Big Wave Safety Summit

posted by / News / November 22, 2013

Captions by Danilo Couto

Class has never been so interesting. Or important. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

Class has never been so interesting. Or important. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

CPR class with Pam Foster. She is an amazing person; she understands our needs and really knows how to send a direct and objective message. “Call, push, respond! Do not stare, DO SOMETHING.” Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

CPR class with Pam Foster. She is an amazing person; she understands our needs and really knows how to send a direct and objective message. “Call, push, respond! Do not stare, DO SOMETHING.” Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

The battle of the vests. We are very thankful for Billabong and Patagonia for putting in the time to developing these inflatable vests for us. Here, Shane Dorian shows Billabong’s newest model, which he helped develop. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

The battle of the vests. We are very thankful for Billabong and Patagonia for putting in the time to developing these inflatable vests for us. Here, Shane Dorian shows Billabong’s newest model, which he helped develop. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

DK Walsh demonstrates an important lesson from the day as he rescues John John Florence: handles on vests are a good thing. Photo: Brent Bielmann

DK Walsh demonstrates an important lesson from the day as he rescues John John Florence: handles on vests are a good thing. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Seth Moniz, Kiron Jabour, Dennis Pang — a few generations gathering for the good cause. [That’s caption-master and event coordinator Danilo Couto, standing.] Photo: Brent Bielmann

Seth Moniz, Kiron Jabour, Dennis Pang — a few generations gathering for the good cause. [That’s caption-master and event coordinator Danilo Couto, standing.] Photo: Brent Bielmann

Unconscious pick-ups were a big part of he training. This is how you close the mouth and nose so no more water enters the body. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Unconscious pick-ups were a big part of he training. This is how you close the mouth and nose so no more water enters the body. Photo: Brent Bielmann

The legend, our master and my favorite person in this world right now — Brian Keaulana. The amount of knowledge, aloha and class that he shares is unbelievable. Photo: Brent Bielmann

The legend, our master and my favorite person in this world right now — Brian Keaulana. The amount of knowledge, aloha and class that he shares is unbelievable. Photo: Brent Bielmann

Awaiting instruction. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

Awaiting instruction.. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

Mark Healey is another legendary waterman, putting lots of energy into making big-wave surfing safer. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

Mark Healey is another legendary waterman, putting lots of energy into making big-wave surfing safer. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

It was great to see so many young surfers attend. These are the Moniz brothers with coach Rainos Hayes, practicing proper life saving skills. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

It was great to see so many young surfers attend. These are the Moniz brothers with coach Rainos Hayes, practicing proper life saving skills. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

North Shore lifeguard Abe Lerner came out to participate and lend his expertise. Here with DK Walsh and Mark Healey. [After this shot it’s reported that Abe calmly saved Healey from whatever that thing is protruding from his head.] Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

North Shore lifeguard Abe Lerner came out to participate and lend his expertise. Here with DK Walsh and Mark Healey. [After this shot it’s reported that Abe calmly saved Healey from whatever that thing is protruding from his head.] Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

The group shot after an amazing ho'oponopono. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

The group shot after an amazing ho'oponopono. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

West Side life-savers posse: Brian Keaulana, Sam Pa'e and Craig Davidson, all donating their time for us. Mahalo. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

West Side life-savers posse: Brian Keaulana, Sam Pa'e and Craig Davidson, all donating their time for us. Mahalo. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

From below. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

From below. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

East Coast Casey, Mike Pietsch and Eli Olson and talk equipment. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane

East Coast Casey, Mike Pietsch and Eli Olson and talk equipment. Photo: Duncan Macfarlane


 
It began a couple years ago as a CPR class. Sion Milosky had passed a few months prior and Kohl Christensen and Danilo Couto knew it was time to make big-wave surfing safer. In a barn on Kohl’s North Shore property, they held the class and a couple dozen big-wave surfers left feeling more prepared than ever before. Last year, it expanded. They held an all day event at Turtle Bay and in addition to CPR, they learned rescue theory and had a chance to test it out in the water. This year, it grew even more. The two day event saw 60 surfers — including guys like John John Florence, Nic Lamb and Ben Wilkinson — spend a full day in the classroom and a full day in the water. With North Shore waters like a still pond and Kirk Passmore’s death fresh on everyone’s minds, legendary waterman Brian Keaulana had his students’ full attention. And when class was dismissed on Wednesday evening, it was no exaggeration to say that the big-wave community is a whole lot safer.

Kohl Christensen, who spearheaded the event along with Danilo Couto, takes us through the 2013 Big Wave Safety Summit in Memory of Sion Milosky. —Taylor Paul

KOHL: CPR can be intimidating when you’ve only taken a course once, because they are always adjusting the theory. You’re like, “Am I doing it right? Was I supposed to do breaths or compressions?” But our CPR teacher, Pamela Foster, really simplified it to be all about compressions. So she made it easy and everyone got it. It was especially good for the young kids, like John John and Nate Florence and their whole crew. It was rad that they came. And it was funny because we were in the classroom for almost nine hours and those kids sat still — they were pretty much captivated the whole time. It could have gone south with bad teachers, but between Brian Keaulana and Pamela just kept us all glued to them.

One of the things we did were “scenario breakdowns.” We’d split into groups and Brian would come to each one and create a scenario at a certain surf spot. And the groups would work together on a prevention plan and figure out the steps we’d take to solve the problem if things went wrong. That exercise really produced a sense of risk management between everyone. It was great to talk things through and throw ideas out there.

What Brian was really encouraging us to do, before we go out and surf big waves, is to just take a step back the night before and look at the big picture. Look at the break, look at the current, look at the reefs, look at what tools you have to manage the risk. And also to coordinate with other surfers that are going out. Forget the cliques or whatever. Surfing’s such an individual sport, but this event has brought a bunch of individual people and their egos together and made them feel like a team.

The next day we worked through some real-life scenarios in the water: Unconscious victim pick up on the Ski by yourself, unconscious victim pick up on the Ski with a guy on the sled, pickups for conscious victims with a board and without a board, etc. Answering questions like where do you put the board on the Ski, whether or not to take the leash off, stuff like that.

It was great to just open up the dialogue and establish a preparation mentality, especially for the younger kids. Some of them have Skis but they don’t have that mindset to prepare. I think the course helped them realize that there’s a lot more to it than paddling out. Let’s prepare and get our shit together. Let’s not all just paddle out. Let’s go out with one Ski and all know how to drive the ski and trade off.

In reflecting on real-life scenarios [like Greg Long at Cortes Bank or Maya Gabeira at Nazare], Brian stayed away from any finger pointing or shoulda-coulda-wouldas. Instead, he focused on, “Look, Carlos Burle did something and now Maya’s still breathing.” Rather than focus on whether or not the technique of the rescue was perfect. And Carlos did CPR on Maya and that was CPR that he’d learned here at this summit last year. You know? He did something and it saved her life.

And that’s the thing, there’s no concrete right way. Every situation is different. Every break is different. The idea is to gain some skills, practice those skills, and then when the situation does go down, do something. And if you try and you fail for whatever reason, at least you can look back and know you were prepared and did everything you could.

SURFING would like to say thanks Kohl, Danilo, and Jodi and Liam Wilmott for putting this event together. And also to the Hawaiian Tourism Authority and Billabong for sponsoring this event so that the surfers could attend without charge. Stay tuned for an informational video from the event that will launch exclusively on surfingmagazine.com.

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  • EWL

    Where was Laird? ;)

  • Izzy

    Sitting on his garage and keeping his comments to himself hopefully

  • jonnie austen

    its good to see the big wave surfing community come together and put their heads together to find effective ways to make big wave surfing a much safer sport today than its ever been. surfing has always been an individual sport but when the waves get big everyone needs to watch each others back. unfortunately it sometimes takes a tragedy like sion’s drowning at maverick’s to create a lifesaving innovation like the inflatable vest. the fact that kirk passmore was the only surfer out at alligator’s on the day he disappeared without an inflatable vest is a testament to its value as a lifesaving tool. and the fact that carlos bruhle was able to use the cpr skills that he learned at the big wave safety summit to save maya gabeira’s life at nazare highlights the value an importance of the summit to all big wave surfers. kudos to brian keaulana, pamela foster, kohl christensen and danilo couto.

  • Andrew Schmidt

    While I am excited that the world of big wave surfing is embracing this type of training, it HAS TO be stressed that compression-only CPR is not sufficient for treating drowning victims. Drowning patients need oxygen, and taking rescue breaths out of the picture is doing them a dis-service. Please watch this video we created which covers this topic in response to the Maya Gabeira incident:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCD47f7HGic&feature=share&list=UUn2KTP5zOWts5fV8H02ILbA

    Once again, glad to see people are focusing on the treatment of drowning victims, but we need to all be on the same page with the correct information.

    Andrew Schmidt, DO, MPH
    Director, Lifeguards Without Borders
    http://www.lifeguardswithoutborders.org

  • Just Boon

    Great initiative. Will you share the details of the training online somewhere? Would love to read every thing.
    What is the website for this training?
    finally, rumour has it that this training is coming to California. How and where to sign up?
    Thanks for sharing this, we need a lot more info on safety.