Great Lakes Surfing Association
Beach & Pier Rescue Project

September 30, 2007 Meeting / Exercises

Pier Rescue Exercise 1           Pier Rescue Exercise 2

This was to be our first rescue exercises with big waves, but was actually our first time in 'bigger' waves, which is probably as it should be.   We've been lucky in that respect. 

We were short-handed with Bob recovering from surgery and Mike trying to work his way south from northern surf lands.  So we called on the services of Matt Smolenski of dog rescue fame, 2006 ESA Great Lakes  District Short board Champ and present king of the Rockpile. 

This was also the first time we've had other surfers in the exercise area and it was a little more difficult rounding everyone up to get to the exercises.   Marty was surfing.  Ken was doing tow-ins with Matt, but instinctively everyone knew it was time. 

We spent some time out on the pier figuring out an exercise area and an approach around the surfers to the pickup spot.    An area about twenty feet off the side of the pier and about 100 feet inside the outside lineup was chosen for the victim insertion area and in went Matt.  Marty went off just inside of where the victim was and paddled out to him, which is different than how Mike does it jumping off outside the victim and paddling in to the victim.  There usually is an optimal way and we will have to decide on that when we get to the instructional presentation portion of the project.  I favor Marty's method for various reasons, but we can talk on that.

Marty did a great job and getting him on the board the way Bob instructed us.    Matt said later he was really impressed by the way we do that.  Marty got Matt away from the pier about 50 feet from the side.  Talking to a former GH CG rescue craft driver he said to me that he could get within 35 feet of the south pier on a 4-6 SW.  He said he was better than average and the typical CG skipper could  safely get in about 60- 70 feet away.  However, Ken came up sooner than expected so Marty stopped moving the victim and readied for pickup.

The pickup was smooth despite the larger waves.  Ken skillfully maneuvered around the inside lineup and came up between the last surfer in line and the pier.  Ken said the surfer was surprised by it all and wondered what was going on.  After the pickup Ken did a great job bringing Matt in through the break.

Then we all got together on the beach and had a planning session to decide on how to execute the second pier rescue whereby the rescue craft would not be used and as a last resort in a real situation the surfer would bring the victim in through the break.   There was some discussion the technique to be used once the surfer and victim reached the impact zone and it was decided to keep the victim towards the back of the board with the surfer acting as a sea anchor hanging on to the tail of the board. 

Matt went in the water again as victim, but this time just outside the inside break.  Ken, relieved of his rescue craft skipper duties, went in after him using a board that is only 5' 10"!  All went well as the waves broke over the backs of the two burying them in white water and each time they emerged intact.  

After the two pier rescue exercises we called it a day as we were anxious to get out surfing.  The rip current exercise was not held.   With the larger waves we wanted to keep the day simple and focus on work around the pier.   The pier rescue exercises are more complex and is redundant in the rip exercise. 

As mentioned, Matt was much impressed with what we are doing and agreed to join up on my request.  He can be 'pet rescue' instructor!  :-)  I think, in time we could run two or three teams successively or together.  We may also want to try combinations of one victim and multiple surfer rescuers or one surfer with multiple victims.  I'm hearing numerous suggestions and everyone seems eager to keep pushing forward.