Rivers are deep, they are dynamic, and they are wild. We may plan to paddle a run smoothly, waltz up to our vehicles at take-out, and laugh over the day’s adventures, but the inherent unpredictability of a river often means our plans don’t always play out as we intend.
Rescue 3 International helps river users and rescue professionals learn efficient techniques to both prevent and diffuse a potentially hazardous situation on the water. The three-day Swiftwater Rescue Technician and Whitewater Rescue Technician course, held here at Wet Planet, helps provide essential tools, information, and practice time for anyone responding to a water rescue.
This fall’s SRT/WRT course brought together private river users, professional guides and instructors, search and rescue responders, and fireman from across the region. Since whitewater rescue scenarios extend beyond our close knit circle of paddling buddies, beyond the rafting companies we work for and the river communities we are a part of, it is incredible valuable to train and practice with individuals from outside agencies.
Most importantly, participants gained practical experience out on the water. Using the professional knowledge of Wet Planet and Rescue 3 Instructors Jonathan Blum and Todd Collins, the group was able to practice everything on the White Salmon River. The ability to apply classroom information to a hands-on experience, using quality rescue equipment in the ideal whitewater location make Wet Planet a premier provider for the course.
Taking classroom practice to the river, students were able to:
- Swim through whitewater rapids and catch eddies
- Size-up a scene
- Extract entraped victims from the river
- Perform shallow water crossings
- Transport equipment across a river
- Build rope systems in a dynamic environment
- Swim into simulated strainer
- Practice rescue swimming as live bait
Of course the weekend was not all serious. Taking the course through Wet Planet meant that participants got go whitewater rafting down the classic Middle White Salmon River and over the infamous Husum Falls. Not only providing a bonus experience for the students, the trip helped agency professionals better understand the commercial white water rafting support systems and prevention strategies used on our river trips throughout the Columbia Gorge.
Check out photos of Husum Falls at the end of the blog.
Perhaps it is age, or experience, or even a hint of wisdom, but more paddlers are choosing to paddle with individuals who exhibit respect for the river and each other’s lives. The reality of risk grows more apparent the longer one spends on whitewater and it is difficult to find a kayaker or rafter who has not experienced a real rescue scenario while out on the river.
By taking a swiftwater rescue course through Rescue 3 International, river users and rescuers can make smarter decisions while out on the water. These decisions come from both practice of technical skills, but also increased respect for moving water and the trust placed in fellow paddlers. It is this combination that often results in successful days out on the water.
It is our goal at Wet Planet, and hopefully within other groups of paddlers, to never have to use the skills we learned over the weekend. However, we all feel safer and smarter having practiced more efficient techniques, and will inevitably make better decisions as a result.
Wet Planet Guide and Whitewater Rescue Technician course participant Susan Hollingsworth takes other students over Husum Falls for a real whitewater raft rescue training scenario.
At Husum Falls, Wet Planet’s support system is one of the best examples of proper planning as a means of rescue prevention. In the photo, Todd shows students where we set up throw ropes for potential swimmers. Todd signals that Susan’s raft made it through smoothly and it is clear for Jonathan’s raft.
Jonathan takes down a raft full of Lake Oswego fireman as a part of their whitewater rescue training experience. Perhaps they understand a bit better why all these crazy white water rafters and kayakers love the river.
Heather, Wet Planet guide and instructor and course participant, replaces Todd at the rope support location. She is helping students from Susan’s raft orient themselves to the base of the falls as Todd’s raft prepares to descend.
Todd’s run over Husum Falls was also successful. No ropes needed to be deployed and no rescues performed. While the students were not able to practice thier newly aquired skills, this outcome is the ultimate goal with proper rescue training.