New River Academy learns SRT

Hey whats up!

Here is the first update on saftey and New River Academy, where I (Tracy) am a student. Pic on the left is all of us listening to a lecture on river safety. Sorry for the lack of pictures, I was to busy participating to really take any :)

This past week with NRS, we stayed in Massachusettes at Tino Specht's house (one of our coaches). Through Zoar Outdoor we took an intense SRT clinic. I've already taken numerous, but always enjoy new clinics because there is always more to learn. It was FREEZING. The water and temperature outside were both uninviting. We learned about setting up z-drags, different weight ratios, throw bags, zip lines, live bait, and all that good stuff. It definitaly drew our group closer to learn about dangerous situations and see how we all reacted to them. I was IC for a foot entrapment victim with the head submerged. It is always a challenge to control and lead a group in an intense situation. Within minutes we had the victim's head out of the water with a line around the chest, and another line cinching him so he couldn't slip away. Then we took two throw ropes hooked together and sunk the line down by his foot. By pulling back on both the lines set up, we managed to unhook the foot and free the victim. It was surprisingly stressful.
Although the situations we ran through were not real, there was still a sense of urgency that overtook the group. It is really good practice to go through these situations yearly because it keeps you up to date, and on spot with the group you paddle with. Nothing can mimic a true situation on the river, but I can only hope that with all the practice I've had, I'd be able to keep my calm and do what needs to be done.

I think one of the hardest lessons to learn is that the victum does not come first during a rescue. First priority is yourself, then your fellow rescuers, then the other paddlers on the river, and THEN the victim. Thinking logically, this makes sense because it avoids creating a worse situation by preventing multiple people in need of saving. However, I know that being out on the river, and seeing a friend in trouble, It would be nearly impossible to stand by and do nothing just because I could get hurt. That sounds like the worst possible situation to be in.

SRT courses really help to educate about not only rescue techniques, but how to avoid getting into situations where these techniques are needed. My goal for this year with New River Academy is to make it as safe and fun as possible.

If you have not taken any courses on river safety, I really reccomend getting on that ASAP.
Keep it safe out there!

-Tracy d'Arbeloff


Malafosse session

We had good descents last week end with David A. and Raph T. in Alps. We have down Guil, Gironde, Malafosse, and Guisane rivers ! we had a low water level, but it was enough to have lot of fun !

I tried the WRSI face protection system. it's interesting to have this protection with this king of rapid.
It’s possible to have hight water level in others rivers in Alps, like Veneon, Romanche river. Because there are glaciers upper. Alps’ local kayakers are very lucky ;-).
And it’s great to work in compagny close to this mountain.


swiftwater rescue

I spent the weekend at the Russell Fork taking a swift water rescue class. We practiced tying knots, handling rope, swimming whitewater, and setting up mechanical advantage systems. Our lead instructor, Mike Morrow, stimulated a foot entrapment in this scenario. Would you know what to do in this situation?

Two students work to evacuate an unconscious victim.
Team work and communication are crucial to scene management. Paddlers of all skill levels should take some type of water rescue class. Veterans with years of experience get rusty without practicing rescue techniques. The American Canoe Association sanctions courses around the country. The Hail Mary (WRSI throwbag) got rave reviews from the students. Several of us had them and they were consistently the most accurate ropes. I did manage to have a little fun on the side.


Building a Rescue Kit

Ever wonder what kind of safety equipment you should carry on the river? This is my first aid and rescue kit:
Gloves and a CPR mask protect the rescuer and the patient. Use scissors to expose the patient.

Epinephrine and Benadryl are indispensable in case of allergic reaction. Keep antiinflammatory drugs for pain control.
Triangle bandages can be used to sling dislocated shoulders. Steri strips are good for minor lacerations.
Two flashlights and batteries.
Space blanket, lighters, fire starter, compass, and water purification tablets. If I could only take one item, it would be the space blanket.

Boat repair kit: tire plugs (fill cracked plastic), duct tape and zip ties. I also keep a little screwdriver stuck in my center wall.

Extra clothing.
Old cell phone. Any cell phone will call 911 whether it has service or not.

Breakdown paddle.
Pin kit including prussic, pulley and extra carabiners.
This stuff is heavy. I always curse it on long hikes. I have never needed to use the majority of it, but I know if I ever do, I will be eternally grateful that I carry it. The best rescue gear in the world is utterly useless without the knowledge required to use it. Every kayaker should have first aid, CPR and some type of whitewater rescue training.


Billy Harris-"WRSI Safest guy on the River " February finalist!

Jennifer Arnold from Milton Ontario is our Februarey finalist for the WRSI "U Saved my Ass Contest". Here is her story.

"I nominate Billy Harris for a rescue at Fowlersville Falls during the 2007 Moose Festival. Four rafters went into the hydraulic in the middle of the river, with one being recirced endlessly. Billy paddled in, then threw an accurate throw bag, saving the swimmer. He was pulled upside down during the rescue but still managed to swim the guy the rest of the way out. Skilled, modest and classy..."

Billy Harris is my nomination for the WRSI Safest guy on the River contest!

We also had this worthy entry from Ed Sawtell, from Bozeman Montana.

Here is his Story:

Big T, MT. Beautiful sunny day in July. Personal 1st Descent (Pinch,Gambler,L.Falls) Bottom of shakedown, I got worked, swam and pinned on bottom of the rapid. Jason Schutz scrambles out of his boat plunges paddle in water and pulls my ass out. (he weighs 160, I 200 + pinned).

I nomiate Jason Schutz as the WRSI safest guy on the River.

Keep sending in your entries and you could be our next winner.

Kim Ward-Robberts


Safety Equipment


I am currently spending the southern summer living it up on New Zealands amazing West Coast, and enjoying some super fine steep creeking action.
The usual way to access rivers down here is via Helicopter, due to the rugged terain, impenatrable bush, lack of roads and other and other useful infrastructure.

The whole wilderness aspect of this paddling has brought up some thoughts on what kind of emergency and safety equipment we carry with us when on these remote and difficult runs.

For example: Flying 15km up a river with numerous class 5 and 6 rapids, landing on a gravel bar in the middle of no where (remember I am talking NZ here) and then pushing off into 8 hours of boating through a wilderness with no roads or trails, and only the river, or a helicopter (if it can get to you $$$$$$) as the way out.

Considering this what would be wise to carry with you?
Here is what I would take:
-Break down paddle - 4 piece.
-1st aid kit.
-Spare Thermals.
-Space blanket/small shelter.
-Food - Lunch plus extra.
-Pin kit - Enough gear to extract a boat (basic Z-drag).
-Throw bag - Long and strong enough to use in a mechanical advantage system or to rappel off.
-If available some form of communication, ie: Satellite Phone, EPIRB, Mountain Radio.
-And leave a plan/timeframe for your trip with someone back in "civilisation"

This equipment doesn't all need to be carried by everyone, some items can be carried as group gear and split up between boats, keeping in mind that putting all the safety gear in one boat is not a good idea, should you loose that boat:

-1 spare paddle between 2 or 3 people is usually sufficient as with the first aid kit.
-Every paddler should have a spare thermal or two.
-A couple of space blankets or a small tarp per group can come in handy for an unexpected multiday.
-Obviously everyone will be carrying their own lunch and some extra food.
-A pin kit is also something that every paddler should have including at least 4 carabiners, two prussick loops, a good length of tubular webbing and some pulleys if you like. The knowledge on how to use this equipment is also important, other wise its just bling.
-Throw bags should be minimum of one each.
-Communications are usually carried as a group item.

Not to say that this is a must for all rivers, some trips my require more gear like ropes if you have some big rappels, and some you may need less.
On a roadside run you may not take a spare paddle as you can get out and walk to the car, but if you are running some huge multiday expedition in the bottomless canyon then you may elect to have one each.

It is easy enough to take off down a river without the appropriate gear when you are amping to go, but with a quick check before you depart any group should be able to scrape togeather enough stuff to make your trip a little bit safer.

Happy boating,

Ben Earle


The importance of Communication

Just thought I’d rip up a quite note on the importance of good communication and how it can make your paddling experience more fun and a lot safer. When I’m talking about good communication I mean more than “hey are the cameras ready? Because I don’t want you to miss the shot”. While this may be important as well, it really doesn’t make your boating experience safer.

First off it is always a good idea to review all of your river signals with your crew so that there is absolutely no question about what is going on. All the signals are the same though right? I used to think that when I was first taught the ‘universal’ river signals but later found out that it is far from true. Some examples I’ve witnessed – I was scouting a pretty burly rapid that included a 10 foot boof. After communicating this information to my friend upstream he quickly got out of his boat and hiked down to look for himself. When he got there he laughed and was somewhat relieved because he thought it was a 10 meter boof (30 feet) because that’s the way he always communicates distances, in meters. I’m just glad he wasn’t scouting and gave me the sign for a ‘20’. I would have run it thinking it was feet and would have had a long time to think about that mistake as I ran a blind 60 footer.

Some groups of boaters also develop some of there own signals that might be confusing if you aren’t aware of them ahead of time. My friend tumbled over an ‘unrunnable’ drop (he survived) because the person he was boating with seemed to point him towards it. Afterwards it was discovered that he was using an arm signal to indicate how steep the rapid was. A very small difference that could have had catastrophic results. The crew I boat with a lot has a very special signal indicating that there are strainers up ahead. If you didn’t boat with me and saw me give this signal you would probably think I was being quite obscene!

The last point I’m going to mention on the topic is that good communication needs to be two way. This means that if you get a signal, you reply with a signal. This is just a means of confirming that both parties involved understand each other and they are both ready for the boater to come down. If I give a signal and it isn’t returned I assume that the person doesn’t know what I want them to do and will keep trying to explain it until I see some sort of confirmation.

Probably one of the best exercises you could do with you boating crew is practice relaying messages with only hand signals on easy, low consequence rivers. After the rapid have a mini debrief between the paddler and the scouter and see if the message got communicated properly. Practice this method often so that when you get into harder and higher consequence rapids you can concentrate on the job at hand and know with confidence that you are on your line. Or a least the line your partner thinks you should be on……

Go boat an be safe!

Dan Caldwell



Hey All,
Brad here. I have never blogged before and am not really sure where to start.

First things first, I am off to Asia tomorrow to film with the Arris crew (Arden Oksanen and Trask McFarland) and Matt Rusher for Nike ACG. We will be filming my Sweetspot (check out NIKEACG.COM). I am pretty pumped. For my trip, I chose the Mekong River. We are headed to film some rapids in the 4,000 Islands section. For those of you "old school" boaters our there, we ran a lot of a first descents there back in 2000 with an all star crew. I have always wanted to go back and jumped on the opportunity when Nike ACG gave me a budget and said "go!"

I will be back around the end of the month and have more updates then. In the meantime, paddle fun.