Our mission is to protect and restore Aotearoa’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely.
What does whitewater paddling in NZ look like at the various pandemic alert levels?
With today’s news about Covid-19 in the community we thought it would be worth reminding everybody about what whitewater paddling looks like at the different levels
Together we will beat this!!!
Well done New Zealand!
Today (8th June 2020) Government has reported that there are no active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. Because of this we will move to Level 1 at midnight tonight! That is a great achievement and the “Team of 5 Million” deserves a big pat on the back for pulling this off!
The restrictions on group activities are now lifted, and life can essentially go back to normal. However, let’s be mindful that some fo us may be out of practice, so take it easy-don’t go throwing yourself at Class V because just because you were paddling like a legend at the end of the summer!
Also, let’s try and make sure we learn from this pandemic experience:
Play it safe.
The Government is still asking us to be mindful of washing hands, good hygiene, cough or sneeze into your elbow and try to keep a track of where you go and who you see (for clubs, pleas just keep a record of who goes on the club trips).
Importantly, we all need to be conscious of helping to support local businesses who may have been economically hard hit by the lockdown. So, what can we do as kayakers? Get out there and go kayaking!!!! But it’s more than that-make sure that you stop for fish and chips on the way home or buy a new sprayskirt or a new throw-bag at your local kayaking shop!
Thanks to everyone for playing their parts in this pandemic response.
Our collective efforts during Alert Level 3 and 4 has enabled New Zealand to do what many other countries have failed to do and flatten the curve. With a move to Alert Level 2 and an easing of restrictions all of us now have the ability to return to the water!! We figured this is an opportune time to refresh some basic concepts of river safety.
Unlike many other sports, white water kayaking does not conform to a rigid structure. Like the environment we are in, the risk assessment and analysis procedures we use must be dynamic and we must always be aware of the risks and react accordingly. The following information outlines some basic principles that can be applied to help minimise the risks.
This first principle is is incredibly useful in helping rescuers to remember that the first priority is to themselves then to their team, then the victim and lastly to equipment. People are always incredibly proud of their equipment they may have just bought the latest or shiniest boat/ paddle but it can always be replaced.
This principle is about encouraging rescuers to consider the risk to themselves when deciding on which strategy to use when undertaking a rescue. We have all seen Baywatch or Bondi Rescue and want to jump in the water and be the hero but there are a number of different options. Think about simple things first, like encouraging victims to swim to the shore or using a paddle or throw bag to reach them without getting anywhere near the water. The last resort should always be to enter the water and should only be done with sufficient knowledge.
Rescuer in a good position with a rope and paddle at the ready.
Photo credit: Kev England. Paddler Greg Nicks and safety by Dave Kwant.
This principle works really well in the dynamic environment of a river, it is great resource for using on your local club river trip or out with a group of friends.
Communication – Before any trip down the river all group members should agree signals in advance and should use the KISS Principle (Keep it Short and Simple)
Line of Sight – On an ideal trip everyone within the group should be able to see each other and endeavour to keep it this way. Ideally every paddler should have two attainable eddies between themselves and the river going out of sight.
Avoidance – This is always better than finding a solution to the problem, create an atmosphere within the group of mutual support. If you want to walk, walk!
Position of Maximum Usefulness – When protecting a rapid, paddlers should position themselves so as to cover the highest risk. This usually means covering the problems that are most likely to occur, rather than the most dangerous hazard.
When whitewater kayaking there will always be the potential for something to go wrong, we recommend that you always paddle with a strong team and that you keep your rescue skills sharp by practicing them regularly.
These safety and rescue articles are put together by Matt McKnight.
Matt is professional canoe slalom coach and a keen whitewater paddler.
Keep an eye out for the final article in this series – looking at gear and mechanical advantage systems.