Safety is NO Accident
A weekly series of safety tips by Phil Boyer
This spring I was involved in the most intense rescue of my three decade paddling career. For this reason I am writing a weekly series of articles for class II through V paddlers about safety and gear.
When I first began to kayak, I was taught about safety on the water from some of the best in the business: Lars Holbek, Eric Magneson, and Eric Burge. They were incredible mentors when it came to running hard rivers and doing it safely, which was especially critical in the early days of paddling due to the primitive kayaks and equipment. Thanks to all of the advances in boat designs, we are now able to run bigger and harder rapids in a safer manner. Boats have become shorter and rounder, more stable and easier to roll, equipped with bulk heads instead of ankle breaking pegs and large cockpits. There is less potential to get pinned, wrapped, or stuck in a boat. We are able to bounce off of rocks, piton our bows without pinning or hurting our ankles as bad. We can get in and out of our boats easier then years past, sometimes just pulling our knees to our chest and we are free from being trapped in the boat.
Unfortunately, due to the advancement in safer boat design and increased focus on pushing the limits, some paddlers have become complacent when it comes to safety, and that should scare everyone in the industry. Have you ever been on a hard run with a crew that does not look back to see if everyone has made it through the last big rapid. What would happen if the last person got into trouble? Would anyone know? Or would they be there to fend for themselves in hopes of someone realizing they were missing before it was too late.
Some questions you should ask yourself and the other paddlers.
- Does everyone have knowledge of swift water rescue techniques, or first aid and C.P.R.?
- Do all of the paddlers have a throw bag and know how to use it?
- When was the last time you practiced throwing yours?
- Is everyone wearing the proper gear, shoes, rescue vests, warm clothing and a good helmet?
- Are all of the boats equipped with float bags.
- Is there at least one first aid kit, repair kit and spare paddle.
Think of these things as an insurance policy, it is better to have it and not use it than to not have it when you need it.
There are many rescue stories. I have been on both sides of the equation, getting rescued and being the rescuer. When I was being rescued I did everything possible to ensure my team’s safety and not put them at risk. On the flip side, I wished that some of the people I helped rescue had done the same for me and the rest of the team.
The gear and knowledge that you carry with you the river might be the difference between everyone coming home or not.
Remember, Safety is no accident.