SUBJECT: LB2CAT Pushing the Envelope Tng Ride 010409

Four riders from and SoCal Watercraft Club met up this morning for our usual weekly training ride. The group expanded to four this morning and the ride was pretty uneventful for the two SeaDoo’s and two Ultras. What is pretty extraordinary though are the four riders – keep in mind this is just one riders opinion. 75% of our riders this morning have won races like the LB2CAT and 300 mile Mark Hahn Endurance race. When I say won races I’m not just saying in one of the classes I’m talking about winning the event and in some cases – more than once. The fourth rider is planning on an 1800 mile ride down the Aleutian Peninsula (Alaska) in May 2009 (visit So, that should give you a little idea of the riders that were out this beautiful sunny, 61 degree California (we ride year round) clear visibility to the island and back morning.

Arriving at Avalon, Catalina Island didn’t seem to do much for this group as it was a fairly flat sea state so Lee suggested that we also ride around the island. And that is just what we did. Some of us are starting to believe that it’s not a true sport unless there is a very real chance that you could die while participating. Trust me I’m not the first to either think or suggest this. Back in Hemingway’s day he was quoted as saying: There are but three true sports–bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games.” (This quote is normally credited to him but apparently he never said it. And of course there were no jet ski’s back then and it wasn’t until someone suggested or even started doing the off shore performance thing that this actually became a sport. So you see we’re just starting to get the ball rolling as it were on this offshore riding gig. Perhaps a modern day version of Mr. Hemingways quote may go like this: There are but three true offshore sports; pwcoffshore riding; water skiing from a cigarette boat and swimming with great whites.

DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: So where do we fit in? Are we in the motor-racing category (no we can’t catch fire and they can’t drown and our track is constantly changing). Mountain bikers? I tend to think we’re more like snow boarders. Recently someone sent me this utube video about a snowboarder that was dropped off on top of a 7600’ peak with near vertical drops. He was planning on snowboarding down this impossible looking peak. The other three guys were watching and narrating from an adjacent peak. Seems they were also experts in their (snowboarding) field but the one guy that opted to try the peak was the one with the adventurous spirit that always pushed the envelope for more. He knew in his heart that this could be done. The others only thought it could be done. Guess what? He was successful and in doing so broke through pushing the envelope so that others after him knowing that it could be done – are now attempting or even doing it.

I know this is supposed to be a story about our ride but I’m attempting to describe what it is that gets these guys out of bed and into the cold with the desire to just push it some more; seems that LB2CAT (Long Beach to Catalina Island and back) ride is what we used to do for fun. For work or for dropping off that 7600’ peak or flirting with a chance to die offshore try adding the “around the island” component or something similar.

So who is tougher? Kayakers or jet skiers? Those kayakers get out and do some amazing things way more than snow boarders and possibly more dangerous as well with way more chances to die. One kayaker paddled 1700 miles with 40 miles to go on his trip before having to be rescued. He also had to throw in the “cold” component to his chances. A 24 year old from Alaska ended up swimming to shore after being swamped by two freak waves. He started his kayaking trip in Dawson and paddled the Yukon River for 1700 miles.

That little swim of his after he was in the water and couldn’t get back on the kayak cost him over a month in a hospital to recover from third-degree frostbite of his feet. If you’re wondering how cold his water was it was 45 degrees. Just 9 degrees colder than our water this morning. However, his outside air temperature was just over 35 degrees colder. Can you say wind chill factor for us riding at WOT (wide open throttle).

Rick wore a life jacket to his credit but no dry suit. According to him his strongest emotion was one of anger. Anger at having gotten into this situation. His chances for survival were not looking good. When things were looking really bad he started shouting, I will survive. I will survive. This action he says, more than any other probably saved his life. All this thinking in the water probably amounted to about 5 seconds.

His three options were 1) keep trying to right the boat and paddle to shore (which he could not do); 2) swim ashore towing the boat; 3) abandon the boat and swim to shore. He chose option 3 and possibly so would you according to his description. Unfortunately, he kicked off his rubber boots before he started swimming. In his floater coat was everything including an EPIRB. Matches, flares, fire starter, lights, everything he needed to survive. As he swam he still shouted that he would survive. Took him 30 minutes to get to shore; another 5 hours passed before he was finally able to get a fire going. At 10 a.m. the next morning a Russian SARSAT satellite picked up his EPIRB signal and told the coast guard in Juneau. By 2 pm there was still no rescue. Imagine walking barefoot across frozen tundra littered with sticks and stones, while they cut into your feet. Eighteen hours later he was rescued and has managed to keep all his toes. He should recover to nearly 100 percent. Some story huh! Now this is a guy with a will to survive.

Thinking of doing a backside of Catalina Island ride? First, make sure that you have experienced riders like the four out this morning. At no time were we ever farther from each other than say 1/10th of a mile. Never, ever leave your Wingman! If you are not yet familiar with this term then you need to do a little google search. I now have the PBL (personal beacon locator) affixed to my RED rescue type vest. A little more offshore riding like today and I’ll just have to end up thinking that my life is worth more than the $500.00 to purchase that EPIRB for that little boat.

So you see, there are but three true offshore sports; pwcoffshore riding; water skiing from a cigarette boat and swimming with great whites but only with your Wingman (make sure he’s not able to swim as fast as you).

See you on the Water!