Swiftwater Rescue

Skills days at Wilderness Tours (WT) happen on Thursdays and Fridays in the first term.  Otherwise I sit in academic classes Monday to Wednesday and bounce back and forth between Pembroke and Toronto on the weekends.

Before we Outdoor Adventure Naturalist (ODAN) students could get too far into water sports, we needed to learn how to essentially rescue ourselves from swiftly moving water.  On the first day, WT instructors Marc, Joel, and Ryan taught us how to swim across eddy lines, how to offensively and defensively swim in white water, how to wade in moving water, and how to throw a throw bag to rescue someone caught in moving water to bring them in safely.  The blazing hot sun (reminder: summer does not end with Labor Day) caught some of us off-guard and we found ourselves overdressed in full wetsuits as well as dehydrated.  Midway through my offensive swim in white water both my calves cramped and I was forced to swim to shore under arm power only, effectively ending my afternoon early.

Day two was decidedly different.  Overcast skies, a cool breeze, and gentle rain made getting in and out of the water chilly.  However due to the constricting nature of the wetsuit jacket, many of us opted for dry-fit long sleeve shirts rather than try to swim in the jacket again.  The WT instructors gave us the opportunity to swim across currents once more, safely “jump” into a hydraulic (spot where the river flows over a rock creating a hole on the downstream side), learn how to get over an obstruction (a log in this instance) in moving water, and how to deal with a foot entrapment as well as swim the whole of the Lorne rapid if we so chose.  With some trepidation about my swimming skills from earlier in the day (I was picked up by the safety boat for swimming too slowly across the current), I opted to be on hand with my throw bag as a sort of a first line of defense if anyone needed it.

At the end of day two, we had some confidence that we could react appropriately if dropped into a white water situation and we looked forward to the start of river touring the following week.

Up for discussion: How much do you take safety into consideration when you plan your outdoor adventures?

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