'Swimming' in Whitewater




'Swimming' in Whitewater

‘Swimming’ in Whitewater

At some point in your river journey, you’re likely to end up in the water. There’s an initial shock when you’re first engulfed by the powerful cold water, and you realize it's not really swimming!

Preparation and proper technique can significantly reduce your risks:

Wear a Lifejacket and Helmet: to significantly increase your chances of survival. It's a clear sign of experience and safety consciousness to wear these on whitewater rivers. Buckle your lifejacket securely to prevent it from riding up and hindering your ability to breathe, and be sure your helmet is secure and snug.

Dress Appropriately: understand the potential effects of cold water immersion. Wear suitable footwear like neoprene booties, a wetsuit or drysuit to help prevent hypothermia, and snug, non-cotton layers underneath to retain body warmth and reduce water absorption.

Stay Calm: falling into whitewater can momentarily hold you underwater, but don’t panic. The turbulence can cause you to swallow water, but try to catch your breath in calmer moments between waves.

Assume a Defensive Swim Position: float on your back with your feet downstream (don't try to stand) and arms angled to maneuver. Keep your body streamlined to conserve energy and minimize the risk of injury. Dig your upstream arm into the eddy line (as close to the top of the eddy as possible where it's not as wide as it is further downstream), and swim hard toward the shore at a right angle (90 degrees) to the eddy line.

Avoid Entrapment: keep your feet up, especially around rocks and debris. Be cautious of strainers—trees or debris that water can flow through but not a person—and aggressively swim to avoid them.

Understand the River: know the type of river you're navigating and the potential risks. Pay attention to specific hazards and self-rescue options for each rapid.

Practice all whitewater ‘swim’ techniques in calmer water.


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