Sports & Outdoors

Kayak Club’s swift-water rescue is for anyone looking to improve their outdoor safety

Pictured: Puget Sound Kayak Club — Photo credit to Clay Ross

Whether you’re an avid whitewater boater, a burgeoning outdoor adventurer or just like the way a wetsuit hugs your curves, Puget Sound’s upcoming swift water rescue class is sure to take your on-river safety to the next level.

In partnership with Wet Planet Whitewater guided trip, the Puget Sound Kayak Club is putting on a two-day safety course on the Cedar River. From 8 a.m. on April 20 to 5 p.m. on April 21, you and any friend you can convince to sign up will practice on river safety scenarios lead by certified swift water instructors.

The saying “intensity in safe environments leads to safety in intense environments” seems to sum up kayak coach Clay Ross’ thoughts on the importance of taking a swift-water class.

“Nearly every person I’ve talked to about the class said that the course actually helped them feel more confident and powerful in the water. We spend a lot of time swimming, practicing rescues and learning how to work with, and not against, the water. As such, by the end, most people feel better about their relationship with moving water,” Ross said.

Junior and avid kayaker Quinn Martell sees whitewater education as a responsibility to yourself and to those around you if you choose to spend time engaging in whitewater sports.

“In whitewater rafting or kayaking the only help that a person has on the river is the other people they choose to surround themselves with. … If the people who you surround yourself with are well-educated and well-prepared to help with little warning, the probability for a positive outcome of an incident increases dramatically. Although, it is not solely the other people’s responsibly to be prepared for an incident; if you are a part of a group you also need to be prepared as best as you can for an incident and have the knowledge and tools to quickly react,” Martell said.

Is swift water for everyone? Pretty much, Ross says. As long as you are a decent swimmer and are excited to spend time outside, learning how to keep yourself safe, this class is right for you.

“You need to be comfortable swimming, and being in and around the water. … I think being in shape helps but is by no means a requirement. The course is largely in the water though, and it is cold water, so participants should be ready to work hard mentally and physically,” Ross said.

Whitewater guide and junior Izzy Lidsky sees the benefits of taking the class as two-fold. First, it makes her a better guide — she is able to make more educated guesses about running bigger rapids, which helps keep herself and her guests safe and happy. Second, it’s a great way for her to spend a weekend and get to know more river fanatics.

“You’re learning a lot and it’s giving you all these skills, but also you get to play in the water with your friends and set up tons of cool ropes and pulley systems, which is rad,” Lidsky said.

Ross agrees and notes the small group dynamic as one of his favorite parts. “​I loved the river rescue practice. Learning how to jump in the water after someone who needs help is incredibly empowering! Also, spending a significant amount of time with a small group learning together creates a really powerful level of camaraderie that is awesome as well,” Ross said.

While the course is a bit pricey ($250 for first timers, $150 if you’re getting your certification renewed), it lasts for three years, and your on-river safety is worth it.