ACA Swiftwater Rescue Experience

2 06 2017

live bait

If I had to identify with just one sport, it would be cycling. I’m an instructor for Bike Safety Education and Mountain Bike Adventure summer camps through the River House Outdoor Center. I raced extensively for seven years, two at the national level, and worked at bike shops for several years.  I have taught numerous bike skills clinics. When it comes to biking, I know my stuff.

That is not the case with river sports. While I have enjoyed some time rafting, canoeing, SUP’ing, or just hanging out and playing in the water, I’m a total beginner at all river and paddle sports. The truth is, the river scares me a little. I have never been very sure of what’s going on under that blue shimmer and white splashes, so I have remained hesitant to get completely obsessed with any river sport. I tried learning to kayak years ago, and just couldn’t get the roll down, so I gave up.

This will be my first summer working for the River House, and I plan to utilize all the opportunities available to me to expand my knowledge and add to my skills. Oregon offers so many awesome rivers, full fun activity and adventure, so I set for myself the goal to learn more skills and become proficient in a variety of river activities. A big first step was taking a Swiftwater Rescue certification class through American Canoe Association (ACA). I had to miss a few great mountain bike rides, but dedicating my weekend to personal growth and education was absolutely worth it!

Our instructor, Marciel Bieg, also a River House employee, started by laying the groundwork and philosophy—our priorities when doing a rescue. Number one, don’t become another victim! Just a few hours in the classroom covered all the basics. Then we learned to use throw ropes on dry land. By afternoon we were practicing rescue techniques in a rapid near the Autzen Footbridge.

On day two we learned a variety of anchor systems and mechanical advantage systems. My knowledge of rock climbing anchors really helped here, but even those with little experience learned to create safe anchors from a variety of materials. Then we piled on a bus and took to Row River to practice our skills.

We floated down a small rapid, practiced throw ropes and live bait rescue techniques. One of my favorite parts was trying to wade across the swift-moving river. It was a huge challenge, and I found myself floating downstream, never making it to the other side. We crossed with partners, and even rescued a “victim” as a group.

This experience helped me gain an enormous amount of confidence in the river. I am now able to advance my skills and knowledge of rafting and SUP’ing, knowing that I can handle whatever situation arises and help keep myself and the people around me safe.

This course is not just for professional guides. Literally ANYONE spending time in and around the river—it’s Eugene, so that’s pretty much everyone—would benefit from taking a Swiftwater Rescue course, or some kind of river safety education material our course.

I’m looking forward to an awesome summer full of mountain biking and river adventures!

-Misha Fuller

(The River House Instructor Development Fund makes money available for staff to use to better their skills through classes and training. In return the River House receives highly skilled staff and blog posts describing their experiences.)

crossing

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Swift Water Rescue Training

28 02 2017

swiftWith all the luck of the sky and the mountains, the storms have returned gifting us all with an abundance of sleet, snow pack, and rain drops.  The essence of life.  Thanks to an intricate and unexplainable series of fortunate events, I find myself granted the opportunity to travel into the heart of the forest and mountains; to travel into the river itself.  What’s more is the unexplainable magic of the opportunity to take part in the re-creation of the experience and adventure within the lives of others, from all walks of life, by means of a sea worthy whitewater raft.  Though simple in concept, these adventures and undertakings of which hold the power to shape shift lives and worlds, are also undeniably counterbalanced by the weight of risk.

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