By Mike Shillinger
This year’s Rescue Rodeo was nothing short of amazing! Our club members once again put on a world class training event for our members that’s second to none!
This event marks the high point in the summer training cycle for the Club. Rescue Rodeo is designed to give the first-year paddler a few more tools for their kitbag and most importantly, more confidence in themselves and their paddle buddies.
Participants included TVCC members from all over the Southeast – as well as members from other regional paddling organizations (GCA, TSRA, CHOTA, Huntsville Canoe Club, Birmingham Canoe Club, and Outdoor Chattanooga). A total of seven different organizations were represented at Rescue Rodeo. That is truly awesome.
Instructors from these various clubs provided classroom training to over 50 students during the morning session on topics that included rescue philosophy, basic First Aid, CPR, Rope Throwing, and Equipment Readiness.
After a quick lunch, the group leaders took their students down the Hiwassee River to a series of training stations where students engaged with additional instructors and got to practice actual rescue techniques. The techniques and skills practiced this year were: Properly Towing a Swimmer, Deep Water Boat Reentry, Equipment Recovery, Hand of God Rescue, and Rafting Up. Each of these is a confidence-building skill that also helps demonstrate the value of teamwork on the river.
Students then practiced Group Wading techniques and individually swam the Devil Shoals rapid while other students practiced their rope throwing and rope grabbing techniques as they floated the shoals.
The instructors and support boaters from the various clubs at the different training stations openly shared their personal techniques, equipment rigging ideas, war stories, and offered up their bodies to be “crash test dummies” in some cases to ensure each student got thorough indoctrination to these essential whitewater rescue skills.
After the training, back at the base camp, all the participants celebrated at the great Brandon Burger Fest which was capped off by President Ashley Teel presenting each student with their own new throw rope!
The event this year was awesome because TVCC members truly stepped up, made huge voluntary contributions of time and effort, and did lots of little things that just made the whole event run smoothly and efficiently! My personal thanks to everyone who came out and supported, taught a class, led a group, ran shuttle, cooked, set up their training stations, helped with dinner, helped with break down and pack out, and just simply made this event smooth running and easy to manage!
TVCC has joined together a fellowship of paddling clubs in the Southeast to create a dedicated cadre of whitewater trainers that has now established a true world class training event. Our students this year got outstanding expert instruction and trained in a real-world environment. And they knew it! It is remarkable that TVCC provides this training at no cost beyond annual membership dues. It is an incredible value! Most importantly, our investment in safety and training of our club members has made our rivers and lakes safer places to paddle for everyone!