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HomeNL-2019-05 Safety Minute

Safety Minute
May 2019
by Harmon Everett


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    Safety Minute
    Don’t go Chasing Waterfalls
    With respect to TLC
    I know. We LOVE waterfalls. Simply love them.

    We’ve all seen the pictures and the videos of kayaks and canoes plummeting down waterfalls, and doing extreme seal entrances. Sport. That’s what it’s called. Adrenaline rush. Heart pounding clutch seconds of full body fear. Many of us have gone over Graduation Falls on the San Marcos, and Hidalgo Falls, and have our favorite ripples and rapids on many of the rivers around here. Some who have traveled further afield have their favorites on the Week of Rivers, or Belize, or the Snake or the Green.

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    PHOTO: Adrian Kiernan pictured kayaking in British Colombia in October 2018. (Instagram: whiteboxmag/Geoff Stewart)

    Ya gotta understand, tho, that sometimes, those folks in the pictures don’t survive. Google “kayaker dies in waterfall.”

    And, often, they survive, but with massive injuries. Broken backs, broken feet, broken legs. We know of them, too.

    This is a sport that has lots to offer, from quiet bayous, to ocean swells, wilderness rivers and portages. But as we are reminded from time to time as we fill out the waivers at different events, this is a sport that is dangerous, and probably never so dangerous as when we seek out, or inadvertently find ourselves going over a waterfall.

    For those of you who seek to intentionally go over waterfalls in your kayak or canoe, I wish you well.

    I will caution you, however, with two truths:
    1. Heraclitus, around 520 b.c. noted that: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man."
    And 2. Humorist Josh Billings noted that: “It isn’t so much what we don’t know that gets us in trouble, but what we know that just isn’t true.

    Even if you have scouted the river, or have gone down the falls several times before, rivers can move rocks around from moment to moment, and it may not be the same waterfall, or seal entrance you knew last time. Be careful. Those things can kill you And once or twice a year we get news that somewhere one of them has killed an experienced and skilled paddler. Again. It can happen to you.

    You have to find your own balance between the risks you are willing to take for the sport you are in. But please be careful. And go with friends who can pull you out and get you to a hospital if need be.
    See you On The Water!

The author, Harmon Everett