Spring is here. For many, it is the time to get back on water. The odds are, some of us will also end up in the water. Sooner or later a good number of kayakers will find themselves as being one of the swimming public. That is where I want to focus some attention.
For the last few months the surf zone has been the focus of my attention. We had some great surf days here in Southern California this last winter. We also had a lot of kayakers swimming next to their kayaks after getting spanked by some big waves. I was impressed by the way my kayaking friends were able to handle swimming in the surf zone.
Many years ago, I learned a philosophy from the Tsunami Rangers called "TNT". It stands for "Tuning N Timing." The essence of their message is to get into the water before you kayak in it. They believe you should be prepared to swim wherever you kayak in the event you capsize there. I think there is great wisdom in their philosophy and I want to share some of my thoughts along the TNT lines.
Self confidence is an important aspect of sea kayaking. If you are not confident, it is difficult to be relaxed. If you are not relaxed, it is common to tense up due to anxiety. We all know that capsizes are more frequent when we are tense. I have found, doing some TNT has helped my students build some confidence before launching through a surf zone. By playing in the waves, they are able to feel the forces of the surf and the rhythm of the ocean. They also get a chance to get wet and feel the temperature of the water.
When I look at the kayakers who are dry before their launch and the ones who did some TNT, there is a marked difference in their posture and attitude. The wet ones have already become "one with the water." The potential capsize no longer seems to be such a big deal. Therefore, they are more relaxed and less likely to capsize. Capsizing seems more uncomfortable when a person is relatively dry. It appears to me the anticipation level goes down after the first dump is out of the way.
When I river kayak, my paddling buddies and I would always do a couple or rolls before hitting the next rapid. It seems to put us more in tune with the water. The same is true for the ocean. Get out in the waves and play, before going through it, if you find yourself getting anxious.
How far you go out and the size waves you choose to launch through and/or play in, is entirely your choice because you are the one who will have to deal the situation. How you implement the TNT concept is your responsibility and it should be based upon your skill level and comfort level.
As part of TNT, it is a good idea to do a practice wet exit and swim your kayak back to shore. In addition, I recommend learning and practicing the paddle swim. Like any other skill, swimming back to shore with or without your equipment is a skill that needs honing.
When you go in for your TNT, be sure to dress for immersion, wear your PFD and have your helmet on. Remember to have deck lines on your kayak to give you places to grab your kayak when needed.
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