Avoid Landing in or near the Water
Every pilot needs to have a hook knife on his harness, and have a solid understanding of what to do if he/she ever ends up in the water. Better than this, learn how to prevent and avoid the danger and stress of this situation. If you ever land in the water, the only concern should be to detach from the glider and harness. This must be done as quickly as possible as the water’s power is tremendous. Fast action will be needed to prevent drowning. Other pilots will not likely be able to help you once you are in the surf. The lines can entangle the feet and make it impossible to get away from the glider. Sand can foul your harness buckles, and this is among the many reasons we carry the hook knife.
There are two main launches that are the best for pilots new to the site: Walker and Lemmings. Both of these launches have the best bailout landing options when a pilot does not get up, achieve soaring, after launching. Tomcat can be used after a pilot has begun to get comfortable with the site, but is not recommended as an initial launch because it has fewer landing options available.
For stronger days when the wind is up around 15 mph, P3s and P4s with high wind experience will sometimes use the launch called Gusto. If the wind is blowing 15 at Gusto, it could be up around 20 MPH just 30 or 40 ft above launch. Landing in high winds like this will require special skills to land back just behind Gusto or down at the lowest road, so newer pilots should not launch here.
Next to Walker Launch, just to the south, is the launch called the Jungle. On lighter days with WSW or SW winds, some pilots use this launch. Like Gusto launch, this is more of a P3/P4 type launch. For most pilots, kiting up to the top of Walker from the slope launch is a better scenario for getting up. In front of the Jungle is a shelf that is difficult to clear. To clear this, pilots usually must kite up to the top. The shelf makes this launch a little more demanding.
If you land near water:
If you are landing on the beach, make your approach parallel to the beach and resist turning toward the water for the flare. Even if you are on the downwind leg, you need to stay as far away from the surf as possible. A downwind crash into the cliffs or beach is a better scenario than landing ankle deep in the water.
You must climb out of your harness or disconnect from your glider as quickly as possible. This precludes bunching up your wing. It is safer to be free of the glider and this should be your priority. This will enable to to escape should a larger or rogue wave come along. The risk and power of the waves and water on the wing are just too great.
Once you are disconnected from the wing or out of your harness, you can drag or bunch and remove your gear away from the water. Abandon this task if you are at all at risk to entanglement with lines or any danger from the water. Remember that your gear is replaceable but you are not.
If you land in the water:
Some judgment calls might vary based on the situation. All judgments should focus on eliminating any possibility of the wing dragging you and/or eliminating your ability to exit or disconnect your harness. Equipment is replaceable!
If you are ankle deep in the water, time is critical. If a wave or water gets on your wing, the power of surf and the weight of water could jeopardize your ability to get free quickly. Lines could entangle you and impede your ability to swim.
Disconnection of the karabiners or exiting the harness as quickly as possible is the first thing to do. Most modern harnesses have quick release buckles and as long as you did not enter the water, they should easily disconnect. Another option is to quickly disconnect the karabiners from the wing. Lastly, if the waist belt or other buckles are free, but the leg buckles are jammed, you might also be able to loosen the leg straps and wiggle your way out between the shoulder straps. If you have disconnected the harness from the glider, you still need to move away from both the glider and water.
If there is any issue with getting free from the harness and cannot disconnect the karabiners, a hook knife comes into play. You can quickly cut through the risers or harness webbing with most good hook knives.
Important Note: Hook should all have a lanyard (a piece of cord that ties the knife to the harness or securely attached sheath). If you are in a desperate situation and drop your hook knife, with a lanyard, you can quickly find it and get back to work. Without it, you could be helpless.
If the hook knife has trouble cutting through the risers, you could try cutting the lines above the risers or the harness webbing itself. Good hook knives will go through the risers well, but if there is an issue, cutting the lines or harness can provide a secondary plan.
Many harnesses including both airbag and mouse-bag types, tend to float in the back and turn the pilot face down. This makes water landings even more critical and grim. At maneuvers clinics, the participants are usually required to wear a life vest. This is to help with such a situation. When flying at Mussel Rock or other coastal sites, most pilots will not be wearing a flotation vest. This is why learning to fly in a way that the beach is not a factor is so important.