Fear and Loathing on Montana’s Middle Fork of the Flathead – An adventurous group “on the Social Security end of things” learns a few whitewater canoe lessons deep in the Great Bear Wilderness

An adventurous group “on the Social Security end of things” learns a few whitewater canoe lessons deep in the Great Bear Wilderness.

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Rescue for River Runners 6: Rescue PFD Basics – Episode Six in a series of whitewater rescue videos from Jim Coffey and Five2Nine Productions

Canoe & Kayak has teamed up with open-boat expert Jim Coffey and Five2Nine Productions’ Mike McKay for a series of whitewater rescue lesson videos debuting exclusively on CanoeKayak.com. Here, in Episode Six, Coffey covers the basics of rescue PFD use.

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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 CanoeKayak.com 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 CanoeKayak.com. 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.



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Best of the North Fork Championship VI

The 2017 North Fork Championship was one for the record books. The highest flows in the event’s six-year history rewarded spectators with the perfect road-side glimpse into whitewater kayaking’s best. And those athletes had to push themselves harder than ever. Thankfully race organizer James Byrd brought on four incredibly talented photographers to capture some timeless moments amidst the blur of action. We put the event shooters on the spot, asking them each to select a single image and explain what special something that it defines.

As Byrd will be the first to tell you, “whitewater is extremely hard to shoot. To capture its immensity and power and portray that to the non-kayaker is an impressive skill. This year the river was going so fast that half the time they disappear behind waves or holes. They absolutely kill it for us every year.

“We are always blown away by the quality of these photographers and their attention to detail, they really capture the sense of community and high energy throughout the weekend with their images.”


John Webster

Hayden Voorhees, finding his line through the heaviest flows in the NFC’s history.

“This year’s NFC was incomparable to the five years prior. Flows were at a scary stage for the North Fork in general and the athletes involved with the Jake’s race were hesitant, with good reason, not to do too many practice laps. Hayden Voorhees was one who earned his spot in the Jake’s race by qualifying in the Elite Race days before. Being one of the younger qualifiers it was impressive to see him take on the task of attempting to master the un-masterable and burly Jake’s race line. No one was having a flawless line, no one really does have the perfect line in this chaotic mess. I don’t think anyone hasn’t used the word ‘respect’ for describing this rapid. Nonetheless Hayden showed how fast and precise one can be on multiple laps, both while practicing and racing. After having seen a bad swim at Jake’s and making the decision to paddle in the race this year makes people like Hayden a great example of the future of kayaking- calm, calculated, and cognitive.”

Follow John @johnwebster


Jasper Gibson

Racers en-route to the put in.

“This shot is from the morning of the Jacob’s Ladder race, while all the competitors were being transported from Banks to the put in. The energy on the bus was palpable. It was interesting to see the different demeanor of the athletes; it was a confluence of nervous energy, apprehension, focus, lightheartedness and camaraderie.
The event is simply special. It’s arguable the gnarliest event in whitewater and a reunion not only for some of the best paddlers in the world but for anyone and everyone involved in the whitewater community.”

Follow Jasper at @jasper.gibson


Eric Parker

Carson Lindsay, Jacob’s Ladder.

You know that special time of the year when friends and family gather from the far reaches of the planet to celebrate and give appreciation? If you guessed Thanksgiving or Christmas you are totally wrong. I am talking about the one and only North Fork Championships! For 6 years in a row James and Regan have successfully organized the biggest, rowdiest, and the best kayak race on the planet. Wether you are competing, documenting or simply spectating, this race is a wonderful time for all parties involved.

This shot of Carson Lindsay was my favorite image from this years NFC. Carson sailed a boof off of rock drop as he fought his way down Jakes, which was quite possibly the rowdiest race course of all time. It was so rad to see so many different and young competitors this year. Sure we all want to see shots of Dane’s winning run, but I personally would like to highlight some of the other upcoming competitors!

Follow Eric @eparkerphoto_


Mike Leeds

Dane Jackson, Jacob’s Ladder.

Dane launched off this wave like the old Nintendo game Excite Bike. After years of shooting this rapid I try to get some new and different compositions every year which is a challenge for me personally. The composition combined with the light and Dane’s extraordinary ability made this shot for me. I haven’t seen kayaks launch off of waves like this very often.

Follow Mike @mikeleedsphotography


Complete gallery and race recap from 2017 NFC.

Exclusive interview with James Byrd prior to the 2017 NFC.

View work from Jasper Gibson and John Webster on the C&K Photo of the Day page.

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Rescue for River Runners 3: Safe Swimming

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 CanoeKayak.com a few years ago. The lessons Coffey covers here in Episode Three — safe swimming principles to keep in mind if separated from your boat — are as important today as ever.


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 post Rescue for River Runners 3: Safe Swimming appeared first on Canoe & Kayak Magazine.