To Race or to Rescue

As he rounded the final bend on the race course, Chad Christopher noticed another boater on the bank moving toward an outcropping of rocks. Someone was pinned, and Chad recounts his experience of helping with the rescue.

by Chad Christopher

Here are my thoughts on what happened during the race, and 4 important points about the rescue situation.

1. Awareness
Even focusing during a competition or a challenging rapid, you still need to be looking around and taking in things that are happening while you are on the river.

Looking more closely when I neared the scene, I could see a green boat pinned in a undercut, so the first thing to do was get out and make sure my boat and paddle were secure and that I could get closer and move in towards the scene.

2. Assess
Don’t make the situation worse.

Sam Voigt and I were within a 10 ft proximity to the pinned boater so rescue ropes wouldn’t have really helped when we were so close to an arm’s reach.

I was able to jump a gap and get to a rock closer to the victim. (Not entirely recommended.)

3. Hands on
Whether by rope or literal hands.

Once I was able to get in the water from the middle of the river, I had a rock shelf that I was able to walk in about knee deep water and grab the stern on the pinned boat.

There was a undercut downstream and having hands on his stern I could pendulum the boat and boater away from the second undercut if he suddenly broke free.

So within about 15 seconds we had the victim secure and out of immediate danger.

4. Variables

Once we had “Hands on”, the pressure of the river was folding the boat around a rock (Submerged in the video).
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Now we had another problem, our victim was stable and out of immediate danger but now the whole kayak was folding around him.

Since we couldn’t get the victim out the way he went in (most common method for unpinning a boat), we chose to get the victim out of the kayak and into the water.

Thankfully it wasn’t deep on the right side and everything went as smoothly as we could have hoped for.

Is this an over dramatization? Maybe..

Are these things that we need to revisit and reconsider from time to time? Certainly.