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outdated safety principles? What are they, more importantly how do we change them? Private vs. commercial. Proactive--feet down river push off rock position, better name?
 

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no tengo
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I think most of us know by now that feet first for more than the initial few moments of a swim is totally outdated. Thank you Kent Ford and others for bringing this up years ago in the journals.

I am going to throw this one out there: fitness. very undervalued by the rafting community especially. cardio and strength training are both super important. I am not the strongest or fastest but I workout almost every day. rg5 asks me to lunch and I tell him we should go to the gym instead. lucky him, he doesn't need it as much as me.
 

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I think most of us know by now that feet first for more than the initial few moments of a swim is totally outdated. Thank you Kent Ford and others for bringing this up years ago in the journals.

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Isn't this the truth. I broke my tailbone in the Poudre many years ago when I hit a big rock in a pour over with the lowest part of my body while in the "perfect" downstream position.
 

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outdated safety priciples

I recently took an ACA Level IV WW rescue class in the Glenwood Springs area. I had previously had taken a Rescue III class in 1995 and wanted to up my skills and see if rescue methods or technology has changed. The curriculums had some similarities, but the ACA class had a couple of distinct differences. The Rescue III class had a hands on segment on rescue systems for low head dams, which is very time consuming and equipment intensive. Useful knowledge, but how many of us encounter this situation versus the more often encountered "flip, now what?" or other swimmer type rescues, especially pins/wraps. The ACA class emphasized starting simple and not use a complex systems until you have to (having the right gear available also), foot entrapment potential and the importance of keeping your feet up (better your your ass gets banged up, versus entrapment and drowning), strainers and evasive actions, and river swims. (try swimming across a river and back, quickly, and you will have a new appreciation for cardio fitness)
After so many years since my last class, this class was a great refresher and skills training; however, it also brought my awareness up regarding the "what if" factors. How many of us (at least rafters) swim a rapid at least annually? How many of us practice setting up a mechanical advantage system (z-drag) annually (or carry the gear) so that we are familiar with doing it quickly. And how many of us have truly thought out the true emergency nature of a foot/boat entrapment situation and the fast action required (or practiced in a safe & simulated location)? These are just a few aspects taught in the class.
Over the years i have moved along the continuum of "Yahoo, let's do more of that", scared to swim, "now, i know what i'm doing so leave me to my game", to now a new appreciation of risk potential and rescue preparation.
Drowning is a permanent thing.
I would encourage all boaters to take a rescue class and update your skills.
 

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Nothing new, but something that I don't see enough of on the river: Look upstream to check on your buds even in easy water. Particularly during a low water year, unexpected pins and weird bad stuff can happen. Keep an eye on your buds.
 

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I am going to throw this one out there: fitness. very undervalued by the rafting community especially. cardio and strength training are both super important. I am not the strongest or fastest but I workout almost every day. rg5 asks me to lunch and I tell him we should go to the gym instead. lucky him, he doesn't need it as much as me.
Spot on right there....I don't think this is mentioned enough. I am, by no means, a pillar of physical fitness, but I try to stay in decent shape. My awakening to the importance of this came a few years ago when I got stuffed against the wall behind the falls on OBJ. Mayyyybe 20 seconds until I got a breath?? It absolutely wiped me out.

I can tell you my safety speeches have drastically changed since I started giving them (1990ish?). Back then I was just a teenager that really didn't know any better, then I guided for quite a few years and witnessed plenty of carnage and bad swims, then I had a few ass-whoopins of my own. Now I'm safety Steve and my (inexperienced) friends and family give me S&%T about it, but they love it.
 

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I took a rescue class recently, and the most significant and effective change was how to use a rope to rescue a swimmer. The old school method was to stand on the point, throw the rope and pendulum the swimmer into the eddy below. The new method is to stand next to the eddy, throw the rope upstream when the swimmer is at the point, and pull them directly into the eddy. This was so effective, it is hard to believe the old method was ever taught. If you haven't tried this, make a point to. It works.
 

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Practice. Swimming rapids, flipping in a current (protect yourself, your head, your limbs, come up safely), and then reflipping and recovering. Yes, swimming is exhausting. There are a few boater friends of mine that I think about this in regards to what kind of liability they would be if they had carnage. They who would NOT be able to rescue themself.

Did I say practice swimming rapids? That is such a non-intuitive thing for most people, esp those that don't swim very often. I feel a weird sense of gratitude that I've flipped and swum a lot, so when the big ones happened it was nearly intuitive. It helps that I grew up in the water too I suppose, but it is not a skill that can come without actually getting in the current.

Great to hear about the non-pendulum pull into the eddy technique. However that seems pretty idealistic. It would require that you are at shore downstream of the swimmer, which may work for safety set up at tough rapids, but for general technique I think it is a stretch. That's not to say that it shouldn't be another tool taught for us to keep in our belts. Both techniques have a place, and the pendulum is less intuitive because of the vectoring and need for a 2nd person to actually get them in (sometimes). Rescue 3 is about all we have here, and I have a friend taking the class this weekend. I will have to quiz him afterwards about what he learned. My experience with Rescue 3 was weak on self-rescue, and heavy on techniques that I'll never use. I think it was a SWT class, and I believe next time I'll find a WWT class.
 

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I don't get it. In my safety speech I tell all my newbies if you HAVE to swim a rapid and all options are exhausted (no boat near by, water too swift to make it to shore fast and no throw rope coming your way) I tell them to put their feet down current and up to the top of water, hands out and keep your head out of water. Is that wrong?

If you have to swim a rapid and there is no other way, what's the best way to swim?

Alex
 

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Often times going into a ball is the safer position. If they are swimming through holes and rocks, you don't want your arms/legs out to get caught in something. Openboater's example applies to this, you will get less beat up this way. In a rapid it is nearly impossible to breathe and stay in the safety position, you must be actively "swimming" to time your breath and then hold it. Actively swimming means your arms and legs are out there, and could get caught or banged up. So awareness of hazards while swimming, and going into different positions is important. It's really a hard thing to teach with a safety talk, but the "safe" position is better than doing something totally different. It is better to hit your butt (even if you get hurt), than get a leg stuck which results in drowning. With safety talks being of limited use with newbies, I still think that is the best advice for them. Others?

Asking the best way to swim a rapid is sort of like asking the best way to row a rapid. It depends.....
 

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I don't get it. In my safety speech I tell all my newbies if you HAVE to swim a rapid and all options are exhausted (no boat near by, water too swift to make it to shore fast and no throw rope coming your way) I tell them to put their feet down current and up to the top of water, hands out and keep your head out of water. Is that wrong?

If you have to swim a rapid and there is no other way, what's the best way to swim?

Alex
Alex, yes, it is. But if you only tell them the defensive position then they're not likely to flip over and swim to safety when necessary. Of course, "when necessary" may not be even obvious to neophytes. It's still important to attain the defensive swim position but once there, it's more important to get yourself out of the water as quickly as possible. In many cases that is more difficult in the defensive position than in "freestyle position."

I concur with two major points:
1) Fitness
2) Practice

Practice swimming rapids, throwing the rope, and exercise in general. I would hazard that the tubers in golden are more skilled at rapid swimming than the average beginning boater. And I rarely, if ever, see the ropes out in the play parks.
 

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I'm with Alex on this one. This year might be a bit different with low water in so many places that might cause foot entrapments, but I too tell my newbie passengers IF you find yourself in the water in a rapid with no rope or boat within arms reach to put feet first in rocking chair position with arms as paddles to pull backwards towards safety. Is this out of line?

Also, if we're near rapids that are prone to flipping or dumping passengers, I usually try to prepare the newbie passengers of best place to swim to. Now this really only applies to sections of water that I've been down before and know the tendencies at current flow(or we scout). But I think giving them a safe target will give them at least a thought of what to do once the shock of "oh shit I'm in a rapid and it's f-ing cold" is under control.
 

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I tell them to put their feet down current and up to the top of water, hands out and keep your head out of water. Is that wrong?
I disagree with most people above. In my experience as a person who has (swam? swum? swimmed?) more than most I always think active swimming is the answer.

Swimming is generally the most dangerous activity you can do in whitewater, and most people I talk to are in agreement that you should try to do as little of it as possible. Also swimming tends to happen on the bigger rapids. So I try to keep newer boaters informed as to the best direction to swim - kayakers and experienced rafters should know where the dangers are - and I tell them to swim as hard as they can in that direction, or to a raft if available. 5-10 seconds of aggressive swimming is safer than 30-60+ seconds of whitewater swim position. Especially in Class IV and above. In my experience whitewater swim position on continuous cold rocky mountain runs is a recipe for bad things to happen.

On pool drop rivers whitewater swim position through the rapids might be a good idea - as long as the person actively swims when the rapid is over. But I found through commercially guiding that when you tell people about whitewater swim position they lock into it, and don't actively participate in their own rescue. Tell them to get out of the water in any way possible and they generally do it.
 

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The Russian
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In my experience with newbies, they really don't remember the long safety talks.

The only thing I ask them to remember when they fall out are:

1. Hold your breath until you see the next wave. Which means you are on top of a haystack and it's safe to reopen your mouth.

2. Feet down current through wave trains.

3. Let the captain of your boat adjust your PFD (9/10 newbie's PFDs aren't adjusted right). On my trips as a TL, I check all kids personally and do the PFD pull check.

Though I do cover the throw ropes, throw rope catching/holding, rules of not falling out and getting back in, eddy lines and swims and all scary stories to put some water fear into them.

All people who swam on my trips do tell me the only thing they could remember was hold your breath until next wave is seen and feet down. Panic sets in way too fast without practice :(.

PS: We try to swim a couple of kids per trip through smaller rapids to teach them rapid swimming.
 

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Good stuff to take to heart so far. I would like to stress active self rescue coupled with fitness (Mania is spot on!).

A couple years ago I was on the S Salmon at 7.5' on Krassel. It rain spiked on us and got pretty nasty. Two cats and a lead kayak. Surprise was the first rapid of the day. Elk Creek is just below. At these flows both are long class V big water affairs. Lead kayak hits the line, but still gets a beat down. I get surfed off line into three of the biggest holes I have ever visited. I look back to see the other cat getting cartwheeled in a massive hole and the rower nowhere in sight. Total shit show.

Luckily, the other oarsman is a pinnacle of physical fitness and it probably saved his life. He swam like hell and got his ass to shore. 50 yards of burly class V water is tough to swim across and requires practice, stamina and strength. Whitewater swimmers position and he is done. Out of shape and he is done.

You are the best chance of saving yourself on the rio.
 

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Seriously guys! Starfishing KILLS people. If you are in the river you can drown! Tell everyone to get the hell out! You won't drown on shore. Pushing off rocks is good info, I agree with that. You will not get entrapped if you are on the top swimming actively for shore.
 

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I guess it depends which rivers you are doing. Most of the stuff I do is family friendly Class 3 stuff (Yampa, Lodore, Deso, Dolores). In those cases most rapids are drop and pool, so swimming a wave train for 5 seconds as a T position is the safest bet. Most of those rapids have boulders/rocks on each side and aggressive swim to shore would cause more problems.
 

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Seriously guys! Starfishing KILLS people. If you are in the river you can drown! Tell everyone to get the hell out! You won't drown on shore. Pushing off rocks is good info, I agree with that. You will not get entrapped if you are on the top swimming actively for shore.
I like your intensity though "you wil not get entrapped if you are on the top" is not at all accurate. Panic, no matter the level of skill, can render you incapacitated. Newbies, who can't even identify an eddy while in the boat are hardly going to be able to identify a tree strainer if they're looking and trying to swim up stream, in a rapid, against the current. An expert, who isn't looking down stream can get entrapped so while I get what you're saying (swim like hell), swim like hell when appropriate is the difficult part.

The difficult part is that the practice bit is hard to do. You're not going to chuck a paddler in the water to practice a swim before a spring numbers run because they'll get cold and it'll suck. So, we're stuck with the basic briefing and hopefully a situation where they can hear our commands and actually follow them in the event of a swim.
 
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