in the water, including what was probably a huge tree stump or perhaps an entire tree seem to be a real concern here. There is a rather large floating object in the foreground and this makes the possibility of using lines to rescue the swimmer a bit more problematic. I don't know if this was the only object in the water or not, but it certainly had me wondering what other obstacles may have been present. Since the waves were breaking both on and off shore, I don't think going further out would have improved conditions much. There did seem to be calm water on the back side of the sandbar where they landed.
If I did not think the paddlers were capable of a rescue in these conditions (and I doubt this was the case). This option goes away if the swimmer is showing signs of hypothermia (and I know that much of Superior can be quite cold and this could have been a factor in their choices), or if, as in the case, the boat gets away from the paddler. If the group lacked the skills (and I don't think they did, since it was a coaches clinic) to perform the rescue in the surf, they made a very bad judgement in going out in these conditions.
My major issue is the paddler losing control of his boat once he exited. This would have been easily avoided with a tether from paddle to boat. Since this is mostly open water and there were few obstructions, it seems a reasonable choice. The video in the earlier article on the Norway rescue shows the cameraman using exactly this setup and it works well in open water. If there is an entanglement risk, the boat and paddle become entangled, not the paddler.
I also don't like the idea of leaving floating objects in the surf, because I've seen knees needing repair from such incidents. I don't think it is reasonable to choice to leave the boat floating out of control on confused water. Attaching a line to the boat and hauling it in after the swimmer was out of the water, would be a better solution since you have some control of the boat while the swimmer makes a recovery.
I would probably have opted for a T-rescue to recover the boat and an I-rescue to get him back in. 3 boats rafted together makes a wonderfully stable platform and should have been quite doable in those conditions. Sadly, once he allowed the boat to get away, this became a rather unattractive option.
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