Sunday, October 17, 2010

What went wrong.

I first saw this video linked online, it is helmet cam footage of a very bad day paddling. the experience, though not the video, ends with a helicopter rescue. Though this is whitewater I think it has some valuable lessons for us. The kayakers paddle broke when trying to roll - which in and of itself is both incredible and unbelievably bad luck - but there were several mistakes made by this paddler that I think we can learn from.

I don't mean to embarrass this paddler, I got his permission to post the video, as he agreed there were lessons to be learned.

I think that the most valuable lesson here is this. Rarely do people die when they make a mistake. Most climbing deaths on Mt. Everest don't involve someone rappelling off the end of their rope. But what happens is this. You make a mistake and an hour, or a day, or a week later, that mistake has been compounded and amplified - usually by other mistakes - to a point where you suddenly realize that you made a life threatening error and now have to claw yourself out of the hole you have inadvertently dug.

All to often I hear this phrase, 'Of course it's safe, we have always done it this way, and no has ever gotten hurt!' But having done something over and over again and not having a problem doesn't make it safe, it means you didn't get caught.

So what is the one thing this paddler didn't do, that would have made this day paddle an inconvenience instead of almost the end of his life? You may think his luck turned bad when the paddle broke, but in fact his fate was -almost- sealed several hours before the video starts.

Thanks to ScottyB for letting me post this.

The Swim from ScottyB on Vimeo.