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


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