At some point in your paddling career you may decide it’s time to push your kayaking into new territory. This may come in the form of paddling harder, more challenging rivers, accessing more remote locations or assuming more responsibility for other people on the river. With these new challenges comes the potential for different kinds of risk and new responsibility.
If you are stepping up to lead more, for example you will be the one who is responsible to guiding your group down river without incident. And if an incident were to occur you will be the one looked to when organising a response. Incident prevention becomes crucial when venturing further afield or tackling more challenging environments.
This is why an Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue course was arranged in North Wales through Flow Free Coaching. Myself, Krzysztof, Emma B, Liza, Benjo and Ed attended.
Day one started with an obligatory breakfast at Frongoch café just outside the White Water Centre. With a coffee we met with our coaches Lowri Davis and Tom Parker. We discussed incident prevention and what the course would provide us with.
Part two was a leisurely group paddle down the upper section of the Treweryn. First in a large group then broken down into smaller groups to see how group size effects how effectively you can navigate a stretch of fairly feisty water. Next came a variety of exercises that started off with a boat based rescue at the NRA Wave using a dummy of human size and weight. We then progressed to a series of bank to swimmer exercise techniques. Putting ourselves at the mercy of our team mates it’s fair to say I think all of us had a nasal enema having been swept down Chapel Falls. Putting live bait and learning advanced throw line practice was certainly an invaluable experience. Especially for Krzysztof. Which the rest of us found utterly hilarious. That boy don’t like a swim!
We ended the first day tired, bruised and hungry but in good spirits. We retreated to Bala for beer, curry and rest at Chateau Clarissa.
Day two we had a slightly less satisfying breakfast of whatever we could find in the local Spa. Then it was a short drive to Conwy falls café and a short brief of what the day will bring. We started with rope work in the car park. I found this really useful as it was an area I was lacking any real practice in. We learned about new rigs and new bits of kit. As well as additional uses for bits of kit already carried by most paddlers.
After a small bite to eat we kitted up and headed to the get on for the Fairy Glen. Here we put our rope work into practice by winching boats, setting up guide lines for steep descents and abseiling precariously above a grade 5 rapid! Once the rope work was completed we then set up various entrapment scenarios in the river using the same unfortunate dummy as the previous day. Here we combined our swimming exercises and rope work to make a (sometimes) effective team to extract an entrapped swimmer. This was hard work. It resulted in many bruises, people getting cold and Ed being dangled precariously above a strainer but it was definitely all worth it for gaining invaluable knowledge that could one day save a life.
Once the afternoon exercises were finished we returned to the café for a coffee (unicorn hot chocolate in my case) and a debrief.
I would highly recommend this course for any paddlers who have completed a White Water Safety and Rescue course and want to progress their paddling either as a group leader or member of a group. As we learned there’s very little you can do when things go wrong without the help of the people around you.