01/15/2014 11:05 EST | Updated 03/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Simon Whitfield (Not) Rescued Paddle Boarding In Gale


Some Marine Search and Rescue volunteers near Victoria got a bit of a surprise when they responded to a report of a stand up paddle boarder in possible distress in gale force winds blowing on Monday afternoon.

As the crew rushed out on Monday afternoon, the Trial Island lighthouse keeper called in a second report, saying he spotted the paddle boarder heading in a westerly direction through Enterprise Channel.

But when the crew arrived at the scene, they found nobody in distress at all.

Instead they found recently retired Olympic champion triathlete Simon Whitfield, suited up in a dry suit and having blast riding the swells in the gale.

Whitfield told the crew he was quite comfortable in his insulated suit, but agreed to take their advice to buy himself a marine VHF with a built in GPS.

That would allow him to monitor the emergency broadcast on Channel 16, and let everyone know he was okay if the situation came up again, or alert rescue crews if he got into trouble.

"Overall, Simon showed a positive outlook on being as safe as possible while doing the activity he enjoys. Thank you Simon!" the members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crew later posted on their Facebook page.

Soaking selfie posted

The stormy paddle boarding session was not the first for Whitfield, who posted a selfie photo from a similar trip the day before.

In that tweet he said he managed to paddle around a marine navigation light near Cadboro Bay, but did fall off his board at least once in the swell. After the rescue crew showed up on Monday he also tweeted out thanks. 

The Marine Search and Rescue team says Whitfield was complying with all the necessary marine regulations.

"As paddle boards are a relatively new type of marine vessel to Canadian waters, they are not specifically named in current safety regulations. However, they are classified as a human-powered pleasure craft and must carry the required safety gear for this type of vessel.

"Although not required, a VHF radio is the most important piece of safety gear. For small craft like paddle boards, we recommend a VHF that floats," said the post.

Whitfield, who is actively involved in entrepreneurial and consulting ventures with several companies, won gold in men’s triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games and added an Olympic silver medal in Beijing in 2008. He also won gold at the 2009 Commonwealth Games.

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