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 www.regentscanoeclub.co.uk/training/