Ocean Safety is Ocean Safety – No Matter Where You Are

This Winter on Maui has been big, even already this early in the season, and recent incidents there prompted our friend Suzie Cooney to write a great post on her Maliko Run blog about safety.  Her advice is solid no matter where you paddle, and since downwinding is a growing passion in a lot of places, we thought we’d share.  Downwinding in places not as temperate as Hawaii adds another layer of risk to it, as cold temps come into play.

Suzie’s blog post includes some sobering examples of what can happen on the ocean and it is worth a read. In the meantime, here’s her safety checklist, applicable to anyone who paddles on the ocean, or big sounds and rivers, for that matter.


For All Vessels

Hydration Pack with storage pockets
Waterproof whistle
Waterproof pouch(s) for cell phone/and or GPS device
Waterproof  two-way radio
Certified Personal Personal Locator Beacon registered with NOAA – Provides MOST accurate fix on location
Charged cell phone (can be more difficult to operate–911 not always available)
Glow stick / waterproof flare
Small mirror for air signaling
Plastic zip ties
Surf Key for fin
Leash string
Bike tube piece (to secure loose rudder- Jeremy Riggs tip)
Extra leash or double up on big days
Wax/Sticker to plug and cover holes or bad dings
Waterproof tape
Waist PFD
Energy bar

TIP: To save space in your hydration pack, you can carry your phone/GPS device in a waterproof pouch with a comfortable lanyard around your neck. On my Vestpac, I secure my waterproof whistle to the front for easy access. Then on the back of the Vestpac, I secure a large rugged, plastic carabiner where I then clip a waterproof pouch to house my ACR ResQlink 406 MHz GPS. I also have zip ties, wax, leash string, mirror and electrolyte cubes in front.

OC-1, OC-2, 6 Man, Surfski

All the above PLUS:

Extra paddle secured to hull or ama for quick/easy access
Bungees on iako
Extra strips of rubber
Heavy duty duct tape
Sufficient bailers
45 foot nylon towing line

Equipment Safety Check

SUP/Prone – Plug / Vent  Always do a total board scan before and after a paddle. Some boards have vents or plugs for draining. Be sure plug is secure. Also check for stress cracks or forgotten ding repairs. Check fin box for leaks, tighten fin. If using a rudder board, change cables on a regular basis as some can fray or rust. Always test rudder before paddle. Keep leash strings fresh.

OC1 OC2, Surfski – Inspect entire boat before and after each paddle session. Check steering cables and foot pedals for fraying and corrosion/rust spots. Look for soft spots including on the ama. Secure extra paddle with strong Velcro, rubber clips or rubber tubing.

When securing the iako into the mounting holes, check the spring pins for corrosion or clip failures. Check that the rudder is straight as handing the canoe can twist it so far that the pedals may not be able to move it without damaging the cables.

(Special Note) Become familiar with how to tow a disabled boat due to broken ama, swamping, fractured hull, injured paddler, broken rigging. If the rudder jams or cable breaks also learn how to steady the rudder to fixed position and practice on how to use a bungee for rescue steering.

There is much to take into consideration when it comes to ocean safety especially on the big and epic Maliko runs. But don’t be fooled, things can and do happen even on small days. Best to always be prepared.

The one thing that you cannot buy, download or borrow, common sense. Be smart. Study the weather and wave reports. Be sure you are feeling strong, rested and fueled. If for any reason a little voice is telling you not to go, don’t. Listen to your gut. Don’t ever feel pressured into going out if you feel you are not experienced enough. Better to speak up than be slapped in the head by your friends.

Get more tips and learn how to be in the best shape for whatever kind of paddling you do on Suzie’s website.

For all things Maliko, check out her new page here.