Rescuing a pinned boat

Dave Hill reflects on a recent White Water Safety and Rescue course

When the WWSR course was mentioned to me it conjured up images of the days when I’ll be using ropes and pulleys to pull a pinned boat off a rock on a class 5 rapid someplace exotic. In reality, that may never happen but they are great skills to have in the bank just in case. Let’s face it, I’m a weekend warriors and I mostly paddle grade 3/3+…and that’s only if the rivers are running.

The takeaway points for me are the basic principles, the foundations and best practices for safe paddling… the acronym CLAP

Communication – Before you ‘put in’, get the group together and remind each other of river signals. Establish the experience and ability of each group member and establish the River Leader and support paddlers. It might be useful to discuss the characteristics of the river and make sure the ‘take out’ is known. Remember the order of importance if it goes wrong: self, team, swimmer then equipment.

Line of sight – Make sure you can see the river ahead and be sure the group doesn’t get too spread out. If you do spread out, make sure you can see the paddlers ahead and behind you. Don’t go beyond the point of no return when approaching a big feature and have at least two attainable eddies in hand. Remember the order of importance if it goes wrong: self, team, swimmer then equipment.

Avoidance – It’s better than a cure. Don’t push too hard as a group if individuals don’t want to; there’s nothing wrong with walking around a rapid. When eddy-hopping, pick eddies that everyone will be able to get or at least have some other options. Use an eddy-hopping system that allows everyone to pick their own lines if they wish. Consider buddying up a strong support paddler with a weaker paddler to take a more systematic approach to running rapids. Remember the order of importance if it goes wrong: self, team, swimmer then equipment.

Position of best use – When considering where to set a safety position, cover the highest risk by considering the problems that are most likely to occur, rather than the most dangerous hazard. If there’s a big stopper in the lead-in rapid to a waterfall drop, it may be better to set up in the eddy below the stopper as opposed to an eddy below the waterfall drop. Remember the order of importance if it goes wrong: self, team, swimmer then equipment.

Subsidies are available to eligible club members for many training courses – for more information see

Wilderness First Aid Training

Imagine you’re casually strolling through Regents Park and you come across a man stumbling around drunkenly holding a large branch, another sprawled out in a tree, a women lying on the floor seemingly unconscious with another screaming holding her head – what would you do?

This was exactly the scenario presented to us on our last day of Regents Canoe Club’s Wilderness First Aid training. Thanks to the skills learnt over the weekend, we leapt into action managing triage treating the casualties dependent on need. The least of the injuries was cured with a can of coke and some chocolate whilst the most severe had to be evacuated on a make shift Alpine cradle.

Knowing how to manage an emergency situation and provide effective first response is vital when you go to remote places as we do. The decisions we make whilst stuck in a gorge or in a remote part of the Alps can be the difference between life, death and long term injury. Indeed, outside of the club I’ve had some extremely skilled paddling friends survive very sticky situations thanks to the skills imparted during their wilderness first aid course.

The Wilderness First Aid course taken by Regents Canoe Club teaches you the following:

  • How to do an initial check & triage followed by a more thorough investigation
  • How to bandage, strap and splint wounds and how to create slings
  • How to reset a dislocated shoulder and protracting bones
  • When and how to use a tourniquet
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Saving a casualty from choking
  • The importance of animal identification when it comes to bites & stings
  • How to do an initial treatment for burns
  • Signs of head injury/concussion
  • Evacuation methods for those unable to walk

The course also teaches you to think beyond your first aid kit. Quite often you won’t have a full medical kit with you on the river because carrying certain equipment, like crutches, breathing apparatus of every size and a full blown stretcher, just simply isn’t practical. Instead you can improvise bandages, slings, crutches, braces & stretchers out of everyday paddle kit like under layers, dry suits, duct tape & throwlines.

Saying that a guideline for basic equipment to carry includes:

  • Gauze
  • Scissors/Knife
  • Tape
  • Bandage
  • Sugary snack
  • Drinking water

The key things to take away from a first aid course is that when treating a casualty your biggest enemies will be when the casualty stops breathing or to go into shock. Preventing these from happening are key to providing effective first aid. Remember to always check for and keep checking for a clear airway. Check for bleeding, whether internal or external and take necessary action to stop fluid loss and/or pooling.

Finally, whilst first aid is important, prevention is always better than cure. Always take the time to make the right decision before even getting on the water. Check the weather, river levels, skill level & equipment of the group. Remember, there is definitely no shame in heading to the pub or giving a miss if you’re simply not feeling it.

Belle Cartwright 

Get money back when you train and learn new skills

At Regents Canoe Club we provide training subsidies for members who undertake certain training courses that make the club stronger and safer. This includes a 20% subsidy for first aid training, for members who actively contribute to the club. Find out more at:

Training with Ty Nant Outdoors

Hannis Whittam describes two sunny, wet, windy, warm and cold weekends in North Wales where he attended a Level 1 Coaching Course with Ty Nant Outdoors.

The Course was led by Andy Turton and he was assisted by Trys Burke. The course covered a variety of things, some of which were new to me, some of which were not. What I found particularly helpful was the time spent discussing different coaching and learning styles.

Ian White and I did the sessions at Snowdonia Watersports Centre just outside Llanberis. It was a good venue with a warm classroom just next to the lake. We had loads of different paddle craft to try out, including the duo that there’s a video of me messing about in with one of the other students here. (That’s pretty much the sum total of all the paddling we actually did in it!)

I enjoyed the course, although I was surprised to discover I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the final day! Generally I thought the course was pretty well run, Trys and Andy contributed different things and it was great to have a balance.

For anyone thinking of doing their Level 1: there’s a reasonable amount of homework required between the days! It’s worth bearing in mind if you’ve got lots planned. There’s a workbook to complete and lessons to plan. Also, make sure you get your CR form sorted out early – it’s a real pain if you don’t!

The remit of Level 1 is relatively small, but it’s an essential stepping stone on the coaching ladder and a useful first step. I think the course helps you learn about how to teach, and how to structure sessions. Speaking of stepping stones it’s probably worth mentioning that the Level 2 coach award is due for a shake-up soon. The changes will be formally announced in July and come into play next year. I won’t attempt to outline the changes here for fear of making a mistake, but it’s certainly something to look out for!

From chatting to the coaches about this I think the logical next step for me is likely to be Paddlesports Leader before looking to do a whitewater kayak specific Level 2 (when the new system appears).

Regents Canoe Club at the Tryweryn

At the end of January six of us (Adam, Amy, Birtles, Ryan, The Don and myself) went on a four star training with Andy Turton (Ty Nant Outdoors). We weren’t lucky with rain and the Tryweryn wasn’t releasing so we did the training on the mighty Dee.

I thought the training was good and worthwhile and I was impressed with Andy; his approach was helpful and practical and he made what I thought was going to be a cold unexciting weekend on the Dee fun. He also went above and beyond the syllabus and was happy to discuss and demonstrate some Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue techniques with those of us that asked.

Instead of giving an in-depth account of the weekend I’m going to share with you my new favourite eddy hopping system that Andy spoke about:

The system

  • The leader is at the front.
  • Nobody paddles beyond the leader, you can join them in an eddy but don’t go past.
  • Only one person moves at a time (not including the leader).
  • The person at the back (most upstream) always moves. This may mean the same person moves twice in a row if they don’t leapfrog anyone the first time.
  • You can get the same eddy as someone else if you want and there’s space.
  • Keep an eye on the leader for signals which override the system. (eg, All down)


  • Nobody ends up left behind as the person at the back always moves.
  • Everyone gets used to looking for eddies they can get and choosing their own line. (I think this is a really important part of becoming a paddler and not just a lemming.)
  • If someone misses an eddy the whole system doesn’t go to pot like some eddy hopping systems.
  • The leader still has control and can keep an eye on everyone (this won’t work on all sections of all rivers!)
  • If the eddy is big enough the leader can just sit there and eventually everyone will join them in the eddy.
  • It’s always clear who’s moving next and not too many signals are required.
  • Only one person moving at once reduces the risk of multiple swims.


  • This won’t work too well with a big group.
  • If people are too enthusiastic about catching every eddy it can be slow.
  • Doesn’t work everywhere (lines of sight is the main issue here).
  • You can end up with a reasonable distance if the back person swims (mitigated by having support paddlers further back).
  • People can get too wrapped up in the system and forget to keep an eye out for signals from the leader.

I used this system a bit on the Tees trip at the start of February and it seemed to work pretty well. As with all systems like this, it isn’t right for all groups and situations but I think there’s a lot of merits to it. I think it’s more robust and encourages everyone to think about where they’re going a little more than other systems. If you’ve got any thoughts about the system, feedback or improvements then chuck them on the Regents Facebook group and let’s discuss it!


Steffi went for her Moderate Water Endorsement training and encountered giraffes, gorillas and mice.

Who would have thought that coaching white water skills can be a matter of story telling and visual/mental pictures. The level 2 coaching seemed to have been a burden of paperwork, sprucing up on technical knowledge and passing on that knowledge to keen learners. Whilst we started off in the Getafix HQ ‘classroom’ – a cosy living room area with bean bags and a log fire. Our group of four ‘wanna be coaches’ didn’t spend hours going through the BC handbook, completing notes and preparing session plans, we soon packed our bags to get ready to go on the river.

Bear in mind… On average, people remember 3 points +/- 2 points. Bring in nerves and adrenaline, the reality is that most people can only manage 1 point. So….some of the key points I took away from the training was:

  • Get planning before hitting the water – have a think about the river and its features and think about how these river features could be used to facilitate learning
  • Create themes
  • Reduce talking about theory and find ways to get students to learn by feeling

To put this into context, on my journey to learning how to coach students on moving water, I encountered the mental picture of Easy Jet to introduce edging/breaking in and out of eddies. Visualise this:

Easy Jet being a cheap airline, they always take off facing the ‘wrong’ (upstream) way. So, the plane accelerates (over the eddie line) and takes off. The first thing the plane then does is turn around to face the right direction = breaking into/turning into or out of the flow/eddie. Let’s practice:

  1. Arms out to the side and pretend to be that turning airplane (= introduce edging)
  2. Start paddling (accelerate) and use that image of turning the airplane to turn the boat (= introduce edging on the move)
  3. On the next go, get students to point at their parked car (inside turn hand) = introduces holding the edge
  4. On the next go, get students to point at their parked car with the opposite hand = encourages further body rotation
  5. On the next go, get students to point at the distance (the eddie) = introduces positioning and angling the boat
  6. On the next go show students a number indicating how many strokes they are ‘allowed’ to get into the eddie

And here is where I met giraffes, gorillas and mice.
4 strokes = paddling like a gorilla (power strokes)
6 strokes = paddle like a giraffe (effective, smooth strokes)
10 strokes = paddle like a mouse (accelerate)

On the second day of training, we continued this theme of gorilla, giraffe and mouse on the different rapids of the Dee. It might sound insane, but try this! We ran the bottom rapid at Mile End Mill. We checked and planned our lines and went for it. Feedback was given using this theme and the second run – top bit, more mouse; second bit, more giraffe; third bit more mouse. Job done. Smooth!! Somehow I knew exactly what was expected and how much power to apply. No worries about where to look, what to do, which way to edge etc etc… A simple way to break down and feel your way down the river with a visual image that is easy to transfer to the river features.

White water training

I’ve been messing about in kayaks all my life but until this year I wouldn’t have called myself anything more than a blow in. After joining Regents this year and going on my first real moving water trips I really have caught the bug.

It might be hard for experienced moving water paddlers to remember how rubbish it can be being a newbie in this sport.

The unknown is something to fear. It’s easy to lose your confidence and to feel like you shouldn’t be on the river with all these other guys and spoiling their run down the river.

We’ve driven five long hours on a Friday after work, the rivers on a scrape, my boat didn’t do what I thought it would do. I’ve gone swimming and now I’m on the river bank, freezing, in a wetsuit. Someone is chasing my boat and paddle down the river. When the boat gets back to me I’m going to have to empty it, get back in and do it all again.

From team sports I know the key to building confidence is to master the fundamental skills of a sport and drill them over and over until they become instant.

With kayaking it not as easy as taking your ball and heading to the park. I needed to find someone who could impart knowledge and a reliable flow of water. You also need a mob of paddlers with similar abilities and goals

So I hired a coach, Jamie from Paddle 365, and gathered a posse. We went to the safe and reliable confines of Lea Valley we drilled the fundamentals moving water kayaking over and over again. Minute by minute everyone’s confidence grew. Over two intense weekends everything became easier and easier.

We then took this confidence and knowledge to the Tryweryn and the Dee. The river that had chewed us up and spat us out before. We did go swimming, not just as much as last time, but the river didn’t make us feel so rubbish this time. We emptied our boats. We got back in. We did it all again.

David Hill

‘Coaching Matters’ course at the Sea Cadets base in the Royal Albert docks in East London

On Sunday 9th April I took part in a ‘Coaching Matters’ course at the Sea Cadets base in the Royal Albert docks in East London, opposite City Airport on the North side of the dock. It was organised by Sam Saunders, Regional Coaching Representative. To see about the course and to see what RCRs do see

Russell Smith gave an up-beat talk in a classroom on recent developments in British Canoeing (BC) that are designed to help paddlers at all levels. He is newly appointed to the BC post of Area Development Officer – South East and has loads of experience of organising and delivering paddle coaching, which he is keen to share. This includes many years managing the Teeside International White Water Centre.

Russell will be contacting clubs to ask how he can help them, especially ones that include and develop young people of all abilities; and clubs are welcome to contact him for help on [email protected] and you can read Russell’s presentation on Coaching Matters here. It mentions ‘CR’ forms. These refer to Central Registration for courses. Russell mentioned many BC initiatives e.g. the ‘How to’ videos on YouTube and on the BC web site e.g. search for ‘British canoeing YouTube how to video 2 star.’ Another improvement is that the open hours of the BC office have been extended. Some weekend cover may also be provided at some future date.

For the morning session I chose a wet session – Stand Up Paddling as I’ve never tried this before. See the photo. I’m the one with the light-coloured cap. For the afternoon session I joined the wet group practising rescue techniques in a variety of different boats. The other afternoon group was mainly shore-based. I am told they “looked at observation and analysis of paddlers, using flags and markers to deduce faults in performance, and looked at holistic, deductive and analytical levels of observation!”

It was a glorious, hot sunny day, perfect for having fun getting wet, but instead I concentrated on not falling in. What a daft thing to do. I would have got much more practical skills out of the course if I’d been more adventurous. That’s my aim for the next time.  Carpe diem

The coaching staff were so helpful before, during and after the course and I was able to hire centre boats/boards and kit for a nominal £5. This freed me up to travel by fast public transport from my home In West London to Docklands.

Thomas Beaumont

Emma C Upper Dart

So we seem to joke that Regents paddle things lower. All jokes aside this has a tendency to be true. Although instead of rolling ones’ eyes at our ambition to paddle most levels, I’d like to say that at least we’re optimists.

My first run down the upper dart was in fact when it was on scrape/empty. This came about after having had a midnight chat with Mel and Tokie about paddling options, whereby we came to the conclusion to do the Upper with ourselves, Andrew and Johann.

I am very glad we did run it as it’s such a gorgeous 7km stretch of Grade 4 river which meanders downwards alongside trees and countryside- pretty idyllic right? We could fortunately still paddle the whole length of it despite the low level and only portaged Surprise Surprise. That isn’t to say Euthanasia was attempted, instead Johann lead us down a little route to the left of the main feature which was running if you avoided the pinning point.

Whilst we were paddling there was a man strolling down the river with his camera. He was taking photographs of us and shared them all on the Facebook group called ‘kayaking on the river dart’ for us to see, which was really nice of him! On that note, thanks to Steve Polkinghorne for all of the below photographs.

It was a fantastic run down, despite a few pinning situations and swims, but nonetheless we all finished off with grins on our faces and the sun was out!- Top day.

Having gone down at this level I have to say I’m looking forward to experiencing this river on a beefier level, plus many other new rivers on the ever growing list!

Liza Advanced White Water Safety and Rescue

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.

James Mogie

White water safety and rescue

Ruth Hughes on her recent white water safety and rescue training.

There was little water in the Lakes on the November trip so the group went up to the Tees and of course I decided to portage the Dog Leg rapid. I would have liked to have assisted with a line for the others but I didn’t feel confident without having done a white water safety and rescue course.

Having had a fab time with Dave Kohn-Hollins from River Flair in Slovenia I decided I’d do the course with him in Llangollen. Being totally car-less, Sarah Spriggs and I took the train up and borrowed his boats and I borrowed a dry suit too. One of those defunct Peak contraptions with a crotch zip which was impossible to do up so Sarah had to help… and someone walked in on us in this compromising position at Mile End Mill cafe.

I enjoyed the course: we paddled Serpent’s Tail with the river so high that the normal safety spot was an eddy. I learned a great deal, especially about mechanical advantage and live baiting. Unfortunately, it being the first flood of the year, Sarah and both got very river sick.

I’ve been able to use my new skills to good advantage, on the Tees trip at Dog Leg and at Backbarrow Bridge on the Leven (portaged both these rapids!) and when I got stuck in the middle of the Greta I knew exactly what to expect from the text book rescue conducted by Kate and Don – and I’m sure the training helped me to be a calm casualty, patiently waiting in the flow. Something they don’t teach you on the course is how to dislodge a paddle from a tree by telepathy, which is a skill perhaps only Don has.

Ruth Hughes