every river rescue situation is different, rescuers cannot predetermine
specific strategy that they may use. Also, because a river setting is
a dynamic environment with an ever-changing nature, rescuers must be
flexible rather than dogmatic in their efforts.

though absolute, “never” and “always” are
relative terms, with the current state of rescue knowledge and
practice, there are some circumstances that require a NEVER or an
ALWAYS – “absolutes” if you will. Following are a few
examples which apply no matter the level of canoeing/kayaking experience or
the difficulty of rivers being paddled.

others might be added to this list.

Never put your feet down on the riverbed and try to stand in fast
moving river current. This could lead to a possible foot entrapment.

Never knot a rope tightly around the body of a rescuer who may go in
the current to help someone. The rescuer could be swept away and
unable to get free.

Never put all your eggs (rescue plan) in one basket; have a
contingency plan in motion in case a certain action may not be
successful. Once you make contact with any victim, never lose
him/her. Be prepared to do your best to carry all the way through
with the rescue effort.

Always wear your PFD. Not only does it provide flotation, but it
protects the torso.

Always protect yourself and your group. Carefully assess the risk
involved in performing any rescue. Making additional victims only
compounds problems.

Always have downstream back-up in place with any rescue effort, as
well as upstream spotters if lines are stretched across the main
channel. This will give oncoming boaters the opportunity to stop

Always be PRO-ACTIVE. Avoid getting into trouble in the first place.
A pro-active attitude among experienced river paddlers is a primary
factor that has helped produce a safety ethic in river paddling that
is a model for other sports to emulate.

up for one of the ACA Swift Water Rescue workshops held in your area
and enhance your rescue capability. Will you benefit by knowing
proven rescue strategies? Always. Will you regret spending time and
money for such a weekend of practice and learning? Never. Will the
workshop broaden your safety awareness and cause you to be a more
confident paddler? Absolutely!

From “The Arkansas Paddler”, newsletter of the Arkansas


Jim Simmons & James Canon

Eddy Line, July 2003