious as Todd.  And that is not posthumous exaggeration.  I remember one time I met him for a 1 hour after-work paddle in the K1s.  Our plan was to get a workout, but somehow he decided we should master the deep water wet entry into an ICF boat instead.  He had never heard of anyone doing this before, but suddenly decided that it must be possible and we should master it.  We spent the next hour falling out of our kayaks and trying to climb back in.  By the time we were done the boats were entirely submerged under the water and we had to paddle them like submarines to to shore.  He was laughing so hard he couldn't catch his breath.

If you would like the blow by blow story, from a paddlers perspective, then please read the attached file.  If you do not, then please take a few minutes to seriously reassess your boat safety set-up.  Have a plan for how to survive when your boat blows away.  And have a plan for what to do when you see some one else's boat blows away.

Zach Handler

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