Sometimes when someone else is in trouble a paddler has no option other than to get in the water to help although our training tells us this is our most dangerous option and very much a last resort. Through the British Canoeing Foundation Safety & Rescue Training (FSRT) course it is drummed into us that our first and safest option is always to talk through a situation and encourage the ‘victim’ to recue themselves. This is our ‘Shout’ rescue.
If guiding someone through a self-rescue, typically swimming themselves to shore, isn’t an effective solution then we are taught to ‘Reach’, using some form of releasable aid to put between ourselves and the person in trouble, and if they are out of reach, to ‘Throw’ something that they can hold onto such as a lifebuoy or throwline. Historically the final step in our FSRT sequence was to ‘Row’, ie get in boat to paddle to help. All of this gave us the easily remembered ‘Shout – Reach – Throw – Row’ protocol.
The fifth stage ‘Go’, ie enter the water and swim to assist, was always there in the background but in a sheltered water environment reserved for dealing with a situation such as an unconscious capsized paddler when a rescue from a boat isn’t or is unlikely to be effective. (It is and remains one of the options taught in moderate water rescues, typically introduced as a ‘live-bait’ rescue). The explosion of SUP within the world of paddlesport has changed that.
The latest guidance to FSRT trainers from British Canoeing is welcome. Our four-stage protocol is now officially five: ‘Shout – Reach – Thow – Row – Go’. Equally easily remembered and catering for paddleboard rescues where entering the water is a common approach and using a board-flip rescue a very reliable method of getting an unconscious paddler back on to a board. If you’ve attended an FSRT course in recent years and not seen this rescue it’s probably time for you to update. If you haven’t attended an FSRT course for many years it’s probably definitely time for you to update!