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Thursday 27 April 2017
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Swimmer Rescues

Every kayaker swims at some stage during their paddling career so it is really good to know what to do to help them out.

For a disoriented paddler, having an out of boat experience can be very unsettling, confusing and sometimes a scary experience. For this reason the easiest and safest way for us to deal with a swimmer is to be a ‘swim coach’. There are many advantages to this type rescue. The two main ones are that it keeps the swimmer actively involved in the rescue and it allows the rescuer to remain at a safe distance and continually assess the potentially hazardous situation throughout.

In general one of “the biggest hazard on any section of water is a paddler gripped by fear and out of control” so it is important, where possible, to keep them independent and away from your boat. That said there may be times when it is imperative to get the swimmer to shore rapidly by having them use your boat as a tow. Generally towing a swimmer is one of the last stages on the rescue ladder. However, used in the right situations it can be a great rescue technique.

See the rescue section for more details on all the recuse techniques; Shout, Reach, Throw, Row, Tow, Go.

 

How to perform a Swimmer Rescue : Coaching a Swimmer

Heres some key things to consider when assisting a swimmer.

1. Keep your distance from the swimmer as you assess the situation around you. Note any major hazards and the general state of the swimmer.

2. Speak to the swimmer in a calm yet assertive manor. Let them know that you are there to help.

3. If it is not safe for you to paddle with them and provide assistance, as a swim coach from your boat. Do not paddle with them. Instead get out of your boat on the bank and provide coaching from the bank. Here you can also look at also using other rescue (see the rescue section).

4. Using simple clear instructions and hand gestures instruct the swimmer on where to go to get to safety.

5. Encouraging the safe swimming position and active whitewater swimming where required.

6. Make sure the swimmer does not stand up until they are safely in an eddy, out of the flow.

The main thing to remember when being the swim coach is giving the simplest instruction possible. Make eye contact with the swimmer and point in the direction that you want them to go. Try to avoid directions such as left and right as the swimmer’s is likely to be disoriented.

 

How to perform a Swimmer Rescue : Towing a Swimmer

1. Keep your distance from the swimmer as you assess the situation around you. Note any major hazards and the general state of the swimmer.

2. Speak to the swimmer in a calm yet assertive manor. Let them know that you are there to help.

3. If it is not safe for you to paddle with them and provide assistance as a swim coach or tow them on your boat do not paddle with them. Instead get out of your boat on the bank and provide coaching and support from the bank. Here you can also look at also using other rescue (see the rescue section).

4. If the section you are paddling on is safe enough and the swimmer is calm and you need to give them a tow, look them in the eyes and let them know you are there to help

5. Let them know that if you flip or shout at them to let go they must let go immediately and swim independently

6. Then instruct them to grab the stern grab loop of your boat.

7. Once the swimmer has the stern grab loop, instruct the swimmer to pull their belly up on the stern deck and either grab the stern deck grab loops or both sides of your cockpit rim.

8. As you paddle ask the swimmer to kick their legs to help with the movement.

9. When required ask them to let go and actively swim to the safety of the shore. Or if you can, tow them to shore and when its safe to do so ask them to stand up.

10. If you are on a river make sure the swimmer does not stand up until they are safely in an eddy, out of the flow.

 

Top Tips

Do not put yourself into danger! One swimmer is a challenge enough. Don’t make it two!

You are the most important person in a rescue situation. Keep yourself safe and then if you can safely do so, help the other paddlers in your group and the swimmer.

See the river safety section for more information on swimmer rescues and how to stay safe out on whitewater