2022 River Safety Training
2022 River Safety Training
Submitted by Meredith Brezinski
River Safety Class 2022 was a success! With a full class roster and a host of incredible teachers, we learned a lot, gained new friends, and left excited to get back onto the river for a group trip!
On Friday night before the class, Bruce Ripley taught us the importance of knot tying and how knowing how to tie a few knots well is the key! We focused on tying figure 8s, figure 8s on a bight, a water knot, and many more!
On day 1 of the class, we broke into groups of 12 to learn about water safety rules and the importance of saving yourself first, your team second, and your gear last. We discussed different ways that swimmers can become entrapped and how to rescue them depending on your accessibility to gear, space, and time. We practiced these scenarios on land to help us problem-solve how we would implement them in the water.
In the afternoon, we all geared up into our dry suits, PFDs, and helmets to practice some water skills in the river. In one station we learned about how to move our raft around obstacles in the water when boating a section is too difficult. In another session, we focused on shallow water crossing both as an individual and as a team. This was a great way to truly appreciate the power of the river and how you can use many different techniques to skin a cat.
Another station focused on swimming and how to use different positions in the water based on what’s going on. We learned the defensive swim position on our backs and also how to flip over and swim/crawl on our stomachs to get back to safety. We learned about the importance of keeping our feet up and how to time our breathing to avoid breathing in a wave.
The last station for the afternoon was focused on round boat flipping and getting back into the boat. We learned many different techniques with a focus on finding the one that works best for you. We practiced attaching a flip line and uprighting a flipped boat.
The first day closed out with exercises focused on learning how to use mechanical advantage to rescue a pinned boat and the many different ways this can be done!
The second day of River Safety Class, we got to implement many of the skills we learned one day 1. We practiced setting up a Z line to save a pinned boat, we learned how to use pulleys to improve mechanical advantage, and we learned how prusset loops can truly be a quick lifesaver on the water.
During our lunch break, we listened to a first responder on the scene of a real life rescue event on the Clackamas during Covid. This story stressed the importance of communication, recognition of skills and limits, and how we as public rafters can truly save the lives of others we encounter on our trips.
In the afternoon, we braved the hail, rain, and ridiculously cold water to practice swimming through a rapid, shooting a line gun, zip-lining across the river, and throwing throw bags to save our fellow swimmers. This was a great opportunity to test our limits in a safe environment and practice both swimmer and rescue skills. We had wonderful safety boaters in kayaks who made sure everyone remained safe through the class.
Our afternoon wrapped up with a friendly competition where we practiced rescuing a stuck kayaker with the skills we learned over the weekend. In this drill, we found the importance of having a true incident commander who can communicate responsibilities to the group is key. We also learned that putting the smallest person in the kayak to save is also very beneficial.
River Safety Weekend was a wonderful experience and I can’t recommend it enough to those who are looking to learn more about river safety, personal responsibility on the river, and how to surround yourself with people you know will do their best to take care of you on trips. I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn with OWA and appreciate all that they do to make these events happen!
Photos by Heather Garrison