Friday, May 18, 2018

Book Title?

Good afternoon everyone!

Book 2 is mostly completed. I am finalizing the layout, and then it will get one more round of proof reading. And while the book has had several working titles, I haven't finalized anything.

So take this survey monkey and help me out.

It will take about two minutes to complete.

If you are unaware, the book is about planning outdoor trips. I highlight three trips in the book, a weekend backpacking trip, a ten day cycling trip, and a month long paddling trip. It uses these three trips to create a framework that anyone can use to plan outdoor adventures.

Take a moment and help me out if you can.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why you need to wear a PFD. No Really.

I've gone off on rants here more than once about wearing PFDs when paddling. I have had people tell me they don't perceive a risk, and so they choose not to wear one. The problem is that the perception of risk is easily missed, or misjudged. I've been paddling a kayak for well over 20 years, and have been teaching for close to 20. I will not get on the water without one. Here is why.

About a week ago I was scheduled for a "pre-season paddle training" for the school I teach for. We had a couple of new instructors we were on-boarding and it was a good time for all the instructors that work for this school to get together, paddle and make plans for the upcoming season. I teach at the equivalent of a satellite branch of the school and I had to travel the furthest and I arrived about 40 minutes early and saw that senior instructor was already there with a trailer carrying kayaks and SUPs. After I unloaded my kayak by the shoreline of the lake, I walked towards his truck. He got out of the truck and met me halfway. We immediately started discussing the weather.

It was still early, about 9:30 in the morning, but it was only 45 degrees and the water temperature was around 60. The wind was blowing at 15 and gusting to 20. We discussed the plan for the day and he confessed that he wasn't sure we would paddle. I told him "I already unloaded my boat, so even if we are off the clock I am going to paddle!" He chuckled and decided we would leave it up to the group to decide.

(For clarity I should point out I had no qualms about myself or any of the other instructors paddling in the conditions, but they were bad enough that I probably wouldn't have brought first time paddling students out on the water.)

As other instructors arrived we greeted each other and then headed to a picnic shelter to talk. We huddled next to each other for warmth as the wind kicked up. We talked about the new kayak and board fleet we were still expecting, and the plans for course types for the coming summer and fall. We talked about gear preferences and best practices for setting up your board or kayak for teaching. And we laughed a lot. I am fortunate to work with a really good crew of paddlers.

We finally took a vote and everyone agreed, we wanted to get on the water (but no one volunteered to demo wet exits for the new instructors. I intentionally left my drysuit home so I wouldn't get volun-told.) We all changed clothes and headed out onto the water. Five of us in kayaks and two others on Stand up Paddleboards.

We paddled into the wind, really doing little more than playing on the water. There was some discussion of technique, and recent training events. Lisa told me her planned race schedule - she is an accomplished long distance SUP racer. While we talked the wind pushed us back to our starting point and beyond, which is when I saw the only other people paddling. Two fisherman in separate canoes. Fisherman in North Carolina don't let weather get in the way of a good day fishing. They were about 150 yards away, and separated from each other by about 200 feet.

Our group was spread out in a line about 50 feet across. We had broken into small groups, Lisa and I were talking. My bow was pointed towards the fisherman, and Lisa's SUP was pointing away from them. As we talked I kept shifting my gaze from up at her (standing on her board she towered over me) and at the horizon which contained the fisherman and and a distant bridge. I looked back and forth between her and the horizon a couple of times as we talked. The next thing I remember was thinking that something didn't look right. It took me a second to realize the fisherman was no longer in his boat. Then I saw him in the water struggling. I said out loud "Is that guy drowning?" And before Lisa could turn to look, I saw another instructor, Ali, start sprinting to the fisherman, now swimmer. I immediately sprinted after her. As we approached I saw that he was bobbing in the water. Sometimes with his head above the water. sometimes submerged. It was clear he was struggling. Ali was on the other side of our group and one of the new instructors raced with her. As our paths to the same spot converged I realized she was closer and would get there first, I said "Ali, you got him?" to which she replied she did. I then edged to my right to get his boat, which the wind had pulled quite a distance away.

My boat was set up the way it is whenever I teach. My employer requires me to carry a throw bag, which lives on my back deck - I actually don't like the one they provide and I use one of my own. But on my front deck I have a deck sling, which has many uses, but can work as a short tow. When I got to the boat I connected its bow to one end of my short tow, and connected the other end to the hard point behind my cockpit. I turned around and paddled towards Ali and the swimmer.

I immediately saw a couple of things. Lisa was on scene with her paddle board. And they had him sitting side saddle on her board. (It took me three days to realize how quickly she got to the scene. She was facing the wrong way when I started sprinting, and I would be surprised if I spent more than 30 seconds setting up the tow. The woman is really fast on a board!)

As I approached the scene, the swimmers friend has just arrived, I told him I was going to slide my bow in between him and Lisa's board. Ali was on the other side of Lisa's board. I also asked Lisa to turn the swimmer so he was facing her and straddling her board. I waited a beat to see what else was going on. Here is what I was thinking:

Because of my background as a Paramedic and a wilderness medicine instructor I knew that we needed to do a full patient assessment on the swimmer. But all of the people responding were medically certified and outstanding leaders. I had to make sure that no one was already in the process of doing one. I didn't want to step on any toes. When I saw that no one was in process I automatically started. I have to stress it is nothing more than training. 5 years on an ambulance, running 7 to 15 patients a day, plus working in the outdoors, and training... always training. A patient assessment is something that is pretty much ingrained in my head.

I won't run through everything I did, but I will point out my concerns. The swimmer, now patient was wearing sweat pants, a cotton t-shirt and a flannel shirt over that. He wasn't wearing a PFD. My primary concerns were hypothermia, and injuries associated with the fall. I questioned him a couple of times, a couple of different ways to confirm he didn't hit the boat when fell in or hit anything once he was in the water. Once I was sure there was no actual injury I turned my attention to the hypothermia. We moved him into his boat from Lisa's board and in the process I saw the six pack of beer and the open beer bottle in his boat. About a third of the beer was gone from the bottle, but I couldn't tell if it was his first. His friend produced a PFD for him to wear which I asked him to put on, stating that it would keep him warm, and should he end up back in the water it would protect him. I asked if he was okay paddling back to the marina and he stated that he had a motor. Because my primary concern was hypothermia I was content to let him and his friend motor back to the marina which would be faster than we could paddle. We suggested that he get out of his wet clothes and into something warm. Once we were ashore about 20 minutes later I checked on him again to make sure he was okay. He confessed that he had vomited a fair amount of the lake up. I told him if he had any pain, or difficulty breathing to go to urgent care or call 911.

The instructors debriefed the situation quickly on the water and then we debriefed it in earnest on land in a group.

This guy who was very thankful for our help, committed what I like to think of as the trifecta of stupid mistakes. No PFD. Dressed inappropriately for the conditions, and then he added alcohol to the mix.

His friend didn't hear him go into the water, the friend was alerted by people on land. If we hadn't been there, if we had decided we didn't want to paddle because it was cold and windy, this guy was dead. It was that simple. If Ali had gotten to him 15 seconds later he would have been unconscious. 30 seconds later he would have submerged for the last time. A PFD would have solved the problem immediately. If he had been wearing a PFD he would have been able to get back to his boat. It would have been an annoyance. a ruined fishing day. Instead, he almost died. He didn't perceive the risk. When your experience - or lack thereof - doesn't let you see the risk, or your ego doesn't let you see the risk, or your vanity doesn't let you see the risk it is far easier for something like this to happen.

As we debriefed I told my fellow instructors that I am a fan of the concept that people don't generally die in the outdoors by repelling off the end of their rope, or stepping off a cliff or something else dramatic like that (those things do happen, but that isn't normally how people die.) People die in the outdoors because the make a mistake and don't realize it. And then an hour or a day later that mistake comes back to bite them in the ass. I feel that people like this are already dead when they decide not to put on a PFD. But it takes a few hours for it to actually happen. You can fight it, and if you get lucky you can pull yourself back from the mistake you made. But sometimes you can't.

If you are a paddler, please wear a PFD, even if you don't perceive the risk.

Ali also wrote about this event, and you can read her much more detailed account here.

Friday, March 2, 2018

What is 70,000 words and 244 pages long?

As of today the answer to that is my currently untitled Trip planning book.

The bulk of the writing is done, there is a photo shoot in the coming weeks for one of the many sections. And I hope to have it on iTunes and Amazon for Kindle by may.

I am super excited about this project and it is the reason I haven't been writing here.

I have been doing all of this while still teaching. Last weekend I was in Nashville and next weekend I am teaching in Brooklyn. I have a lot on my plate, and working hard to get everything done.

I also have another big trip I am starting to think about down the road. BIG. Potentially life changing big. Stay tuned for details.

In the coming weeks I am going to send out a survey monkey to test potential titles, send an email at Paddling Otaku gmail if you are interested in being included in that survey.

I will unfortunately not be teaching at the Charleston outdoor festival this year. Maybe next year.


Here is a screen cap of one of the page layouts. At the end of the day, if you want to do big trips, you have to make the decision to do big trips....

Monday, August 28, 2017


I am so saddened by the events in Texas, as I write this Houston is under 4 feet of water. I know several people whose families have been safely rescued. Fortunately no one I know directly has been effected.

But lets be honest. It's just a matter of time, isn't it? Major storms are just becoming more common. This was originally a 500 year storm, and now they are saying a thousand year storm. I hear very few people talking about why we have been hit with a storm like this.

The answer is simple, climate change. That is why it is inevitable that sooner or later someone I know will be effected. My family lives on Long island, my friends live in Manhattan. How soon until another super storm like Sandy hits New York again?

Until we come together and work to make dramatic changes in the way treat the environment things like this will continue. My sons children - at this rate - will see cities inundated with water permanently. Miami will be the first to go.

Today I had an interaction on twitter with someone. He said that climate change was a joke. To which I replied, that he was seeing the effects of climate change right now, in Texas (and soon Louisiana). He responded that there was nothing I could say that would change his mind, and then ended (he thought) the conversation by saying "now I am going to say something you're really going to hate. God created the heavens and the Earth" as if that was supposed to shut me up. I responded that I had no problem with him believing that God created the heavens and the Earth. But that I think God would be appalled at how we are treating his creation. He never responded.

I have paddled a lot of North America. I have seen the changes caused by climate change, first hand. I have read books. I have spoken to glaciologists, climatologists, and geologists. None of them had any doubt that we are seeing the effects go catastrophic global climate change every day.

"If you think things like 97% of scientists believe it, so if 3% don't believe it why should I?" you are fooling yourself. Chances are at some point in your life you are going to feel pretty stupid, and probably ashamed of your lack of action.

The signs are all around us. Hottest year after hottest year. Greenland loosing major chunks of its ice cap. Ice sheets the size of states breaking off of Antarctica. It is so obvious if you just open your eyes.

It reminds me of this scene from The West Wing.

My thoughts are with all the people on the Gulf Coast, and the First Responders.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review - The Stern Pry

While I am hip deep in writing my next book, I thought it would be a good time to review some of the beginning stories we talked about. Amazed that These are so old.

This is the Stern Pry, which I use all the time as a little way to adjust course. Here is the original post.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Climate Change Denial - What I don't Understand

Okay, so..... Clearly, I have read, and for the most part understand the science of Climate Change. I have also been to Alaska and seen the effects in the form of Glaciers that have retreated massively. I have had conversations with climatologists who have worked hard to understand what is happening, and their repayment is being denigrated, and in some cases threatened.

Let me say for clarity, the only part of the science that is unclear is just how bad the effects will be, and understanding just how it will play out.

But, if you don't believe the science, keep reading. Because it is you I want to hear from. I want you to explain to me what you are thinking, and your responses to a couple of questions.

If you think the scientists are wrong, or you think that the scientists are in some form of collusion, to bilk the american people (or their own country if they do their research someplace else) out of millions of dollars, let me throw out some info for you. My wife is a public health researcher and has done work with grants from various sources. When a researcher - any researcher - gets a grant, they don't actually get the money. It goes to the institution they work for (in my wifes case a state university) and that institution controls the money. It covers the researchers salary, and expenses for the research. So the thought that researchers are doing this for the research money is ridiculous.

If you think that we have no choice but to use coal and oil and natural gas to power our cities, I would point out that many countries are making renewables work. China is spending billions to be a leader in renewables, and frankly is making us look bad. They are being the world leaders we used to be, and honestly, they will probably beat us to Mars, but that is a discussion for another day. But it isn't just China, Developing countries are spending money on renewables too, you know why? Because it's cheap. Cheaper than oil, coal or nuclear, and oh yeah, its cleaner too.

If you think it will put oil workers, and coal workers out jobs, it will, but not for a long while. Oil isn't going anywhere, it will be along time before electric cars take over, and it will take time for coal to be replaced. But by decreasing our oil use we could source it locally. (except we still need to buy it from the middle east, to keep those people happy so they buy airplanes, but like I said before, a discussion for another day.) But at the same time, it will create millions of jobs because someone has to install all that solar/wind/geothermal.

But, if by some chance, we are wrong about climate change. Then we are "stuck" with renewable power leaving us energy independent, with updated infrastructure and clean water and air. Wouldn't that be terrible?

So I am wondering who is against renewables, well, billionaires that own oil companies. that's who. If I were a billionaire with money tied up in oil or gas or coal, I would be scared too. That makes sense, I understand that. If it were me, I would pivot to solar, but that's just me.

But what about non-billionaires. What about regular joe's who work for a living? Why are you against renewable energy? Tell me. Do you honestly think it is some kind of con? Tell me.

Im not the smartest guy in the world, but I really want to understand.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017 happenings, ECPS, NWM, and a new book!

I am just going to gloss over how crap the last half of 2016 was, and slide right into some things I am excited about for 2017.

I was asked to represent WMI - sorry,  NOLS Wilderness Medicine, we have had a name change and new branding - at the East Coast Paddle Symposium in Charleston South Carolina. This is super exciting. I will be teaching four, one hour classes as well as manning the NWM booth for three days. During the process of setting everything up, I was asked to send them a Bio, and shortly after that, I got another request.

I was asked by the group running the event to do a fifth class. This time not medicine related. They wanted to hear about my book, and the trips I have done. Honestly, I didn't want host a talk directly about my book. Seeing an empty tent for that would be too depressing. So I told them I would talk about trip planning, and overcoming the obstacles to make big trips happen.

I am really excited to get to take part in a really wonderful event. So here's the deal. Ill be wearing something that says Paddling Otaku on it, or maybe you will just recognize my bearded face. Either way, come and say hi, and Ill give you a download code for a free copy of my book. How does that sound?

The other thing I have decided that I am excited about is I have made a new years intention. I hate the word resolution, lets try intention. My intention for 2017 is to finish the writing for my next book, which is titled "Expedition planning: From weekend trips to month long adventures" Initially my intention was to have it finished, but then I came to my senses and I know the writing will be a big enough challenge.

I am happy with some of the things I accomplished in 2016, but saddened that I wasn't able to make some things happen. It was a really lousy year. Going into 2017 I am particularly concerned about the environment and the state of our planet. I am worried that what little progress we were making on climate change will be quickly erased. The only thing on that front that I am optimistic about is that perhaps people will realize that we can't wait for governments and we have to make the changes ourselves. Renewable energy, way less meat eating, decrease waste. I think that is what we have to be faced with.

That is where I am as 2016 comes to a close. I hope you are doing well...

Ill be writing, and paddling. and teaching.

Let's go!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

GoPro Hero5 Black and Hero4 Silver Comparison.

Here is my first comparison video between the two. I simply held them next to each other, almost touching. Identical settings, 1080p (this is a 720 output from FCPX) 60 FPS, wide field of view. Protune off, video stabilization on for the 5. 

HERO Comparison from Brett Friedman on Vimeo.

I've barely used the five. I got one two days before release and had to return it. There was a power issue. I finally got one yesterday. Even though both cameras use the same chip, and lens, the 5 black has a better look. A bit more contrast. It is now waterproof without a housing, which is cool, but it makes a few things difficult to do.

Because the ports are behind a waterproof door, I can't power the camera externally. I also can't run an external microphone, which I only did a few times and I have a work around for. The mount it comes with, which is sort of like a frame housing feels a little fragile. These are the only negatives I have found so far.

I love the new user interface. I love voice control.

The voice control is a game changer. I used to take my GoPro paddling and turn it on and let it run. Because it would be mounted on the bow, short of using a remote this is the only thing I could do. Now, to have the ability to tell it what to do?! Amazing.

Ill put up a more detailed review when I have had a chance to really shoot with it. But so far I am pretty excited.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The overuse of Epinephrine

It's pretty much the nightmare scenario. You are out for a lovely hike. Then, all of a sudden someone gets stung by a bee. a minute later, they can't breath. This has two outcomes. Outcome A) You have an epipen which you administer saving your friends life. Option B) you don't, and you witness your friend die in front of you while you sit helplessly watching. Scary right? Anaphylaxis is the last topic taught on the WFA classes I teach. We regularly get the question, well, can I just buy an epipen and have it in my first aid kit? The answer, as I am sure you know, is no you can't. It is of course a prescription drug, that you need an allergy and a prescription for. (You know this because the Epipen has been in the news for the last six months as the price has skyrocketed, and the manufacturer has come under scrutiny for essentially price gouging.)

I taught two WFA classes in the last month, and between the two of them, I got to thinking. How common is this scenario? I started looking, and I learned a lot. 

Now, for the record, I am currently certified at the Wilderness First Responder level. But I have been an active working Paramedic and EMT. I know a lot about this drug, and have pushed it a handful of times when working on the ambulance. A handful of times, meaning 3. 3 times in 5 years. Doing 8 to 15 calls a day. I have also been teaching in the outdoors for sliding up on 20 years. Okay, I am at 17 years. I have taught day long courses, and month long courses. I have had thousands of students. Outdoor programs always carry Epipens, to avoid the scenario above. I have never pushed epi on an outdoor course. I have never even come close. 

I really should title this post, the over fear of anaphylaxis. Because that is what we have. For clarity sake, Of course anaphylactic reactions to allergens are a real and scary thing. If you have an allergy you need to carry an Epipen and you need to know how to use it. But the problem is we have convinced the world - or at least the population of the United States - that this happens a fair percentage of the time when adventuring. The problem is, there aren't any real studies about deaths from anaphylaxis in the backcountry. 

But there are studies for the front country, and they are very interesting. There are three studies that people use, two of them lasted ten years, and the third was 4 years. They looked at death certificates and Hospital and ED discharge information. Here is what they found. 

The authors found that case fatality rates were between 0.25% and 0.33% among hospitalizations or ED presentations with anaphylaxis as the principal diagnosis. These rates represent a total of between 63 and 99 deaths per year in the US, ~77% of which occurred in hospitalized patients. Rate of anaphylaxis hospitalizations rose from 21.0 to 25.1 per million population between 1999 and 2009. However, overall mortality rates appeared stable in the last decade and ranged from 0.63 to 0.76 per million population (186 to 225 deaths per year).

The primary cause of Anaphylaxis is reactions to medication - usually antibiotics. These numbers are staggeringly low. This is just not something that is happening that frequently. Despite what we are told, this really isn't something we need to be worried about. 

But, those numbers are for the front country. What about us enjoying the back country where we are exposed to the elements, and more importantly, Bees! There just isn't data... 

Or is there? I work for two very large outdoor companies. surely they keep records? right? They do. I emailed them both, and I am not going to share whose information I am relaying, frankly because I don't know if I am allowed to. But here is what I was told. For the decade prior to last year, instructors pushed epinephrine 5 times. 5 times in ten years averaging about 4000 students a year. That is .0125%. But importantly, I don't know what the cause of anaphylaxis was. But why does this exclude last year? because last year was an anomaly. Last year there were 11 instances of epi being pushed on a course. 

Almost all were the students own Epipens being used. Again I have no data as to signs or symptoms of the patient. But 11 instances in one year is .275% - It is statistically impossible for that many students to have gotten Anaphylaxis in one year on courses. Which means, Epi was pushed when a life threat wasn't occurring. 

Why would that happen? Because we have made everyone afraid of Anaphylaxis, and we think it occurs all the time. We are confronted by someone telling us they are allergic, and had an exposure. They will get an anaphylaxis reaction, and they will die. So we push epi. The big give away, that they are worried about something that isn't going to happen, is they can tell us. If you can say "I need my Epipen", you don't need your Epipen. Here are signs and symptoms of Anaphylaxis


The first signs of an anaphylactic reaction may look like typical allergy symptoms: a runny nose or a skin rash. But within about 30 minutes, more serious signs appear.
There is usually more than one of these:
  • Coughing; wheezing; and pain, itching, or tightness in your chest
  • Fainting, dizziness, confusion, or weakness
  • Hives; a rash; and itchy, swollen, or red skin
  • Runny or stuffy nose and sneezing
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing and rapid heartbeat
  • Swollen or itchy lips or tongue
  • Swollen or itchy throat, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing, tightness in your throat
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
  • Weak pulse, paleness

We also used to think that it was common to have what is called a biphasic reaction, meaning you have a reaction, get hit with Epi, then you get better and up to 24 hours later you get a second reaction. We used to think it happened close to 30% of the time. Now we know it happens less than 1% of the time. (though web MD says otherwise, I trust my medical directors more!)

We live in a culture of fear. We are told to be afraid of something, and then told what to do about it, which invariably leads to us spending money. I am not saying you shouldn't carry an Epipen if you have an allergy. But if you don't have an allergy, you don't need one. 

The other thing you don't need is quick clot or a tourniquet. But I will leave that for another day.. 

Link 1 for data
Link 2 for data
Link 3 for early evidence of the culture of fear we live in. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hard to believe it was five years ago.

Paddle North - Episode 2 from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

Five years ago today I posted this to this website.

The Inside Passage trip was conceived on 9/11, as I was sitting in my office trying to think of something better that a world literally collapsing around me. I thought about where I would like to be at that moment. It was Alaska.

I planned it on and off for a decade, and then got serious, and spent a year and a half almost full time making it happen. At one point, ten people were going with. For a little while no one was going with me. Then Sarah had a change of heart, and decided to make the trip. She was very trusting as I had done all the planning, she just stepped into the trip with blind faith. We planned on it taking us 30 days. We did it in 21 with 3 rest days (and the rest days were mostly because I got the flu!)

I came home and produced the videos (all shot on an original GoPro Hero HD, I am about to upgrade to a Hero 5 black) Then got to work on the books.

I wrote and produced Enlightened Kayaking which is available on iTunes, and then about a year later I realized I didn't like the forward stroke section, so I created Forward which is a free book that just covered the forward stroke.

I am in the planning stage for a third book about expedition planning. But I am having a hard time getting it started for real. I know from experience just how hard it is to write a book, and at the end of the day I don't make a whole lot of money from them.

I don't have plans for another big trip, though I am constantly flattered by the people who ask me. And a surprising number of people ask me. This past week I had a woman that I know only as an acquaintance tell me if I go back to Alaska, she wants to go. The problem is I know from experience that people say that, but then when they hear the sacrifices involved they end up changing their minds. But still, it's flattering.