Rescue for River Runners 4: How to Use a Throw Bag

Canoe & Kayak teamed up with open-boat badass Jim Coffey—founder of Quebec-based outfitter Esprit Whitewater Worldwide as well as R3: Rescue for River Runners—and Mike McKay from Five2Nine Productions for a series of whitewater rescue lesson videos we debuted exclusively on a few years ago. The lessons Coffey covers here in Episode Four — how to safely and effectively use a throw bag — are as important today as ever.

— The following story appeared in the August 2012 issue of Canoe & Kayak.

Most people know Jim Coffey the international river guide and conservationist. As founder of Quebec-based outfitter Esprit Whitewater Worldwide, he has plenty of experience seeing things go right on the water. However, Coffey’s real passion lies in teaching river rescue and whitewater safety for times when things go bad. And after over 25 years in the whitewater business, Coffey states that “a certain level of expertise, efficiency, and expedience are the three things that can turn a bad situation back into a good one, or at least prevent it from getting worse.” So this spring, Coffey partnered with Five2Nine Productions’ to turn that passion into the new video-based program, R3: Rescue for River Runners.

While most Swiftwater Rescue Training or Whitewater Rescue Technician courses have adapted to focus on various professional organizations, Coffey feels that’s left a gap in effective education targeted at kayakers, canoeists and rafters. “The concept’s two-fold,” Coffey says, “To create a source-free education with the use of dynamic video shot in exotic locations to show people different and new techniques, solidifying the different techniques they may end up using, and to create upcoming courses designed specifically for the river-running community.” Each episode from the R3 series debuts at the start of each month on This month, Coffey covers throw bag skills and has an exercise to double you rescue capabilities.  — Mike McKay

Exercise: Two-Person Rescue, One Throw bag

“There’s more to using a throw bag than just carrying it with you,” Coffey says. “You want to be able to use that rescue tool.” Using a throw bag properly means employing a technique appropriate to the situation. For example, many river-rescue scenarios involve multiple swimmers, such as two or more people falling out of a raft, or a tandem canoe capsize. That’s when the two swimmer, one rope technique comes into play. “The idea being to not just make two throws in 20 seconds, but to make two throws in two seconds,” Coffey says. Here’s how.

“It might be perfect if two people fall out of a raft, or for a team that’s tandem canoeing where you might have two subjects in the same place, or you might miss on the first throw and it gives you a second throw.”

1.  Split and butterfly half the rope in one hand.
2.  Hold the remainder of the rope in the bag with the other hand.
3.  Throw the butterflied section of the rope to the first swimmer while holding the mid-point of the rope.
4.  Throw the second portion of the rope in the bag to the second swimmer and pendulum both swimmers in by anchoring with the mid-point.

Watch all of the Rescue for River Runners series.
1: Getting Started
2: Group Dynamics
3: Safe Swimming
4: Throw-rope skills
5: Access and Mobility
6: Rescue PFD basics
7: Live-bait rescue
8: Rope system basics
9: Foot Entrapment Risks
10: Foot Entrapment Assessments
11: More efficient rescues
12: Head-up foot entrapment, combining all series skills.

The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak

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