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Accident Description


From the Whitewater SUP Facebook Page

Luke Hopkins I have friend that told me today he was surfing a wave in a kayak on the potomac at rocky island wave train. He was surfing the second wave and a SUPer was surfing the top wave and fell and swam and the board went on one side and the paddler went on the other side. The leash went around his neck(kayakers) and he flipped and was force to swim out of the kayak with a leash around his neck...and he swam pretty far in winter temps before getting his kayak out of the water.

This is a Class V boater, a great boater. Lastly it was his Birthday today. The point is sometimes a leash might make it convenient and not safer for you but a leash can and did put someone else on the water at risk because of it. Next time you put a leash on think about whether you "need" it or "want" it. There is a differance. Make sure you have a system that works in case of an emergency so if you need to save your neck or someone else’s neck...then you can. Uses it responsibly and when you need it.

Gabe Bayles I don't use them either. I tried them a little last year but all they seem to do is tangle and impede when flipping the board back over and doing a quick self-rescue. I feel I'm safer without it. I paddle with buddies and really try to not take out any kayakers when I play on waves cause if I play I know I'm going to swim

Corran Addison The problem is not the leash. It's WHICH leash. In my opinion ONLY Waist leash with a quick release should ever be used on a river. The safest place is ALWAYS on your board and NEVER swimming. That's where a leash comes in. 99% of the leashes I see used are dangerous and wrong. You won't catch me on whitewater without one.

Luke Hopkins When I use a use a leash in the river...I use 3/8 inch of the velcro at the closure around my knee...coil leash and if I walk to the very tip nose of the board the slight tension on the leash can almost pull it off. The point is when I fall in...if I want the board to come with me I immediately grab the leash where it is connected to my knee because if I don't it will be gone if the board moves away from me. My leash also has a notch in it the compromises the leash under more significant tension so if it got wrapped around something it would just break. I personally use a knee leash because I can reach it with my hand...I sometimes connect it above my knee as well. When using a quick release on a vest make sure to not run the strap through the metal tri bar before the plastic clamp...really too much friction is involved for it to pull out under lower stress easily...like the situation yesterday on the potomac. I use to design PFDs for Johnson Outdoors...the quick release belt system has some major flaws in real world execution under low stress...the angle of the pull in relation creates more friction in how the strap flows out. These are just some things to consider. This is just my perspective and experience I am sharing. Everyone has there own experiences and perspective and the real point of a leash it to mitigate risk for the experience. 1

Tim McDonald I use a leash on rivers/whitewater, especially when guiding - when a client/student comes off their board, they USUALLY do not go after it, as they have yet to develops the automatic reaction to go after it, thus leaving me to retrieve and tow board

Dan Gavere Using good judgement is also in play here. Not just a leash thing. I have seen many kayakers take out a kayaker surfing downstream on the next wave. If someone's on a wave upstream you risk getting taken out or hurting person if they come off the wave...

Matt Hudgens That happened at Santa Cruz way back....but it was one of the judges on a surfboard who got wrapped up around a kayaker who dropped in on him! I don't the rest of the paddlers scores that weekend were any good

Corran Addison Yeah my leash has an adjustable Velcro section that you can put to high tension (large volume rivers) or low tension (lower volume rivers with rocks trees etc). The leash itself is coiled and made from a low strength 4mm polyurethane cord. This cord is notched twice to create a snapping point. The whole thing then attaches to a Velcro waist belt (rather than to a life jacket chest harness like you describe for that very reason). The attachment point on the Velcro belt is a sewn loop that also has a low strength breaking point. The key is 5 redundant break away systems to release the leash if your hands are occupied elsewhere, and two hand release systems (the ideal way to release it). Swimming down a rapid is never good. Every swim exposes you to danger. We swim off sups all the time. Being back onto the board as fast as possible is the safest thing. But the leash has to be safe. I don't think an ankle or even a knee leash is. If you're dangling in fast current by the leash you can't reach your knee and if that Velcro doesn't release that one time.... Either way. You won't catch me on a sup in whitewater without a leash unless it's a banal class 1-2 rapid with safety in place (like a slalom course).

Gregory Miller Communication with all those at Rocky or any other spot is key to avoid future situations.

Robert Goo I was involved in the incident. I usually wear a waist belt with a coiled or semi-coiled leash. I gave up leg leashes because I felt they were a hazard. Another surfer asked to use my board and the leash and waist belt were both transferred to him. I took his Jerry Lopez inflatable and ankle leash (XM powerclip with quick release). I was surfing the 1st wave and fell and the wind caught the board and lofted it in the air and I was swept down to the 2nd wave (I think I was out there first and the kayaker (I owe him a beer) got on the second wave after I was surfing. In any case he said the leash hit is chin as I was swept by him on river right. My board was to his right (river left) and I guess he sort of got clothes lined. He immediately rolled and now was upside down between me and the board. I saw him try to roll and moved towards him to try and give him the hand of god. The second time he rolled I saw the leash was wrapped around his paddle shaft. At this point he wet exited and swam. Unable to arrest his descent at the islands above wet bottom he was swept downstream where we got him on my SUP and corralled his boat (I already had his paddle) and got him to shore. It is unclear if any one is at fault although we both accepted responsibility for the incident. I think a combinations of factors precipitated the event including the short distance between the 1st and 2nd wave, the wind, the inflatable, and the beefy coiled leash which often compounds tangles.

Corran is correct, wave etiquette is critical. I didn't know he was on the 2nd wave. At Rocky there are often multiple surfers on waves 1-4 and often there are collisions between kayakers and sometimes between kayakers and SUPers. I've often seen surfers continue to surf when either a SUP or kayak falls off of the upstream waves. I am glad the kayaker didn't get hurt and I am sorry if this incident negatively affected his birthday (Happy Birthday!). Some considerations to mull over. I prefer the waist belt or rescue vest attachment because it allows me to grab my leash almost immediately upon falling and help guide the board away from other objects and people and also to retrieve it faster and get back on it. I also don't have to reach down to my ankle or knee so I am better able to maintain my situational awareness. With a quick release belt you can also release the entire kit fairly easily.

I also think that the semi-coiled leash with a low breaking strength is a safer choice. The semi-coiled leash (like the one Imagine SUP used to or still sells) has the right combination of length, tangles less and doesn't drag off of the board which is also hazardous. Although I have two XM powerclip leashes, I don't think they had much of a safety factor in whitewater since it may be difficult or impossible to reach your ankle in some situations and even it you can, it may take a few seconds to find and engage the release ring.

SUPers should also consider the new Badfish set-up with the waist mounted brass quick release device (i haven't used on yet, but they look good). I also agree with Greg Miller that communication is key and I also think whoever is surfing downstream should be extremely aware of what is going on upstream. Someone also suggested that when the SUPer falls that they stick their paddle up so that the kayakers can see they are coming. Often the wave is big enough that the kayaker has no clue there is a board and SUPer in the water until they drop in on them. As a SUPer when I fall and I know there are downstream surfers I often dive down or shield my face and head until I am certain I am clear.