To educate or not to educate the clueless? - Mountain Buzz

View Poll Results: Darwin Vs. Education: To help and educate or let nature take its course
Educated and leave: Tell them they are an idiot, keep going 14 28.57%
Educate and help: Tell them they are an idiot, give them help getting down 22 44.90%
Let nature take its course: Smile, wave, and keep paddling 13 26.53%
Voters: 49. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 08-07-2005   #1
WhiteLightning's Avatar
Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 969
To educate or not to educate the clueless?

Yesterday I saw a guy at the top of a class IIIish drop that I was heading down. He was sitting there with his dog, trying hard as hell to get his skirt on and couldn't get it. I then noticed that he (and his dog) were PFD-less, helmetless, and paddling alone. I said hello and proceeded through. Towards the end, I told my girlfriend to hold up a minute, let's see if the guy comes through swimming. I eddy out, get throwbag ready, and sure enough, I see dog's head, guy's head, and a boat, all seperate, all swimming. Another boater that I was talking to below went after this guy's gear, etc.

The question is, should I have assumed that this guy was clueless, and point out that clueless beginners need to not endanger themselves by
1.Paddling alone
2. No helmet
3. No pfd
4. Poor dog


I could have offered him a ride on my raft if I had been more agressive about pointing out that he's an idiot. Please, No plastic vs. rubber arguing, I'm a kayaker too and sick of hearing that stupid discussion. Also, as being swiftwater rescue trained, CPR, 1st Aid, etc, what is our duty to help? I basiclly stood by and made sure he and the dog made it through, tried to grab his boat, and kept going when someone else beat me to it.

I've noticed that people in general don't like others they don't know telling them what they should and shouldn't do, it is generally not polite.

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Old 08-07-2005   #2
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 159
I don't want to impose a duty of care string here but being Rescue/CPR trained, you are kind of under the obligation to do so.
I know it sucks but if you don't stop the clueless or at least warn them of the danger they are in then you put yourself in the position that your skills could be needed.

Do it in the manner of "It is the law that you must wear a PFD on the river, Show the foolish the gouges on your helmet and let them know the danger they are putting you in by haveing to help them..."

Saftey first is what keeps the rivers from being closed......

Was he barefoot too?
"I just stood there and watched the whole thing happen!!!"
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Old 08-07-2005   #3
Marine Biologist
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 90
I vote for option d) tell them to get the F off the river, so you don't have to rescue them. Of course, I believe everyone is obliged to rescue ANYONE they see in danger. I once witnessed 2 guys in an open canoe getting ready to put on the numbers. I told them to pack it up and try the nearest lake, so I wouldn't have to rescue them. I was tactful about it; I didn't insult their intelligence, but asked them to drive down and look at number 5, deciding if they were ready to run something like that without pfds or floatation in the canoe, and hey were very thankful.
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Old 08-08-2005   #4
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Eagle County, Colorado
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Yeah, I guess I was suprised that he was doing that. I figured he must have a buddy around the corner or something waiting for him, and maybe he had set his helmet down or something. Anyways, once I got through, I eddied out and watched for him. In retrospect, I should have just said, "hey man, did you loose your helmet and pfd, you want me to look for it?" and see if he goes "P-F-What?"

Anyways, the section isn't difficult (Yarmony rapid on Upper Colorado below Radium) but was kind of rocky. In general, even on class II I think PFD's are needed especially for kayaks and canoes. Helmets for kayakers is a no brainer! Case in point: fatality about 2 weeks ago from PFDless canoer out there.

I've banged up my forehead even with my helmet on while kayaking in low water. Anyways, thanks for the insight, I will be more inquiring and vocal next time.
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Old 08-08-2005   #5
Join Date: Jul 2005
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I hate when dogs have stupid owners.
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Old 08-08-2005   #6
Front Range, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 274
hmmm.... this one is really for White Lightning and in line with Swim Team Cap'n..... I'm not certain what state statutes look like in CO, but here in TN, if you have any certifications or training whatsoever (swiftwater, wilderness rescue, first aid, CPR, girl scout badge in applying bandaids, whatever), you're actually legally obligated to intervene &/ or provide services if someone is imminent danger to themselves or others, or is already acutely injured-- but if they're just looking lost or clueless, it's a different story.

That being said, moral obligation is a beast of an entirely different color.... and that grey area between the two a bit of a judgment call.

I just had this same discussion with one of my friends on a run yesterday-- after he (VERY experienced c-1'er) and myself (does okay intermediate paddler) watched an obvious novice in an open boat drop into something he had NO business being in (4' standing waves down the middle with recirculating holes on either side (not to mention, the current pushed right into an overhanging cliff with a couple of nasty undercuts). It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion, but before either of us could yell or do anything, the guy was out of the boat, canoe upside down in the water, with my buddy and I just standing there laughing our asses off. I mean, we ultimately did lend a hand, but it was kinda one of those things you saw coming and thought, no way he's actually gonna run this thing (there was a PERFECT spot for him to portage... we were standing there scouting it, so there's no way he could've missed us/ it?). It's kinda one of those sticky, ticky situations. We should've probably said or done something, but common sense was telling us he wasn't going to take the risk??
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Old 08-08-2005   #7
Posts: n/a
I think the "can-I-live-with-myself?" rule is always good.

Do what you need to feel ok with all possible out comes in a situation. If you can live with someone maybe dying because you didn't help you're good to go. If you can't live with that and you have the ability to help, then you probably want to do something.

Chances are you'll neve see the dumb pfdless, dog endangering dumb ass again, but you do have to live with yourself.

You're only responsible for you.

That said... what an idiot!
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Old 08-08-2005   #8
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Eagle County, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 969
Yeah, it wasn't probably a life or death rapid, but then again there was a fatality on this same easy run a couple weeks ago. That's why I passed by, I guess thinking maybe I just didn't see his helmet or pfd that was behind a rock or something, then decided to hang out and see if he comes swimming through. It was almost comical, I told my gf "let's pull over and see if this guy doesn't come swimming down in a minute or two" Righ after I said that, I saw dog head, guy's head, and boat coming down.

Once again, this is like II+ maaaybe III- Yarmony rapid on the Upper C, but still was bony. I watched out for him, knowing there probably wasn't any real river danger, more idiot danger.

That said, in Colorado my understaning is that you aren't responsible or obligated to help strangers unless you are a physician. That said, being swifwater rescue technician, cpr, etc. I carry extra gear with me, and usually keep an eye out for situations where I can help out if necessary. I think that the idea and question is whether it is appropriate to take that a step further and try to be people's mother before they put themselves in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation. Next time I will stop, educate, and offer a ride/shadow them down. I think I just assume that others, especially solo paddlers know what they are doing and have already accepted the risks.

The only problem with that is that those people who take unnecessary risks (once again, maybe we're talking about a more difficult river scenario) could potentially put others at risk who feel obligated to assist them. I guess if you feel obligated to help the person when they get into trouble, it is in your best interest to educate or prevent said idiocy from taking place if possible.

Anyways, keep your eyes out for tubers, beginners, swimmers, etc when you are out there. And I guess just don't assume that anyone knows what they are doing if you aren't sure.
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Old 08-08-2005   #9
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Eagle County, Colorado
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Posts: 969
Here's the last topic:

"Death on Upper Colorado"

Even beginner runs require at least a minimal amount of precaution.
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Old 08-08-2005   #10
pnw, Colorado
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,408
No one should be out without a pfd. I have seen and heard way too much crap this year to let it pass. I would tell him to get off the river and I would have given the dog a ride.
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