A Kelowna surfskier is warning people to be careful after she managed to rescue a kayaker on Okanagan Lake.
Sally Wallick, a competitive swimmer and surfskier, said she was out for a paddle on the lake a week and a half ago.
The day started out beautiful and the water was flat. It was perfect for kayaking.
“It was super sunny, clear skies. Then the wind turned very fast,” she said.
Being a strong swimmer, Wallick felt confident enough to be out despite the wind and rough water. She continued to surfski and from time to time, noticed something far out in the water.
“I was actually ready to turn back but I kept seeing something in the water. It was really hard to see with the waves, and it didn’t even dawn on me that it would be a person.
“I was just curious what it was, so I paddled out. Even 50 metres out, I couldn’t tell what it was but I kept paddling towards it and realized it was a guy and his kayak was capsized,” Wallick said.
Wallick said when she got to the kayaker, it seemed he had been in the water for quite a while.
“He looked like he was past the point of panic, which was concerning. His lips were purple and he seemed disoriented,” she said.
“I was just trying to stay calm and talk to him and give him clear instructions.”
Wallick tried to get the man aboard her surfski but he had a hard time getting out of the water, so she had him cling to the front of her kayak, then told him to kick in the water to keep warm. At one point, Wallick said he started closing his eyes and she knew he was close to losing consciousness.
She spotted a pontoon boat and began yelling for help.
“They came over to us and I told them to call 911. They pulled him out of the water and stayed with me until I got back on my boat.”
Wallick said she wants people to understand that the lake can be dangerous. One minute it can be calm and flat but the next it could be windy and full of whitecaps.
“The water is still cold during this time of the year, and winds are incredibly unpredictable and the water can change in five to ten minutes,” she said.
“Be prepared because the water changes fast. Have a cellphone, wear a lifejacket, and let people know where you’re going.”
She said if you’re able, go out on the water with someone else. If that’s not possible, always let others on the shore know what you’re up to.
The last thing Wallick wants to say is keeping yourself safe keeps others safe.
“Once you put yourself in danger, you’re putting other people in danger as well. A rescue in the middle of the lake is not easy and especially if other people out there don’t know the steps to take,” she said.
“Luckily I knew enough, but I’m sure I could have done a few things differently as well.”
The man Wallick helped got in touch with her recently, and she said he didn’t sustain injuries and is doing well.