Sunday 4 October 2020

Slovenia IRF workshop 2020

All pictures taken by Jasmine Zurlini

The IRF GTE is starting to come to life again after the varoius covid related issues. With successive workshops in Canada, Switzerland, Slovenia, UK & USA during Sept & Oct 2020

Having spent a few months guiding in Iceland I noticed that the European domestic rafting companies were having a busy season. I was hearing from friends based all around Europe  who were working as raft guides that they were having record numbers of rafting customers compared to previous seasons.

Myself & future IRF instructor Miha Mihelic had been planning a GTE workshop for a few months on the Soca river in Bovec Slovenia. Miha had informed me that demand for the workshop was high & that we needed to add a 2nd instructor. Fellow IRF instructor Sebastian Larcher & provisional instructor Mauricio Fernandez were added to the list of course instructors. This was going to be a well staffed workshop.

The weather gods had been kind to us providing us with ample amounts of liquid sunshine (rain). The main commercial rafting section & slalom site were running at circa 50- 60 cumecs which raised the eyebrows of a few of the course students. 

In to total we had 8 students due to last minute cancellations. We needed to run the following assessments over 3 days 

8x guide assessments 

5 x trip leader assessments

2 x safety kayak assessments 

Both myself & Sebastian have been running IRF workshops for over 5 years around the world. It was great to work with an instructor I have never worked with before. We both agreed that even though we only had 8 students in total our time management skills needed to be kept on point. Especially because we had the ever enthusiastic provisional instructor Mauricio observing us. 

Day 1 of any workshop is always going to be a long day as the framework for the workshop needs to be laid down. After the initial introductions session we headed to the river in the pouring rain. 

The PPE & signals session was completed before we broke off into 3 groups for the first safety talks. With our waterproof note books at hand myself & Sebastian started to take notes to feed into the student de- brief forms.

The general feedback for all of the safety talks throughout the entire workshop was. 

Keep the verbal instructions to a minimum & give more visual & practical demonstrations. 

Think about the order of the micro topics within the safety talk. 

Think about the environment & position of your customers to maximise the learning during a safety talk.  

We spent the reminder of the day observing a high level of guiding skills on class 3 & 4 whitewater. Arriving back at the Prijon kayak centre well after dark in the wet rain we decided to call it a day after 2 runs of the commercial rafting & slalom sections of the river.

Day 2 gave us perfect conditions with a bluebird sky & 50 Cumecs of the famous Soca pristine blue water. Our goal today was to run the following parts of the assessment. Today was going to be a wet day

  • Swim test 
  • Flip drill 
  • Throwbag test 
  • Mechanical advantage rope work test. 

We also observed more safety talks & personal rafting skills from the day before. 

Mauricio ran the assessments which allowed myself & Sebastian to observe the sessions. 

The Flip sessions were passed with ease. We set a challenging swim which involved swimming a set line down a rapid which included eddying out river right & river left. The students needed to swim 2 laps of the course once with a paddle and then again without a paddle. Not only did we want to test the swimming skills of the students we wanted to test their fitness too. 

Straight after the swim test we move a few hundred meters down stream into the throw bag test. Which its self was set in a challenging environment. After a few warm up throws the students all managed to pass the standard IRF throw bag test. Which involves making 2 throw bag  rescues inside 90 seconds with the same rope. Belay & Rope management skills were also assessed. 

In the evening back at the base all of the students demonstrated their rope work skills by building either a 3:1 or 4:1 mechanical rope system. During this session not only did the students receive feedback on the way the system was constructed they also were given feedback on effectiveness of their personal rescue equipment (PRE). 

Day 3 was trip leader (TL) assessment day. We had a busy day ahead as we needed to set 5 trip leader scenarios. In the morning the students were briefed on the assessment standards of the TL awards. We then headed out to the river. Myself, Sebastian & Mauricio took turns in setting up & assessing the scenarios. 

The students started to notice a pattern was emerging when dealing with a scenario 

1 Communicate with your own crew that something is happening 

2 Communicate with your fellow guide team that something is happening 

3 Get a head count ASAP & try to set a down stream safety net 

4 Make a plan & prioritise your rescue

5 Delegate & communicate your plan 

6 Make the rescue 

7 Get everyone & all equipment back together 

8 Maksure all are ok before continuing down stream

As the students had been working together for 2 days the teamwork bond was now starting to form which made the scenarios easier on the students. 

Once again we arrived back to the base after nightfall after an interesting day on the river. As the students decided to fire up the BBQ with a few beers myself Sebastian & Mauricio started to compile the students results & de-briefs for the next morning. 

Once the workshop was  completed the feedback from the students was encouraging. The students all commented on the following points 

  • Learning took place 
  • Personal skills & communication skills were tested to the max 
  • Fun was had friendships were made 

2021 has the potential to be a big year for the IRF GTE (Fingers crossed) The 2021 conference will be held in France with a number of workshops already confirmed. 

Many thanks to Miha Mihelic, Prijon sports Centre & Jasmine Zulini for the amazing pictures 

Happy rafting 

Mark, Sebastian & Mauricio


Monday 17 August 2020

Are we ever safe in Whitewater ?

 Are we ever safe in whitewater  ??

The aim of this short article is too create a healthy debate on the language we use when giving information to commercial rafting guests 

Picture: East glacial river Iceland Mirto Menghetti.

Whist guiding & travelling around the world I get to listen to lots of safety talks & observe lots of commercially run trips. 

I recently (2019 pre covid) observed an angry rafting guest arguing with a raft guide after he had taken a swim in a shallow rapid. The guest had multiple cuts and bruises to the back of his legs along with pain a in his lower back that presented its self as a bruised coccyx. 

The rafting guest was angry as during the pre trip brief the guide had explained to the guests that if you fall out of the raft put yourself into the "whitewater safety position & you will be safe"  "Lie on your back with your feet up and you will be safe" The guest argued that this was not the case 

This made me think. As commercial guides is the word safe the correct word to use? 

Can our guests ever be 100% safe during a rafting trip ?. 

At the start of the trip we often ask our guests to sign a waiver which often mentions that Rafting is a risk sport XXX rafting cannot guarantee your safety 

Then during the trip the guides will often use the word safe many times. 

It seems to me that we are un-intentionally giving our guests mixed messages & unreliable information. Which in turn makes us look un-professional.

For those who have attended a workshop run by myself you may have heard me mention the 3 S words that are forbidden. 

  • Safe, Our guests are never 100% during any part of a river trip 
  • Sh@t, As it means you have made a mistake, our guests don't need to hear about your mistakes 
  • Sorry, This means you are accepting responsibility for your mistake  even though the guests have already been informed that rafting is a risk sport. 
You only need to look at any rafting carnage video on YouTube where the guest is doing exactly as they have been instructed to do so and yet they still get put into a potential life threatening situation in their eyes.
 How many times have you heard a customer say after a long swim 
"I thought I was going to die"

My challenge to you is next time you work as a guide count how many times you use the word safe during a trip . Then ask yourself "is the customer going to be 100% safe" Am I really telling them the truth ?

In order for us to keep commercial rafting sustainable we need to be as transparent as possible with the truth to our guests and not powdercoat coat the truth with the safe word. 

see you on the water 

Sunday 29 March 2020

The principle of Smile

The Principle of Smile & The big 3 

During this brief post I wanted to share the tips I use to reduce the chances of my raft customers panicking during a swim.

I am getting on a bit now I will be 43 this year !. I first went kayaking when I was primary school in my home city of Manchester in the UK. As most school kids one of the first things we were taught is that if we go upside down when the kayak capsizes is " TRY NOT TO PANIC" 

Yeah right I know sit upside down in plastic lunchbox in cold dark water that is around 10 degrees C in an oxygen poor environment. wearing nothing more a thin long John wetsuit with no dry top and try not to Panic dream on !!

I eventually overcame the urge to panic and as the years past by.

 I found myself pleading with my guests not to panic when as a result of my poor guiding skills I would inevitably flip on regular occasions sending all of my customers for a swim. When working as a raft guide.

I am sure many raft guides will agree with me when the twinge of guilt you feel when you see a customer panicking in the water as a result of a mistake made by yourself. 

In 2007 I was lucky to work with a team of exceptional guides in Iceland on a demanding river that has a habit of making people (guides included) panic during a swim. Most of the guides quickly realised that panicking customers is bad for buisness for the following reasons. 

  •  Panicking creates added stress for all concerned parties customers & guides in a potentially stressful environment. 
  • A Panicking customer is not likely to return or become an advocate for your trips. 
  • In the dawn of trip advisor & social media bad reviews are not good for business

As a team of guides we asked " what can we do to stop our guests from panicking when they swim?"

step forward Mr Chris from Canada. 

In a moment of clarity Chris said
 "Instead of telling the customers what we do not want them to do Lets tell them what we want them to do"

Bingo I thought. 
As a team we quickly established that we wanted our customers to remain calm.  How can we communicate to our customers that we want them to remain calm when they are about to swim partway down a class 4+ rapid that can potentially give them 10-15 seconds of down time in glacial water. 

The general consensus was that the safety talk needed to have the same resounding message mentioned time & time again. 

"When you fall out of the raft the first thing we want you to do is to SMILE!!!!"

Chris had managed to convince us that it is physically impossible to panic if you are smiling. Until this day I don't know if it is true but smiling defiantly works for me when it's all going wrong around me. 
"The principle of smile was born !"

We noticed to see rapid results instantly when we encouraged our customers to smile. As we dropped into big rapids you could clearly see that the customers who had listed to the safety talk in detail we actively smiling & enjoying the OBE experince (Out of boat experience) 

The next development was the big 3. What big 3 points could we drill home to our guests to really make our clean ups after flips fun & easier.

  1. SMILE 
We then started to see that as a team of guides we were pre briefing the customers before the rapids where we knew that swimming was likely to occur. We found ourselves religiously reminding our customers to smile and do what we told them to do. 

I fondly remember loosing a guest out of my raft at the top of a big rapid and taking a long swim. I made a mental note that I would need to do some confidence re building  on her return to my boat. 

When I got to the bottom of the rapid and we re grouped the swimmer ran back to the raft with a big smile and proudly said
"Look I have my paddle & I am smiling that was awesome "

I gingerly smiled & thought wow

Take homes 
So what messages am I trying to get through to you !
  • Try telling your customers to smile when they take a swim watch the results yourself 

A smile creates a smile
  • Focus on telling your customers on the "what to do" instead of the "Not what to do"

  • Be proactive if you are at the top of a rapid that historically produces swimmers quickly remind  your customers at the top of the rapid what you want them to do and what to do if they take a swim. 

See you on the water 

Thursday 9 May 2019

IRF Workshop Northwest rafting company 2019

International Rafting Federation GTE workshop Oregon USA 2019
Welcome to the family

I had been exchanging emails  with Zachary from Northwest rafting company  in Oregon USA  for over 2 years> We were  trying to find the time for Zach  to attend an IRF  instructor workshop. His drive and enthusiasm were really impressive 
We both finally decided that Zach & his crew at Northwest rafting should host their own IRF workshop in the states.
Considering that the rafting industry in the USA is probably the largest in the world the IRF is massively underrepresented in the USA.

With no formal national rafting qualifications or independent commercial guide courses on offer in the USA Zach & his fellow raft guides were curious to see how the IRF GTE system works. Most of all they wanted their skills & training to be put to the test as none of them had ever been through a formal skills assessment. I was impressed as most of the candidates had between 10-20 years commercial rafting experience Most guides with this much experience are reluctant to take a formal assessment run by a foreign outsider they had never met.

We collected a group of Instructor, trip leader & guide candidates from around the USA and the world. With people travelling from Ecuador & Canada to join the workshop.
Zach had housed us all in an amazing house in the town of Hood river on the Oregon & Washington boarder. A stone throws away from the Hood river & White salmon river.
I had Group of 13 students all of which were bursting with energy & enthusiasm. Out of this group there were 6 instructor candidates, 5 Tl candidates & 2 guide candidates. This was going to be an intense week!
On the months leading up to the workshop I started to collect the relevant experience documents & First aid certificates from the students. I noticed a few key indicators straight away that made me realize this workshop was going to be a special one. The points were
·         All the candidates had the relevant valid first aid certificates.
·         All the candidates had up to date river log books showing their commercial rafting experience
·         The candidates were asking some really intelligent questions.

This meant I could save valuable time not chasing candidates for paperwork once the course was over. The candidates wanted to be on the workshop & were primed to start.

Day 1 (Getting to know each other)
Imagine a stranger walking into your place of work and making observations on how you work. I imagine this would make most people nervous. When I am running a workshop day 1 is always a key day. The candidates need to understand how I work & what my expectations of them are. Likewise, I need to get to personally understand each candidate so that I can adapt a teaching style that will maximise their performance.
The first morning was spent with the familiar introductions we then delved straight into a few key power point presentations explaining the role of the IRF & the structure of the Guide training & education (GTE).
The candidates were made aware of the assessment criteria & what was needed to pass.
One of the key messages that I had to get across to the students was that the week would be spent look at current best global practice. The students were curious about the rafting world outside of the USA.
Once we were changed, we spent the first 20 minutes talking about guide PPE standards. One of the major learning points was the application of the clean principle. Throughout Europe the clean principle teaches that:
“On no part of the guides personal equipment or personal rescue equipment should there be any loops big enough to create a non-releasing snag hazard”

The clean principle is not commonly taught or known about in the USA.
Once we had talked about our personal equipment & raft set up, we started on assessing pre departure safety demonstrations. As all of the guides on the workshop spoke either really good English or had English as a first language the safety talks were at a good standard, but I wanted them to be better. The key points  I wanted to instil into the candidates were.
·         The structure of the safety demonstration:
 I demonstrated this by using the cake theory. Each area of the demonstration was paired to the ingredient of a cake when baking.  For example, The paddle = sugar which must be one of the first ingredients & Flipping = Icing which is one of the last ingredients.  If the ingredients are put in at the wrong point you will just end up with a lumpy mess that nobody will appreciate or understand.

·         Actions Speak louder than words:
I needed the students to realize that not all of their customer will always understand English as a first language and that a demonstration can be more powerful than simple verbal instructions. I encouraged the students that for every set of verbal instructions that were given they needed to be backed up by a none verbal demonstration. This would help with the power of the safety demonstration & getting the message across.
A general agreement of river signals & emergency protocol was agreed on we then headed on to the water today we would be tacking the white salmon river in Washington.
 Originally my plan was to warm the students up slowly, but I could see we were all really starting to warm to each other, and the skill level was high. I decided to play a 4-boat game of follow the leader. My boat to the lead and the instructions were simple: Follow me if I eddy out you eddy out. If I ferry glide you ferry glide. Not only does this exercise let me assess the river running skills of the guides I also got to see the spacing & communication skills.

We decided to end the day with the IRF flip drill test. I wanted to get the test done on the first day when the students were still full of energy plus if any weaknesses were identified we had the rest of the week to work one them. I was quietly surprised when all the students passed first time with times of less than 1:30min out of the 2:00min allocated.

The first day had been a massively productive day.

Day 2 (Time to ramp it up !)
Today we headed to the hood river. Toady we had a lot to get through The list on my waterproof note book had the following points.

·         Continue raft safety demonstrations.
·         Safety craft (raft & Kayak) demonstrations
·         CLAP as a river running strategy
·         The role of the safety crafter
·         Continue guide assessments
·         Swim test
·         Throwbag Test
·         Safety kayak assessments.

Not only did I want to continue with the raft guide assessments I wanted to start to assess the physical fitness of the students I also wanted to start to look at the role of the safety crafter. On this workshop we had guides who wanted to be assessed for the safety craft awards for both kayak & oar-based raft which added another dimension to the workshop.

Between us we discussed the finer points & tactics of the role of the Safety crafter. The main agreed duties of the safety crafter are

·         To provide a rescue craft specific safety demonstration for the customers on commercial trips.
·         To provide ultimate downstream safety whilst working on a commercial raft trip.
·         To act as a personal swim coach / Rescue platform for any customers who end up swimming.
I used the last 10 minutes of the lunch break to scout a location for the swim & throwbag test. I needed a site that was going to provide me with a demanding but safe environment for the tests. As we were rafting in early April the water temperature was still cold, I was happy that all the students were wearing drysuits . The swim needed to include swimming through some river features, ferry gliding & making eddies I made the student swim twice, once without a paddle & once with a paddle with a run back up the bank between swims.

We then discussed the points of the IRF standard throwbag test. One of the instructor candidates Will gave a good example. I explained that not only the throw was been assessed but also the students must also focus on the other key assessment areas:

·         Throwing location           
          use of an appropriate belay (static or dynamic)
           Rope management skills
·               Swimmer communication

    The last part of the afternoon was spent assessing safety kayak skills. The session looked into subjects such as 

  • safety kayaker positioning 
  • Communication with both fellow guides & swimmers. 
  • The various rescue options available to a safety kayaker 

Day 3

Day 3 is affectionately know as wobbly Wednesday this is the day where fatigue slowly starts to show. I arranged to run a shorter section of river that allowed us to finish the guide assessments off so that we could spend the afternoon running the IRF ropework test. As I had so many trip leader & Instructor candidates I wanted to run an in-depth rope work session as I have found that some people find understanding & teaching ropework a daunting task. 

The first part of the session was used to create a foundation of understanding. Basic Knot construction  & Technical equipment standards were discussed. The group then moved on to anchor construction .Once anchors & Knots were turned into muscle memory we then started to look at how to calculate & build various mechanical advantage systems. the following systems were built. 

  • Internal simple 2:1 
  • Internal simple 3:1 
  • internal simple 5:1 
  • Internal Compound 9:1 
  • Improvised external compound 4:1 
We were rapidly starting to loose daylight which made the IRF ropework test in the dark even more challenging> We eventually had to call it a day and run the second half of the assessment on day 4. 

Days 4,5 & 6

On many of the workshops I have worked on many of the guides say that the Trip leader scenarios are where the most enjoyment & learning takes place. If this is true the 3 days were going to be fun as we had 11 Trip leader assessments to run in 3 days. By now the students were all operating as a team I knew that I had to set challenging scenarios.
Before we headed onto the water we looked at the role of the trip leader on a commercial raft trip. we discussed many of the finer points of trip management. We all agreed by the end of the discussion that the role of the trip leader is
"To take overall responsibility for the running of a commercial raft trip"  

At this point I also wanted to start to involve the instructor candidates when setting up the scenarios. As some of the candidates had commercial experience on the rapids we were running the assessments on.  After a few scenarios we were starting to notice a pattern forming in the way that the scenarios were managed. 

  • Send the safety kayaker downstream to establish a downstream safety net. 
  • Make a head count 
  • Delegate various jobs and roles to the other guides within the trip
  • Clean up get all of the swimmers & equipment back to the same eddy to allow the trip to re group. 
  • Debrief the customers and continue. 
Day 6 allowed us to run the lesser rafted farmlands section of the white salmon river. the farmland section runs through a steep sided box canyon with plenty of class 4 drops & Slides. To increase the fun factor we decided to run the canyon R2 style. Zach Our host was the last candidate to receive his TL scenario so we decided to make his scenario  extra spicy for him & he led by example by delivering a perfect performance with some tricky customers to mange. 

Day 7
The last day consisted of the final instructor assessments each instructor candidate had to deliver 2 land based theoretical sessions. The candidates had spend the night putting the final touches on their presentations. Eacj presentation had to meet the standard IRF scoring criteria. the energy & creativeness that was on show was a pleasure to watch. The day ended with some final debriefs. 

So welcome to the family Zach,Aaron,Dustin,Emily,Ellie,Michael,Brodie,Thomas,Santiago,Dave,Will,Sarah,Heidi  
It was emotional 

Monday 1 October 2018

Keep it clean !! A short article on how the clean line principle has evolved

Keep it clean !!  A short article on how the clean line principle has evolved. 

I remember attending my first ever rescue class in the uk in 1996 as a fresh faced 19 year old kayaker. I had attended the course as I wanted to learn more about rescue & river safety.

During this time in the UK & Europe there was this new trend called the"Clean line principle" starting to gather momentum. Stories were coming to light that the handles in the end of your throwbag were potentially dangerous and could cause a snag hazard resulting in potential fatal accidents.

 "Clean line  principle"   

The clean line principle advises us that a loop in either end of a throwbag is a potential  snag hazard. This means that the loop could potentially become snagged in a tree root or around a rock thus creating a potential entrapment hazard  We have always been taught that "Rope & Moving water are a bad mixture". A swimmer or an object could then become entrapped in the snagged rope escalating a bad  situation.  By removing any loops from your throwbag you were reducing the probability of creating a snag hazard.
Any throwbag with a loop big enough to get a hand through is an entrapment hazard.

In my eyes over the years the clean line principle has now evolved into the "Clean Principle". We have taken our leanings from the clean line principle and applied them to our personal Personal Protective equipment (PPE)  set up.

Unfortunately on my travels I am still seeing and hearing lots of stories of entrapment's and near miss situations that could have been avoided in the "clean principle " had been applied.

In this post I would like to give some examples of accident and near misses  and discuss some common solutions on how to avoid them.

1. Open gate carabinners

 Probably one of the biggest causes of entrapment caused by having non locking carabinners stored on the outside of rafts, pfd,s or around the waist

This video has been on you tube for a while now. As the guide hits the hole he falls back onto an open gate carabinner that is securing his throwbag into the raft. This then entraps the guide into the raft as it is surfing in the hole. This could have turned very nasty very quick.


  • If you need to attach your throwbag to the raft use a locking carabinner & keep it locked at all times .
  • If you need to have locking carabinners on the outside of your PFD make sure they  locking carabinners that are locked
 Notice  how the open gate carabinner has forced its way through the pocket of the PFD !

2. Incorrectly fitted equipment.

Loose PFD straps or poor designed kit lead to entrapment's The Video below sums this up. The kayaker was entrapped by a loose PFD strap that was not correctly adjusted.

3. Flip line stored around the waist & over sized cowtails 

I will put my hand up back when I first started guiding I used to wear my Flip line around my waist.
I remember been taught that having your flip line around your waist made it quick and easy to get to instead of having to route around in your pfd pocket during a flip. Unfortunately I then heard about a kayaking fatality from a friend who told me the kayaker had drowned due to becoming entrapped by the flip line wrapped around his waist.
A flip line stored around the waist is a massive entrapment. Also in this picture note the 2 unlocked locking carabinners along with a cow tail that is too long.  

Since then I stored my flip line between my pfd and body neatly rolled up which is easy to get to plus It can double up as a quick 5m throwline should I need it.

Another massive misconception I see is the use of the cowstail or affectionately know as a towing tether. the cowtail was first introduced by German paddlers in the 80s. Its intended use was to be able to attach a rescuer A (set of brains onto one end of a rope) or a quick way to attach a line to a entrapped person.

Over the years people have adapted the cowtail to be used to tow swamped kayaks. Some manufactures have even gone as far as to market the cowtail as a tow tether and increased its length to accommodate a tow. This has now led to massively excessively long cowtails  dangling from pfds which 9 times out of 10 are attached to a solid point that cannot be released causing a massive entrapment hazard.
Both paddlers here are wearing cowstails attached to there PFDS. The paddler on the left has a loose over sized cowtail that is an entrapment hazard . Whilst the paddler on the right has a snug tight fitting cowtail.
Many Paddlers have now opted out of using a cowtail as most of the market available cowtails are too long.  I have simply cut down a piece of webbing an measured my own cowstail to be a snug fit cutting down on the chance of it becoming an entrapment hazard.

You are your own unique individual it is up to you to make the judgment decisions and accept the risk of how you set up your personal paddling equipment. Here are my top tips for reducing equipment based entrapment.

  • Always carry a knife that is easy to access  with one hand in an emergency.
  • look at your own personal set up look at ways to minimize entrapment hazards. 
  • Always ensure your pfd is correctly fitted and adjusted. 
  • Take out or reduce any big loops in your throwbags. 
  • Attend a whitewater rescue course and get tuition from a experience qualified instructor.
  • Share this article with your paddling community so that your days on the river dont turn into near miss stories in the bar.
safe paddling 

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Rafting with Georgi of Georgia

The Georgia project had been on the burner for a while.The sport of  Rafting is growing in Georgia. Georgia also recently hosted a European cup event.  USaid had kindly sponsored and paid for a group of 13 Self taught Georgian raft guides to attend a 9 day IRF certification workshop combined with a Rescue 3 Europe Whitewater rescue technician course.

The Aim of the course was to work with the company owners & senior guides to help them gain IRF certification. Our main aim was to also introduce some safety standards that all of the guides and companies could adopt and start to implement once the workshop was over.

We had been planning the course since March. Myself & Gaspar were now in Georgia and ready for action. I had previously run a rescue course in Georgia so I already knew what to expect.
Both myself & Gaspar had decided to strip things right back to the basics and run the 3 day WRT rescue course before we even attempted to start to formally assess for IRF guide & trip leader awards.

As I say on every workshop that I run it is very rare that a guide presents him or her self for an assessment and has all of the skills needed to pass straight away . The WRT would give us the chance to tune up the guides rescue skills.

The workshop was to be based on 3 different rivers providing us with the opportunity to work & observe on a variety of different rafting environments. We settled into our first camp on the banks of the Rioni river and got to work. After a quick personal equipment check we headed to the river to look at swimming and some conditional rescues.

During day 1 we looked at the basic principles of river  rescue. We also did lots of swimming and practiced throw bagging lots &lots. We studied different types of throws with a variety of different belay techniques. In order to move on through the WRT syllabus we also need to create a team work ethic which was an important  factor too.

We ended day 1 with 2 land based sessions looking at personal & team equipment we then followed this session with a introductory session on knot tying.
A good friend of mine once told me that Georgia was famous for its hospitality & good food he was so correct. out hosts sat us down to a feast with plenty of local wine it was a great way to end day 1.

Days 2&3 Were spent on the Rioni working through the rest of the WRT syllabus. We practiced line crossing techniques and even managed to run some night operations. The Georgian guides were not only learning lots but they were having fun learning. One of the key messages that came out of the learnings from days 2&3 were that a good plan plan needs to have good clear  communication at all times

later on day 3  we started to look at river running skills & tactics. for this we used the CLAP model to increase our river safety. For those who are not familiar here is a quick introduction.

  • Communication. 
  • Line of Sight. 
  • Avoidance. 
  • Positioning.   
As we did not all have a common language on the course we looked at the power of the silent safety demonstration and how the guide & the customers dont need a common language in order to communicate. I gave a demonstration using my own version of the silent safety demonstration before we tackled the class 3 Murkali gorge on the Rioni.

     Day 4 greeted us with an amazing thunder storm and lots of rain. Myself & Gaspar had a hard time convincing the students that once the storm had stopped that rafting in the rain was perfectly acceptable and practiced all over the world. We spent the morning running the lower section of the Rioni river before we headed to our new camp a 4 hour drive away on the Mtkvari river in the town of Borjomi.

The Mtkvari was the host river for an IRF European cup race in 2017. The Mtkvari does not have the volume of the rionin but we still found plenty to do. During our 2 days  on the Mtkvari we manged to check off the following aspects of the IRF Guide assessments

  • Swim test 
  • Flip drill test  
  • Ropework test 
  • Throwbag test   

By the end of day 6 both myself & Gaspar agreed that some of the students were in the position to be assessed for trip leader awards. After a brief introduction to the assessment criteria we started to set some simple trip leader scenarios. The first 3 scenarios all went quite smooth. We wanted to see how the students operated under stress and they coped really well. 

Day 7 saw usmove camp to the popular Agaravi river we decided to start driving at 5am this would ten give us a full day on the river. We all ran a famil trip which let myself & Gaspar see the river for the first time. The river was set in a stunning valley surrounded by forest & Mountains.

After another amazing Georgian lunch we headed back to the river to look at tethered raft rescues as the Agarvi was the perfect place to practice. 

Day 8 was going to be a long day of trip leader scenarios with 5 scenarios in total to work through. The group were now in full swing even though they were tired. Gaspar had brought one of his rescue dummies for us to use we called her Nikita. Nikita quickly became a well liked new addition to the group. 

Day 8 came to a close after a long day on the river all of the students were tired but happy we decided that the last day of the workshop would be used for paperwork & Debriefs. 
The workshop was a success to the point where we are already planing another workshop in Georgia for Mid September. 

A big thank you to Natia & the team at USaid for sponsoring the event. Congratulations to all involved.
See you on the water