USK Course of Action Scenarios
By Wayne Horodowich (© USK)
University of Sea Kayaking (


1) You and your friends have planned today's trip for a month.  The weather is beautiful but the surf is huge.  Some of the group members are scared but not saying anything.  You know some of the group members have never dealt with surf before.  What is your course of action?

2) One of your group members during an eight-mile day tour gets sea sick at mile three.  There are eight on the tour.  The conditions are good with slight rolling seas. What is your course of action?
What if this were a wrist problem instead?

3) During landing, one of your group members flips in the middle of a long surf zone.  What do you do if:
            a) You are in your kayak at the staging area outside the surf zone?
            b) You are on shore guiding the group in?
            c) You are the one who has flipped?

4) You are paddling alone on a six mile day tour.  Suddenly a thick fog bank overtakes you. What is your course of action?

5) There is a husband and wife team that is constantly bickering during your one week long trip.  It is day three and you and the rest of the group (6 couples total) are getting tired of the couple fighting. What is your course of action?

6) You are just about to begin the recovery practice with your friends.  A jet skier comes by to tell you a shark was spotted off the end of the pier one half mile away.  He yells it out so you and the rest of the group members hear what he says. What is your course of action?

7) You go into a sea cave after watching the wave action outside the cave for five minutes.  It appears to be acceptable.  After being inside for three minutes you hear that unmistakable roar of an incoming breaking wave.  You get knocked out of your boat and are trapped inside the cave as the wave sets continue. What is your course of action? What if you were an instructor and this is your class?

8) As you are driving down the highway you see through the rear view mirror a crash occur behind you, because one of your kayaks flew off of the top of your van.  You pull over and run back and see a multi-car accident with your kayak through the windshield of one of the cars.  Your passengers have run over too. What is your course of action?

9) One of your friends is a very slow paddler. They are taking exceptionally long and slowing the entire group down.  At the current rate of speed the group will NOT make the planned destination.  There are six of you in the group. What is your course of action?

10) You go on a three-day trip where there are a lot of currents due to tidal action and you foolishly didn't bring a tide schedule for the area, but you do have a chart. What is your course of action?

11) You and your group of five singles misjudge the strong ebb tide and winds and get sent out away from the island you wanted to land on for camping.  It is near sunset and you are out in the main channel when two of the singles flip due to the rough conditions. What is your course of action?

12) One of your friends is panicking in the water after they did a wet exit.  You paddle up next to them to try to calm them down.  They freak out and grab you and try to climb onto your kayak. What is your course of action?

13) On a sunny day one of the members of your group of four paddlers fell over in their kayak and they wet exit into the cold water.  They are wearing boots, polypropylene long johns, shorts and a short sleeve cotton shirt.  They are having difficulty climbing back into their boat and they keep falling back into the water even though one of the group is stabilizing this paddler's kayak.  The paddler in the water is showing visible signs of being too cold due to the water temperature. What is your course of action?

14) You and the other five paddlers in the group planned a 25 mile day tour along a rocky coast with no take-outs on the route.  You have all paddled 30 miles in a day on a previous trip.  On this day you were fighting a head wind that has increased during the day to 25 mph.  There was also a 1-knot current against you all day.  After 10 hours of paddling you still have 10 miles to go to take out. Three in your group say they can’t go any farther due to fatigue. What is your course of action?

15) During a club paddle planned for working in fast currents and cold water, one of the paddlers capsizes and wet exits. The next thing you see is the capsized kayak standing on end with the stern in the air.  While trying to recover the swamped kayak you find out there are no deck lines or a bow grab loop. To add to the problem, the swimmer is not properly dressed for immersion. What is your course of action?

16) You and your paddling partners wisely decide to stay in camp because of the heavy fog.  You didn’t want to make the two-mile crossing to the other side of the Johnstone Straight because of the current and heavy boat traffic given it is commercial fishing season.  However, the commercial kayaking tour that was in the next camp is loading up to go across the straight. You and your friends feel the trip leader is making an unsafe decision and you wonder if the clients truly understand the risks. Two of your friends want to tell the clients it is too dangerous to make the crossing in these conditions. What is your course of action?

17) During a club sponsored bracing and rolling practice, held in a tidal area that flows at three knots, one of the members dislocates their shoulder while trying a high brace. You find this out after they wet exit and signal for help.  What is your course of action?

18) You are very enthusiastic about your newfound sport of sea kayaking.  Your close friend hears your enthusiasm and asks if you can take them out since you have two kayaks (one for you and one for your spouse).  You decide to take them into the local lake near your house.  You can paddle around the whole lake in 30 minutes.  You are very conscientious about having them wear proper clothing and a PFD. You have them practice the wet exit drill while their kayak is sitting on shore.  Once you get them onto the lake you both paddle about fifty feet from shore so they can do their first wet exit.  You do a quick review and tell them to go over and perform the wet exit.  To your surprise, there is a lot of splashing and boat movement, but your friend’s head never comes up to the surface. Soon there is no movement and still no friend.  What is your course of action?