Jenni, Matt M and Adam B recall their White Water Safety & Rescue Course on 12-13 May 2022.

Lying on an isolated rock in the centre of the river surrounded by the rushing torrents of a Dee that barely reached scrape, Jamie clutched his leg and cried for help.  Everyone flew into action. Jenni and Matt M took up position on river left while me and another Adam headed for the right bank, and someone else covered downstream.

Having enjoyed the wading practice, I decided that was the only option to reach the rock and without speaking to anyone set off on foot. It was quickly apparent that when the water reaches your neck you are no longer wading. Fortunately, I reached the eddy below the rock before being swept embarrassingly downstream, away from the injured party, the group and my kayak.

Jamie told me his spray deck was caught. I had meant to buy a knife the week before but forgot. Other Adam, still on the bank, brandished his but was too far away to help. I suggested he throw it to me but he refused, putting the life of our coach in grave danger. Instead, he threw a line to attach to Jamie and we brought him back to the closer right bank, pretending the spray deck issue was sorted. However, that bank had no access. So, after a short discussion Jenni and Matt threw a line from the left bank. We then attached two lines to Jamie, one from either side, and between us, ferried him across the river to safety.

“None of us can enjoy this sport safely without the support of the people we kayak with and I’m glad to have learnt new skills that will help me give back in future.”

Adam Brill

This scenario felt like the culmination of two days of learning. At first, we had been indecisive and disjointed in our rescues. But here, wading exploits aside, the whole group seemed to come together and work seamlessly to find a solution. Everyone recognised the most useful positions and instinctively spread out to cover all bases. We all understood how to use the ropes and where to stand, to manoeuvre Jamie through the water without putting him in more danger. The communication was good and the plan to get him from one side of the river to the other worked without incident.

I have been part of the club for three years now and kept putting off the WWSR course in favour of kayaking weekends. It always sounded more fun to be dropping down rapids and surfing in waves, than swimming and tying ropes. But in all that time I had never used a throw line, didn’t know the proper technique to rescue a boat full of water and had never been truly helpful in a rescue. I was only taking responsibility for myself, not for others, while others were looking out for me. None of us can enjoy this sport safely without the support of the people we kayak with and I’m glad to have learnt new skills that will help me give back in future.

The course was fun in its own right, from live baiting to swimming in stoppers, dragging canoes off rocks and various rescue scenarios. It was also really valuable and on the couple of trips I have done since I have already started to think more about where safety might be needed, the best positions to be in if things go wrong and how important communication is both within each group, and between the different groups on the river.

Jenni, Matt and I are all at different stages in our experience. But the course was equally beneficial to all of us and is something I would recommend to everyone, even if they are at an early point of their development.