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Air Horns and PFDs

August 31, 2009

Contrary to what many assume, I did not go to UCLA.  I did my undergrad at UCSD.  My first year, I lived on Argo II and shared a suite with a bunch of pranksters.

One of the things we did to entertain ourselves was to scare the living crap out of people.  We quickly graduated from hiding behind doors and jumping out at people to using air horns to scare them.  All hours of the day, you would hear air horn blasts from our floor.  It didn’t matter what our friends were doing – in the bathroom, taking a shower, shaving, sleeping, or studying.  It didn’t matter.  You were fair game.  Yes, we were jackasses.

Anyways, air horns and other “sound making devices” were banned the following year.  Our rebellion morphed into hiding in our kitchen cabinets so we didn’t have to leave our rooms for earthquake and fire drills.  The ironic thing was we were also “creatively” using Everclear and lighters.  😉

Well, many years later, it looks like another rule was created to protect me.

After seeing another Southern California team use inflatable pdfs at this year’s Long Beach Tournament and learning the USDBF (United States Dragon Boat Federation) approved the inflatable pfd for all USDBF-sanctioned dragon boat races, I began to use an inflatable pfd for practice.  A few of my teammates also started using them.  They were great – comfy, liberating and safe.  It reminded me of racing in the ’06 ICR World Championships in Taiwan – or paddling freely on an OC1.

There are pluses and minuses to the inflatable pfd.  The main negative is that you have to pull the cord for the pfd to inflate.  So, if a dragon boat capsized and all 22 people simultaneously knocked themselves out, those 22 people would be pretty much screwed and would go straight to the bottom of the ocean.  Also, you have to periodically check the pfd’s gauge to see if it needs to be serviced.

The standard pfd is not without its negatives as well – one of the biggest for me is it’s actually much more difficult to get back into a boat with a standard pfd on.  Also, the standard pfd provides a false sense of security.  I don’t think it’s very bright for someone to even think about paddling in any sort of boat unless that person can swim.  But there are people that paddle without bothering to learn how to swim and believe a pfd is their substitute for learning swimming and basic water safety.

One’s ability to swim wearing a standard pfd is also severely retarded.  Pfds were designed to keep you floating in an upright position – not swim (or get back into a boat, for that matter).  If you have to swim any length over 10 yards, you’re screwed.

The fact that there are paddlers that don’t know how to swim magnify the need for leaders/swimmers on a boat to be mobile in the event a “non-swimmer” paddler is in need of a rescue.  Wearing a standard pfd, a stud swimmer becomes a sitting duck that cannot offer meaningful assistance.

Why the rant? I just got word over the weekend, that the SCDBC has officially banned the inflatable pfd.  Before, this past weekend, the SCDBC had no official stance on the inflatable pfd.

The above being said, I understand the SCDBC desire for safety.  I can only presume the merits of the inflatable pfd were discussed before they were banned.  I don’t know, though.  I wasn’t there because I wasn’t invited (I find this peculiar as I am currently counsel for the ICEA and SCDBC)

No more inflatable pfds on dragon boats, people.  Sorry.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. mark feng permalink
    August 31, 2009 1:50 pm

    I wonder if the deciding body from SCDBC actually had an inflatable PFD in hand and tested it before they decided to ban it for DB practices.

  2. August 31, 2009 4:57 pm

    Mary had called a meeting inviting the captains and/or other team members in leadership positions. Unfortunately it was held the Saturday you were in Miami. Dr. Chen and Mike were NOT present — nor ever invited. The purpose was to explain that Dr. Chen and Mike wanted the dragon boat community to take over the day to day management of the SCDBC. An individual brought up a question about the waist type pfd’s. She wanted to know if they were acceptable. Several people spoke up immediately saying that they were against them for safety reasons. Not one person spoke in favor of them. Even though I personally am not in favor in using them, I mentioned a conversation that I heard between Dr. Chen and several paddlers recently. I heard him sayng that he understood some of the safety issues but was considering allowing them. No one backed me up on this point. A very informal vote was taken and this group decided against allowing them for the year around teams.

  3. paddlesports permalink*
    August 31, 2009 5:18 pm

    Informal votes creating policy. This is a first.

  4. kAt permalink
    September 2, 2009 10:38 pm

    you were in Argo II? James, Otto and I were on Argo II our freshmen year! James and Otto’s suite TP’ed a bunch of trees and buildings that year and only one person (james roommate) got caught/cited and we saw it reported on The Guardian! Heheheh!

  5. paddlesports permalink*
    September 2, 2009 10:42 pm

    So funny! Yup, I was in Argo II – we were in the handicapped suite. The showers were AWESOME – double headed!

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