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Lessons Learned: Kayakers’ harrowing experience highlights water safety

Boaters overcome by gusty winds and violent waves
A kayaker prepares to leave Sombrio Beach for Jordan River. Wind and waves proved to be a formidable opponent for the group. (Contributed - Kat Loveys)

On a warm spring day, 10 experienced kayakers embarked on a journey along the picturesque Strait of Juan de Fuca. Little did they know that nature had some surprises in store for them.

As the group paddled from Sombrio Beach to Jordan River, a sudden change in weather brought gusty winds and choppy waves, putting their skills and courage to the test.

“The water was perfectly calm when we started out, with no wind,” kayaker Kat Loveys recalls.

The wind proved to be a formidable opponent.

Five of the kayakers found themselves battling the forces of nature, ultimately losing to the power of the waves.

One by one, they were unceremoniously hurled into the icy depths; their dreams of a calm and tranquil voyage shattered.

The first kayak overturned trying to get over a giant surf wave to get into calmer waters on the opposite side – subsequent mishaps followed in rapid succession.

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In one instance, a raft of sea lions was visible on the rocks as Loveys and Gary Weeks approached Magdalena Point hoping to get photos.

The tandem kayak got stuck on a flat rock that wasn’t visible due to water swells.

“I was turned to the shore taking pictures, and as I turned to see why we were stopped dead, a huge wave that looked like a wall of water swamped us and flipped our boat over into the icy sea,” Loveys said.

Loveys was momentarily trapped underneath the kayak, attempting to release the boat’s skirting. Once she freed herself, she swam to the surface. Weeks was on the surface, holding onto to the kayak.

Their companions sprang into action, swiftly reaching out to the struggling kayakers and assisting.

“It just happened so fast. We were there, and the next wave comes in, and then you’re swamped,” Loveys said.

The Life Saving Society B.C.-Yukon branch is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting water safety education and preventing drowning and injuries related to water activities.

“What you do to prepare in advance may save a life in the event of an emergency,” said executive director Lenea Grace.

Loveys said that while everyone in her group wore wetsuits, some weren’t wearing helmets, and she was unfamiliar with how to release the kayak squirt quickly enough.

“This recent event has taught me so much about the need for respect for the ocean, human courage and compassion, strength and endurance, basic survival skills, preparedness and most of all, team playing,” she said.

The Life Saving Society offers these tips when you are near or on the water:

• Observe the conditions closely before you step out onto the shoreline

• Keep an eye on incoming waves and stay alert

• Check the daily tidal information

• Stay warmer with a wetsuit

• Learn surf etiquette and how to navigate the surf zone

• Stay in shallow water unless you are trained and suited

• Be alert to the effects of cold water

• Know how to avoid a rip current and how to escape one if caught

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Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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