Swift Water Rescue – May 2016

Paddling on rivers can be inherently dangerous. The powerful force of moving water, obstacles in or hidden in the water, and the potential for hypothermia all contribute to risk, even on slow moving rivers in the middle of summer. When I became aware of a 2-½ day swift water rescue workshop it seemed like a responsible subject to have greater knowledge.

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Ropes, pulleys, knots – all part of the mechanical advantage

The course (Level 4 ACA Swiftwater Rescue Workshop), sponsored by the Atlanta Area Paddlers meet-up group and conducted by the ACA (American Canoe Association), was held in Sylva, NC on the Tuckasegee River with two of the preeminent subject matter experts, Sam Fowlkes and Aaron Peeler.

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Sam Fowlkes

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Aaron Peeler (left)

In-class time was spent on the building blocks of river rescue: safety, medical issues, equipment, learning about mechanical advantage, hydrology characteristics and strategies to assess, plan and execute a rescue. About 30% of the worksop was spent in the classroom and the other 70% was spent working in Class 2 rapids on the river.

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Learn, do, review

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Working through a man-made strainer

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This was a tremendous workshop and would highly recommend it to anyone who paddles on any kind of moving water. I believe I already had a very healthy respect for Mother Nature, but this course, amongst other things, taught me an even heavier respect for swift moving water, and provided me the basic skills to conduct a swift water rescue – something I hope I never have to perform (or be the recipient).

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Aaron showing one way to “right” a capsized boat

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Swimming in rapids is no prize

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Zip line rescue across class 2 rapids

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Sam manning the anchor and watching for upstream traffic

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Not everyone was captivated

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