I spent the last weekend in, and on the banks of, one of our local rivers. I was one of 12 people enrolled in a two-day Swiftwater Safety and Rescue course presented by Andrew Kellett (a well-known South African Kayaker) and you guessed it, I was the only Riverboarder… in the image below you can just see my Riverboard peaking out next to the furthermost kayak on the right.
Must say, I really learnt a bunch of stuff and it was sobering to face the responsibility one takes on when inviting Newbies along, and how I had often in the past done this without really giving them too much instruction and also not even having the correct safety equipment.
Forthwith all that will change though and I’ve already made plans with some of the guys who attended the course with me to get together soon and practice some of the rescue techniques we’ve learnt.
Learning the ropes...
The course dealt, amongst other stuff, with the following:
Swiftwater Features & Hazards
Reading the river and picking the best line
Rope work and throw bagging
Pulley systems – uses and setups
Rescue in strainers.
If you have not done so yet, I strongly recommend that you find an Accredited Operator (I’m sure Ice can recommend some in the States) and get yourself trained in Swiftwater Safety and Rescue. If you’re anywhere around South Africa, be sure to contact Andrew via http://www.gravity.co.za/
The simple premise is that your first priority is to be safe in the water and if you can do that you wont need to Rescue anyone…. but if the need arises for a rescue, then you need to have the right resources and skills to do the rescue.
Something else I learnt from our Instructor is the opportunity offered by each river you run, especially a river that might only be a class 2-3 and not challenging, and even more so at low-water (which is what we had… but ideal for the kind of rescue exercises we had to do in the water).
Me, going for a tight eddy.
At one point the Instructor said we should follow him eddy-hopping through rapids. Basically what he did was lead the way and try get into the most difficult eddy’s in difficult parts of the river and we’d have to follow him each in turn, snaking our way through the river. At this point our group had been split in 2 so there were 6 of us following him. Many of the eddy’s were so small that only one person could get in at a time, so you had to work together well to ensure that everyone kept moving and there was no overlap.
So, the reason I’m telling you all this…?
Firstly, I want to encourage you to also do some Whitewater Safety & Rescue Training, I waited really long until finally doing it which is actually pretty bad, it is really IMPORTANT.
Secondly, I learnt that you can still have lots of fun running a river, which you may usually not be that keen on running, if you work at finding lines and eddy’s you’d usually just pass by and in so doing you can hone your river-running skills, improve your technical ability in reading water and most of all have fun on a day that you may otherwise not even have bothered running a river.
NOTE: All Images taken by Andrew Kellett and the property of Gravity Adventure Group