The United States Coast Guard's Toughest Boats and Crews: Surf Training

The United States Coast Guard's Toughest Boats and Crews: Surf Training

The United States Coast Guard has to be ready to perform its duties on our coasts no matter the weather conditions. Indeed, the times they may be needed the most are when fishermen, pleasure boaters, or merchantmen find themselves in life-threatening storm conditions off of our coasts. This is when the Coast Guard "Surfboats" go into action.

The training to become a surfboat operator or crewman is no easy duty. It takes 8 years of training and experience to be awarded the highly coveted "Surfman's Badge." This training has to take place in rough sea conditions, and some of the roughest coastal areas are on the Oregon Coast and on the bar of the Columbia River. You will get a sense of what those conditions look like here in this video.

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This work is not for the squeamish. It takes nerves, skill, and boats that are built for the kind of punishment that arises in heavy sea and stormy sea conditions. At some point in this long training, the Coast Guardsman must attack heavy waves solo on a jet ski, to get a truly intimate sense of how to attack the waves and to learn the habits necessary to operate a craft in such conditions. And remember, this is not for the fun of it; this training is for one reason and one reason only - to save lives.

In order to confront the awesome power of an angry sea, the boats must be constructed with such conditions in mind. The U.S.C.G. has several size boats that are made for this purpose. They can range from jet skies to 44'- and 52'- boats with reinforced hulls that are built to absorb the immense forces of those heavy waves and the pounding landings they make after riding over a big wave.

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Modern surfboats are even built to be able to right themselves if they are struck from the side and overturned by a big wave. Their hulls are built for this purpose and can reduce the slamming impact effects by 90-95%. They are watertight and air-filled to protect the crew inside while they are righting themselves.

The video says that the history of surf training goes back for decades, but actually it goes back almost to the very beginnings of the Coast Guard, which in its early years was created by local seaside communities to save both people and goods from shipwrecks that happened near to shore. Today's technology in hull making and ship design gives the Coast Guard a far greater ability and capacity for active life-saving efforts in heavy, stormy sea conditions. They have both inflatable and rigid-hulled boats in varying sizes that can be brought to bear when the need arises.

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The Icelandic company Rafnar Maritime is currently building and experimenting with new design technologies and four different hull sizes that have the potential to revolutionize both military and Coast Guard boats in the near future.

To be a United States Coast Guard Surfman is one of the most coveted and highly respected ratings in the Coast Guard. When you see what their training looks like and realize that it takes 8 years of training and experience to become one, you will understand why this is so.

The rest of this video covers the larger U.S. Navy ships that must also endure the realities of stormy seas. You will get a sense of how they are affected in such conditions and what the Captains, the pilots, and the navigators must do either to try to avoid such conditions or when they are unable to avoid them.

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The last part of the video deals with the big boys, the aircraft carriers, and how they are affected by stormy seas. They are big and sturdy, but they also have other considerations and duties that make their duties much more complex. All in all, I think you will find this video educational and interesting.

We honor the United States Coast Guard in carrying out its maritime security, law enforcement, search and rescue, and military duties on a daily basis and in all weather conditions. You are truly "Semper Paratus," Always Ready!

Dan Doyle

Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.

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