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Old 07-31-2009   #21
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
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Originally Posted by mania View Post
Here is what I sent to the authors
Have you heard back from them? They don't even accurately describe defensive swimming through a rapid (backstroke, WTF?), and did completely miss the aggressive swimming that should take place once they get through a rapid, and need to get to shore NOW. Unfortunately the people seem to have had no clue that there was enough danger to warrant getting out of the water as a swimmer. Very sad, beyond words, too many deaths this year, way too many deaths.

I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 07-31-2009   #22
no tengo
mania's Avatar
Baytopia, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1876
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Posts: 1,768
Originally Posted by lhowemt View Post
Have you heard back from them?
Yes - the author was still defending his position but is wanting to at least get a dialog going in the statesman so I wrote up a less emotional and more thoughtful response which I will paste here for your critiquing.

When Feet First Kills
by mania

When an experienced raft guide or kayaker swims in whitewater he or
she will normally try to self-rescue, usually by using an aggressive
crawl stroke to shore or boat as soon as practical. Commercial guests
and novices, however, are too often still being told by these same
experienced guides to use a passive, feet first swim until someone can
help them. This may work on some rivers, but on many difficult or
continuous rivers it's bad advice that people pay for with their

The rational for feet first is that you can see where you are going,
you can fend off rocks with your feet, and you can eventually make
your way to shore using a backstroke. Initially when getting through a
rough rapid this might be valuable information. The problem with this
technique becomes quickly apparent if the rapid doesn't end anytime
soon, if the current is swift, or if the swimmer is heading for
something bad such as a strainer, sieve or large hole. It's too slow.
It keeps the victim in the water for too long at the mercy of the
current. There are mainly two ways people die in whitewater, the first
is an entrapment in something like a tree or undercut rock and the
second is a flush drowning where the victim drowns in their life
jacket from taking on too much water. The feet first approach is
practically useless in helping the swimmer avoid either of these two

A crawl stroke on the other hand, puts the swimmer more in control of
their destiny. If the swimmer sees something to avoid such as a downed
tree or undercut rock he can swim perpendicular to the current away
from the obstacle instead of directly into a death trap, feet happily
in front. By aggressively swimming perpendicular to the current using
a crawl stroke the swimmer is making his way to the safety of shore
much quicker than someone using a backstroke. The longer someone stays
in the water the more tired and cold they become. The goal of every
swimmer in whitewater should be to get out of the river as soon as
possible. The crawl stroke is by far the fastest way out of the water.

In either case it should be mentioned that feet are up and the swimmer
should not try to stand up in swift water. Other simple precautions
include wearing a snug life jacket and helmet, and matching the skills
of you and your crew with the river you want to run. Anyone serious
about the sport should take an approved swiftwater rescue class.

Give your friends and/or clients a fighting chance if they fall in.
Tell them about the aggressive self rescue swim. It could save their

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Old 07-31-2009   #23
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
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Wow, maybe some river rescue books should be in their library, and read. The guides I am friends with on the Lochsa teach 3 things, feet first through a rapid up over rocks and down into holes), up on top of strainers, and agressive to shore as soon as you can. Self rescue, self rescue, if you get separated from the boat. It sounds like they have only talked to Class III instructions, which often do not include aggressive swimming or strainers, likely mostly to avoid scaring customers away.
I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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Old 07-31-2009   #24
Mr Beaver's Avatar
Portland, Oregon
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 188
Originally Posted by phlyingfish View Post
What a mess. Condolences to the family and to the private boaters who volunteered to help with the response. Dealing with fatalities on your home river tends to put it all in perspective. Unfortunately, we get a lot of perspective on the North Fork.

It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. There are a legion of places in Boise and on the way to the Payettes that rent "river rafts." No helmets required and perhaps a little confusing beta to muddy the waters, so it's no wonder that people convince themselves that they have carte blanche to shoot some big rapids. How dangerous could it possibly be if they don't require helmets? But, as previous posters have pointed out, to put in above Otters you have to stare at two very large and very class V rapids as you drive up the highway. There can be no mistaking, even for a lay person, that the North Fork is serious whitewater, no signs necessary.

What is most troubling is that the group knew after the first wave train that they were in bigger than expected whitewater. Yet, when they became separated from the victim they continued to float the 1/2 to 3/4 miles of class I/II to the lip of Juicer and then run that rapid. To be clear, the river does not go cranking right into Juicer, there is a significant amount of slack water between it and Otters.

What is most notable is that both of last weekend's drownings on the Payette were in class II or less and involved logs. Might as well have been the Boise River. For all the hand wringing about inexperienced rafters on the big rapids of the NF, the person who drowned was apparently intentionally swimming and making no effort to get back in the raft. They all survived the class V rapids, experienced or not.

I think part of the problem is something I have just learned this year.

I started taking complete beginners on raft trips and was shocked by their "raw river reading abilities" I figured after a couple of pointers, they would be like my girlfriend and quickly figure out was was dangerous and what was runnable.

But one of my friends would point at big wave trains and see danger and then see a 5' drop pushing into a rock face and ask if it was o.k. to "float thru!?!

I guess my point is if you don't understand what is dangerous in the first place, looking at some Class IV and V drops don't look much different than a really big Class III.
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Old 07-31-2009   #25
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Louisville, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 110
That's crazy, especially on the N Fork. They had to drive 15-16 miles right along that road & the river is almost always in sight, and at 2k it is nothing but white raging hell (though some like it) for 99% of that drive. My ass puckers every time I drive that road.

I can claim I did it without knowing much about the N Fork, and full of a lot of bravado, but was with a very seasoned kayaker that I trusted w/ my life. And now, one of my cat lives resides in Taffy Puller. 3 strokes of an aggressive albeit blind crawlstroke saved my ass, a passive feet first float and all 9 cat lives would reside in Golf Course to this day.

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