Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Malfunction! Emergency, Emergency!

Year ago go when I was still a skydiver hoping to achieve a thousand jumps, we once watched a few students doing their training for their first jump. The biggest part of the training consists of the emergency procedure when you have a malfunction. When you jump from a plane for the first time your body is in completely unfamiliar territory. If something should go wrong you won't be in the right state of mind to figure out what your next step should be, you will try and find a place to stand and there will be one, so drilling in the correct "emergency procedure" is of utmost importance. You want your reactions to be spontaneous and the only way to do that is to do the drill while peforming the cut-away process and shouting the steps out as loud as possible..."ARCH, LOOK, RIGHT, LEFT, ARCH!" ("Right, Left" does not mean looking right and left for traffic or someone to help you, it means you grab the cut-away handle on the right and then the reserve handle on the left and you pull as hard as you can). So you get hung in a harness (or nutcracker as it is sometimes refered to) while you do all the exit moves until the jumpmaster/trainer starts pulling you around shouting that you have a malfunction. You then immediately have to do the emergency procedure, cut away your chute and deploy your reserve. This one student (I still don't know how he made it through the course) was pulled around by the trainer and in stead of executing the emergency procedure he started shouting "Malfunction! Emergency! Emergency!" at the top of his voice.  I don't think shouting "Emergency! Emerency!" is going to help you much when you are 1000 ft in the air and coming down very fast to collide with Mother Earth, but it sure gave us a good laugh.

Well, today I was in a very similar situation. My kitesurfing equipment failed on me and I guess one could call it a "malfunction" in kiting terms. Although I don't believe that my life was in danger at all, my equipment failed and had it been a parachute (or a paraglider) I would've been in serious trouble. The hook on my spreader bar onto which the kite is hooked broke off just as I was negotiating a sharp turn. The kite pulled away at full force and dragged me through the water while I was trying to keep it under control. Because I couldn't bring it closer and hook it back on to the harness, it was just relentlessly dragging me along. Fortunately for me I reached shallow water and I could get my feet on the sand, giving me enough anchor to keep it still. On the beach a cute girl (she's from Johannesburg she told me later) was taking pictures while I was in the process of having my name getting dragged through the mud (or is that the ocean?), but all I could think of at that time was shouting "Malfunction! Emergency, Emergency!". Some guys on the beach came to my rescue, grabbed the kite and put it down safely on the beach. If this had happened in deeper water I would'be been in real trouble, but luck was yet again on my side today I guess.

Spreader bar with hook intact

After I managed to get everything under control I walked up to the cute girl on the beach and asked her kindly to delete the pictures. She solemnly swore that she didn't take any pictures of me and showed me one of her classic Table Mountain pictures hoping to convince me that she was taking pictures of the scenery and not of a man who just uncontrollably got dragged through the surf. Maybe I should've asked her to send me the pictures for my blog instead, but I still want to believe that there is no evidence of what happened with me today floating around on social websites for the general public to see.

Cabrinha at Eden on the Bay was kind enough to replace the spreader bar free of charge. Thanks Cabrinha.

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