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Tow-in Surfing and Offshore Safety the real deal.
Meet Steve Hall, a surfer, ex fisherman and he currently runs his own marine training consultancy business. He specialises in commercial vessel safety, however he also trains and assess for the Recreational Skippers Ticket on behalf of the Dept. Of Transport (Marine).
Here is his story and one that is well worth reading for some owners of jetskis.
On a recent trip down south, I noticed an increase in the number of Jet Skis being used to access offshore breaks for the purpose of tow-in surfing. Isn't technology great!
I remember back many years ago when my friends and I were crayfishing at a remote island in WA. We used a crayboat as the mothership and a dinghy as the Jet Ski to access the breaks. One of those breaks had a massive current running down a deep channel next to the reef and the only way we could get out the back was to get towed out by some-one in the dinghy. We all just sat in the inside after our wave until our mate towed us out the back - good for crowd control. One of the guys had surfed Sunset in Hawaii and he often commented about the similarities in the current and the style of wave, with several bowling/pitching sections down the line.
It was also good to know that someone was looking out for you and could get to you quickly if you were dragged over the reef or being swept out to sea on the current. A mate of mine broke his legrope and lost his board at Big Sandy one afternoon. He was picked up by the dinghy but his board was found 3 days later, 40 NM away in Geraldton! This brings me to my point.
When you are in surfing in remote offshore locations you need to be prepared for the worst. Weather, accidents, mechanical problems can turn a great day into your worst nightmare in an instant. Think about how you and your friends can plan and prepare to prevent a tragedy. Have you discussed a plan for all possible situations and does everyone understand their role in an emergency? As an ex fisherman I have seen my share of accidents at sea and I have seen the difference between a trained crew and an untrained crew in an emergency - usually it is the difference between life and death!
Safety gear is another issue I would like to raise. A jet ski is a vessel and is subject to regulations about the amount of safety gear that you must have on board. If you are travelling more than 400M offshore in the ocean, you firstly must be wearing a personal floatation device which is a Type 1 PFD and is made to Australian Standard 1512. I use the yolk type (similar to the offshore workers). It is slim-line and comfortable to wear and I can inflate it by pulling on a tag. If I was drifting into unconsciousness, it will roll me over onto my back so I can breathe.
Secondly, you need flares (inshore flares up to 5 Nautical Miles and offshore flares over 5NM), an Epirb if you are outside of the Metro area and more than 2NM from shore and lastly a marine band radio if you are over 5NM from shore. If the radio is a VHF type, then you need a qualification to operate that radio because it is a commercial radio. 27 MHz radios are not subject to this requirement but I have not seen any hand-held versions in the stores.
I can hear the groans of protest now and I know you don't want to have to go and buy all this stuff, but think about it - how are you going to get help if you have no means of communication? If you or one of your friends is in a life threatening situation, wouldn't you like to know that you have a plan and that you have the gear to raise the alarm and get help quickly? When I was commercial fishing, I had a recurring dream that I had fallen off the back of the boat at night and was watching it sail away into the night - the feelings of hopelessness and stupidity about what I could have done constantly haunted me.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you that you must have a Recreational Skippers Ticket to drive a Jet Ski, it is subject to marine safety legislation and as the skipper of that vessel you are legally responsible for the safety of all persons on board. Also, any vessel that is less than 3.75M registered length may not go to sea more that 5NM from the mainland.
Enquiries: Contact Steve Hall Mobile 0417 488 864