Spring has officially arrived, but if you accidentally find yourself in the water, it won’t feel that way. Hypothermia, a subnormal temperature within the central body, is a risk this time of year. Knowing what to do quickly if you fall overboard will improve your safety. Water conducts heat fast. If you flip or are ejected, get as much of your body out of the water as possible. Remember to stay with the boat. Not only is it safer—most boats float, even if swamped or capsized—but by doing so you will also increase your odds of being spotted by a rescue craft. About 50 percent of heat is lost through the head, so try to keep your head out of the water, too. Swimming or treading water also contributes to heat loss. In the event that someone does go overboard, listen for your coxswain to call way enough and then help back the boat down to the person in the water. As this is happening, the stroke should throw his or her oar to the submerged athlete so they have something to help keep them afloat. Once they are back in the shell, immediately return to the boathouse and help locate dry clothes. Have the athlete seek medical attention if they display signs of hypothermia.
A sea change is coming. It’s something you’ve likely seen before, just in a different form. You’ve seen it in the evolution of every new idea, every innovation, and it shifts the paradigm just enough to let a breakthrough happen. For Paralympic rowing, this change is happening now, and when it is over our sport could wind up looking dramatically different than it does today.