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Discussion Starter #1
I'm sitting here reading through American Whitewater's accient reports in Colorado. Flipped raft...heart attack, Flipped raft...heart attack, Flipped raft...heart attack, and so on. I've been running rivers for 23 years and have guided for 15 of those. I always had a problem with outfitters charging more for wet suits and booties. When I was younger I hated it b/c that extra 10 or 15 bucks that may have become my tip was now going into my boss' pocket. As I got older and cared more about my guests and my own safety, I encouraged people to get additional equipment.
Let me step back to my first raft trip. 9 years old, (had to tell the guides I was 11 to go) Nenana River Alaska, big water class III/IV, 37 degrees all summer. The gear at that time was a rain poncho, boots and PFD (we called them life jackets back then). Ten years later 2 dead grandmothers on the scenic float, same river. They hit a hole, now known to many as dead grandma hole, got ejected and that was it. No chance to survive. After that an owner of another raft company, Jon White of Nenana Raft Adventures purchased dry suits for all of his customers. He has not had a single death in his company.

My point is that we can all step back and say,"Well, he was out of shape and didn't belong on the river." However, we as guides and outfitters continue to put these people on the river. That's how we make money. It's time for the outfitters to take some responsibilty to protect their customers and guides from rescue and death situations. I understand that our season here does not always warrant wearing a dry or wet suit, but many of our commercial rivers and creeks are as cold as Alaska's waters.

Come on outfitters!!! Let's start to see some required gear on cold days and free gear all the time. I can put a price on a wetsuit, but not on a life. Can you?
 

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I am terrified seeing all those "side sitters" going through big water, being pitched left and right. Right now it is warm, but in the spring/early summer it is not. What a terrible position for an owner to put their guide in also, wouldn't you hate to have someone die on your trip?
 

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HUH? what?
Okay lets talk, because people seem to be in the sky is falling mode and on a witch hunt for those greedy raft guide owners.

1. no one is forced to go rafting, period. people need to wake up and realize the risks and possible consequences of their actions. take responsibility for the choices you make in life and the outcome of those choices. If I wanted to take up a sport you bet I would research the heck out of it before I started....and granted not everyone is going to do that....but blaming raft company owners for deaths is the same logic people employed when someone sued Mcdonalds because hot coffee burned them.



2. have you ever gone downhill skiing? did you pay for a lift ticket? did that include skis as well? if you didn't own your own skis you had to rent from the damn greedy rental shop....and they should have given me a free hat too because of their greed (wanting to make a profit) I got frost bite on my ears...I mean I knew it would be cold, but I didn't know it would be THAT cold.

or bowling..how dare those greedy bowling allley owners make me rent shoes from them. I could slip and twist my ankle if I don't use the right shoes....what a terrible position for the bowling alley owner to put the bowling alley shoe counter employee in.

3. if you do some resarch you will see that the expected survival time for water between 50 and 60 degrees is at least an hour. NO deaths on the Arkansas river this year have been caused by hypothermia. And I know for a fact that one of the recent deceased was wearing a wet suit. Cold water certainly could have contributed, but none of the deaths were from hypothermia.

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4. no one is forced to be a raft guide. it is a job with a lot of responsibilty and for some people knowing that they are responsible for other peoples safety and lives is too much to handle....for others it is a natural choice to be in a leadership position and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for people.
realize where you stand on that issue and be okay with it.


5.If a guide sees something that clearly is unsafe on the river they need to fix it. end of story. customer safety is the number one priority. if the comapany owner refused to remedy something that I felt was a serious threat to a customers life or limb I would work for another company.

6. shit goes wrong. sometimes in spite of our best efforts things go wrong. people get hurt. I understand that people in the community feel a spectrum of emotions when an event like this occurs, including anger...and searching for a scapegoat is a natural human reaction...although it is not the best choice.

7. this whole business of screening guests....do you even know what kind of physical condition any of the fatalities where in or are you just asumming that because they died on the river they must have been fat and out of shape and certainly a responsible raft company owner would have screened them out? A very fit person could easily drown if they inhale water a few times....hyperventilate and inhale more water becasue they breathed at the wrong time and got water in their airway and had a laryngospasm.

based on my 12,000+ miles of rafting if given a choice between a fat out of shape swimmer that is able to keep calm while in the water and not panic -or- a very fit swimmer that panics when they hit the water I'll take the fatty. ...but I have no idea how to screen for that. personality tests? IMO physical condition is not the most important thing (known pre-existing medical conditions not included) when it comes to safety...I think that grey squishy thing that is in your head is the important thing.

regards,
Brian Behn
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Beaner...Beaner....Beaner (sigh)

OK, you have 1200+ miles of rafting. That's one season for alot of people! You probably took a rafting class at Western State or Durango and now you're a 3rd or 4th year guide that mostly plays bumper boats on the Ark (just guessing). If you haven't figured it out yet, liability forms don't mean shit. These tourists sign the same type of form for everything that they do on their vacation. Most don't read it at all. No matter how many times you tell them that it is dangerous, they still think it's Disney World and it "can't be that dangerous."

I never blamed any rraft company for a death. What I'm urging is a simple measure to prevent some river deaths.

You are comparing rafting to skiing and bowling. Are you serious? OK, you show up w/out skis....you rent skis (mode of transportation). You show up w/out a raft...you are renting a raft and guide. You get cold when skiing you go inside one of the nice, cozy warming huts on the mtn or pickup the emergency phone. In rafting you can go from a great 90 degree day and suddenly be plunged into 50 degree water. That's a 40 degree change in one second that will send many people into a state of shock. Bowling vs rafting, c'mon.

Where are you pulling your stats on average survival time of an hour in 50- 60 degree water; Lakeswimming.com? Wake up! I never said the deaths were caused by hypothermia...they never had a chance to get to the hypothermic stage. No, the change of body temp and and adrenaline send their bodies into shock, get the heart racing and heart attack occurs. Didn't you learn that in your WFR course?

Next subject. You stated,"for others it is a natural choice to be in a leadership position and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for people.
realize where you stand on that issue and be okay with it." Great statement. You should add to that, "Rig to flip, dress to swim." That goes for the guides and the guests. Have you ever seen a guide flip on a nice sunny day while they are wearing nothing more then shorts and a PFD only to become too exhausted from the cold in the rapids. That guide can no longer provide an enjoyable experience b/c he or she is now being rescued by another company. It sucks!

Your bullet #5- Often times the guides do not even see their customers until they get to the put-in. Have you ever told a customer that they can not go on the trip b/c they are too much of a risk? Why not?

Yes, I do know what kind of condition many of the people were in. I also know what type of condition people were in when myself and my friends have pulled people out. DEAD!

Your last point states that the grey squishy thing in your head is the important thing. Did you forget that tourists leave that at home and look to you as the responsible leader that you are to do the thinking for them?

In no way have I suggested that wet or drysuits would prevent every river death. They would however give people a better chance of surviving a nasty swim. Bad press equals bad business.

Dress to swim and start setting a good example
 

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when you go to a fair or amusment park....

i hate people that say the customer signed the waiver or liability form and knows his risk! does every body know that ever time you get in your car you could be killed these customers do not realize how POWERFUL the river can be cold dark and deadly especially when they haven't had prier experience! i agree most raft companies are greedy! a customer can pay over $100 a person on a raft trip filled with 8 customers. and the outfitter only pays a guide $ 50. whats up with that maybe if they paid more they would receive some guides that are qualified but most outfitters do not pay enough to keep guides around thats why the guides are forced to get better jobs! outfitters should require a whitewater rescue technition class wrt swr, this could aid in faster rescues if needed and more knowledge for rookies about the dangers they should let customer know about! AND GUIDES THEM SELVES COULD HELP IN THIS MATTER BY GIVING BETTER SAFETY SPEECHS TO THERE GUESTS SO THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS NOT AFTER THE FACT IF THERE CUSTOMER DOESN'T GET OUT OF THE WATER ON THERE OWN SOMETHING IS WRONG! AGGRESSIVE SELF RESCUE MUST BE COVERED THE ONLY WAY TO SAVE MORE PEOPLE IS TO HAVE THEM SAVE THEM SELVES AND NOT WAIT FOR THE GUIDE IN SOME INSTANCES
 

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remoteproductions...remoteproductions...remoteproductions....sigh

OK, you have 1200+ miles of rafting. That's one season for alot of people! You probably took a rafting class at Western State or Durango and now you're a 3rd or 4th year guide that mostly plays bumper boats on the Ark (just guessing). If you haven't figured it out yet, liability forms don't mean shit.

Where are you pulling your stats on average survival time of an hour in 50- 60 degree water; Lakeswimming.com? Wake up! I never said the deaths were caused by hypothermia...they never had a chance to get to the hypothermic stage. No, the change of body temp and and adrenaline send their bodies into shock, get the heart racing and heart attack occurs. Didn't you learn that in your WFR course?


Your bullet #5- Often times the guides do not even see their customers until they get to the put-in. Have you ever told a customer that they can not go on the trip b/c they are too much of a risk? Why not?

You may want to look at my post again....i have 12,000 miles not 1200 miles as you stated. I am in the #'s and or gorge 2-3 times per week.
guided for ten years on 7 different commercial rivers as well as private trips on many others.
Now the kid gloves come off...
I am not a WFR, never claimed to be either, in fact I am ALS provider with a colorado ambulance service(advanced cardiac life support, pre-hospital trauma life support, advanced medical life support, pediatric prehospital provider, pediatric advanced life support and an EMT instructor)
so ....I guess that your WFR course gave you some bad info-Adrenaline does not cause shock. what you call adrenaline is in fact epinepherine which is a beta and alpha receptor agonist. this causes peripheral vasoconstricion, bronchodilation and elevates blood pressure and that is actually the opposite (inadequate tissue perfusion)of shock. stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (what you are calling adrenaline) does not cause heart attacks (and by the way you mean lethal dsrythmias- a heart attack is an occlusion of a coronary artery, not a non perfusing rythm such as v-tach or v-fib)
Now if you want to say that cold water causes a parasympathetic response that causes a release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve and corresponding hypotension and bradycardia you might be on to something.
guess I should get in that WFR course again, huh?

the stats on the cold water imersion time come from the united states search and rescue task force home page
Cold Water Survival
Cold Water Survival
I can tell you that most of the companies on the ARK the guides do see their guests before departing for the trip.


BTW-you should read posts more carefully before flaming people...got it?
but good call on western state I did go there....for geology.
 

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Much love to all...

"Rig to flip, dress to swim." - remoteproductions

It's an instant classic! Thank you. I'll second lhowemt on your comment and add that to my list of things to do and say.

Is anyone actually offended by the extravagant affluence of the guide companies or their employees? Notice that they mostly drive Ferraris, Porsches.... or take the limo to the putin? :) Tehehehe... Everyone in the business seems to be scraping for miniscule wages or is barely profitable.

So let's not forget to include plan B, which is swimming for survival, second to plan A of having a good time on the water. This could be true as a personal rule -> Don't boat any section unless you think you can swim it first.
 

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way off base

remote, when was last time you were a guide? The companies steped up years ago, you must have worked in canyon city. Any decent reputable comapny will require wetsuits for all class four trips, at least in colorado. The majority of trips include all gear that is needed, or suggested. THe guides safety talks are pretty good, I have not heard a bad on e for years. As a manager it is very important that they are informative, and touch on all of the important information. If a guide does not give a proper safety talk, he is off the river, no questions asked. as a guide you should work for a company that does not charge extra for safety gear, thats your choice as a guide. and the waivers have stand up incredibly well here in colorado. Since tourism is number two in colorado the courts will only hear a case if it is considered GROSS negligence, drunk guides, no lifejackets, etc. The companies have stepped up and the companies that have had problems are considered some of the best around. get your facts straight and get over it, shit happens.
 

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Vicious Cycle

I agree that outfitters don't pay enough, but guides usually don' have the credentials to deserve higher pay.

Few companies have an guide staff that is both WFR and SWR certified. Usually somebody with those credientials is a TL and that person is typically making pretty good money.

But very few first or second year guides have the money to afford WFR and SWR, and few companies are willing to pay for the courses because the odds are a guide won't be around long enough to make the investment pay off.

The problem is when you have WFR, SWR, 8,000-10,000 river miles and finally making decent cash, you realize that four months (if that) of work doesn't pay the bills.

In addition, you have no health benefits, no retirement plan, and very little job security. At the end of a season an outfitter can call it quits and sell his/her company, file for bankruptcy after a drought (rember 2002?), or wither under the pressure of a catastrophic lawsuit.

Furthermore, most older guides either move on to a "real job" for finiancial/stability reasons or they opt for a career that doesn't involve foot entrapment.

If an outfitter offered health care/retirement and a livable year-round wage to every guide, I believe many more "seasoned" guides would stick around. The only problem is, if the outfitters did this, they would be out of business in a year.

Outfitters may take in $800 per boat while they pay their guide $50, but that outfitter is also paying for insurance (oppressively expensive), workman's comp (staggering prices), gas, wages, and a slew of other operating costs. By the time it's done, the outfitter doesn't have much in his/her pocket to last the winter.

So it goes. Outfitters can't afford to keep experienced guides around for perpituity. Those seasoned guides leave for the "real world", and a whole new class of rookies litters the river with carnage as their 200 river miles and CPR/First Aid certifications lead forth a path of soaking-wet, freezing-cold midwesterners.
 

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I agree that the notion of greedy rafting companies is a joke. Most of the ones that i have dealt with are constantly tapping their lines of credit to make it through slow years.

Beaner has some excellent points. I am guessing that a raft trip on the numbers is about $100 per person. That $100 is buying a ride to the put in, a guide who knows the river and knows how to manage a crew, maybe lunch, and a ride home (unless you die). The $100 does not buy you a guarnatee that if you fall in you will not die, it does not guarantee that if you are in good shape you will not drown. If a customer is looking for the risk free ride they should go do the Ragging Rappids run and Disney Land.

To stand on Beaners points, if you buy a car no one asks if you are a good driver, or have road rage, or want to use it for driveby shootings. When you buy a hand gun, no one puts you throught a psych evaluation to determine if you should own a gun.

Remoteproductions, you acknowledge that no matter how many times you tell a customer that it is dangerous, they don't get it. What more can you do, or more importantly, what more should you do. I subscribe to the theory that we are all responsible for ourselfs. If the customer does not want to heed any warnings, then fuckem.

Finally, in my experince (and so it is clear for you remoteproductions, that is 10 years of kayak instruction and raft guiding and seven more just for fun) when people sign up for the upper animas, or the numbers, or gore canyon, they are paying for the "extreme experience" . They are seeking it out and paying money for it. If they die in the process due to a weak heart, random accident, or other incident not attributed to negligence, then tough.
 

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Have some heart

Geez you guys, have some heart. He is obviously distressed about a situation, and wanted to vent. Don't take/make it all so personal. There is nothing wrong with asking when are they going to step up to the plate? There is something wrong with blasting out reason after reason as to WHY THEY SHOULDN'T STEP UP.

There could have been a good discussion about what outfitters do, and do do. Why they don't do the things they don't (well covered but still hostile), and what could change that. Not that we could save the world here, but discussion ends when hostility starts.

One thing I think would help is to have a lot more safety talk BEFORE they shuttle to the put in. I don't see those folks paying a lot of attention when it is hot, they are excited, and there is a buzz of activity around. But, I don't know how much they do before hand, but from the talks I hear at the put ins, it seems like they do it all there.
 

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So it goes. Outfitters can't afford to keep experienced guides around for perpituity. Those seasoned guides leave for the "real world", and a whole new class of rookies litters the river with carnage as their 200 river miles and CPR/First Aid certifications lead forth a path of soaking-wet, freezing-cold midwesterners.
Sadly, that's the most accurate thing I've ever read on mountain buzz forums.
 
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