What happens when it all goes wrong?

We are all only in between swims… how many times as paddlers have we said that to each other and never given it much more consideration? The general adage to that is …the  further apart you swims become the worse they are when they come. This weekend I proved that correct and took a swim, it wasn’t just my first swim in a while it was the worse swim from my boat I’ve ever had.

Clare Glens Foot Bridge

I happened to be wearing my GoPro at the time and caught it all on camera. When I got home I posted the video to Facebook with the following.

This afternoon I took a swim on the Clare Glens at a sporty level. Through taking a poor line I end up coming out of my boat at the foot bridge hole and not making it back to the bank until after the main falls.

To be honest it was a fairly shit buzz, looking back on it now it should never have happened. The biggest thing I took from it was I had forgotten what it was like to take a big swim and what happens during it.

On reflection I’m mostly happy how I handled myself when swimming including having the where with all to getting into the ‘best’ body position when going over a waterfall at high levels.

When I run RSR courses I always try impress upon students the importance of not being driftwood and that they are the most important person in securing the best possible out come in any rescue. In fairness after I came out of the boat today the options were limited but trying to keep a cool calm head is paramount.

Luckily my boat and paddles were recovered a long way down with a ding in the front of my boat. I took no serious injury aside from a fairly heavy hit on my upper right leg which no doubt will continue to be very sore for a few days to come.

It’s great having having all of this water in the rivers after such a long dry spell, to anyone boating in the coming days do your best not to cut things a fine as I did today.

Thanks to all the folks who help me out today, it won;t be forgotten.

Most people who have a swim especially a bad one like to keep it hushed and save face and the public embarrassment, but I though there might be some sort of worthwhile learning from my experience.

The Clare Glens is Ireland’s classic pool drop style (IV) river that works at the vast array of levels and is without question one most fun run’s in Ireland.

( Eoin Keys has made a nice video guide here , 2:46 is where my experience began)

I took a a bad line at the foot bridge hole and ended up out of my boat, I actually managed to make it to my feet right below the footbridge but couldn’t get out and was swept down stream.

Photo credit Eoin Keys

Photo credit Eoin Keys

The photo above is feature directly after the foot bridge at a lower level than my swim (.65), between here and Big Eas there is about 100m of rapids consisting of small ledges / holes. Just before the main falls the river swings almost 90 deg right and then falls approx 5- 6 m. At the base of the falls on river right there can be a serious tow back in to a nice cave that can be difficult to extract someone from.

DC Clare Glens
Once I knew I was going to be in the water and would be swimming over the main fall I tried my best to keep calm and focus one getting the the correct point to go over the drop to limit my changes of further down time. It felt like an eternity from leaving my boat to being in the eddy at the bottom of Big Eas, in reality looking at the video it was only a few seconds. Trying to make sure you get enough air before the the possibility of big down time is more difficult that you think all while trying to maintain some sort of reasonable position to increase your chances of a positive outcome with limited injury.

Hands cover face

I don’t think I forget that last split second before going Big Eas asny time soon,where I held on to my helmet and covered my face while curling up in a ball to protect my self. Thankfully despite the shit show that had just happened I was roped straight away and got out without serious injury.

As one of my friends said this morning there are lots who will say ‘You had a swim, so what’ but we can never underestimate how things might turn out, I’ve no doubt if I were to swim in the same location again at the same levels there is ever chance the out come might not have been so positive.

Don’t be driftwood

A few things to take away from a swim like this.

  • You are the best person to positively effect the out come of swim like this.
  • Be pro active, don’t be driftwood getting swept down river out of control.
  • It doesn’t matter how tired, unset or sore you are, if you don’t hustle and help yourself things will be a whole lot worse.
  • Don’t lose your shit, seriously being a bag of panic and nerves ain’t going to help you here. Keep a clear mind and act fast.

As I right this now I’ve some serious bruising and am in a bit of pain but nothing too unlike I’d have after a tough rugby match. I’m very aware that things could have turned out a lot worse and I’m fairly sure if I wasn’t as chunky as I am there might have not have gotten away with such superficial injury.

Recon damaged nose

I managed to recover my boat and paddle with some help from friends pretty quickly, the boat took a nice ding but I’ll worry about that another day.

The Glens is still one of my favorite rivers and I can’t wait to get back there.

A

 

Posted in White Water.

4 Comments

  1. was your plan to catch the eddie or keep going. Its def true .swimming and awareness can get lost as you progress as a paddler..Came through constriction at all levels fine and one day in really low water clipped a sneaky rock and ended in swim and bit shocked as had not pulled deck in a good while and bit vulnerable .I think this season im going to focus on some def/off swim sessions on the rapids as its something to prepare for and have when you part the boat…Its kinda funny as in most of my swims i had i spend more time hoping my kid dont get fucked up.lower levels going over that drop could beat u bad .I like the video as you def got your shit together as you well know swimming where you did you are riding the train over big eas

  2. Hi Francis,

    With out going too far into the excuse pile, on inspection I had decided I was going to drive through on the right hand side of the hole and be set up to be tight enough to the right hand side of the foot bridge and down the ski jump / chute. But just before I got in my boat, a friend who had been talking to some one far experienced on the Glens in high water who said you need to go hard right into the eddy, it transpired that there was some miss communication and he said toward but not into the eddy.

    So on my run in the guy in front of me had a little bit of drama so I didn’t back myself, decided to go with the into the eddy line and half arsed it doing neither right. The swim was a result of that. I think that whole process is a whole other blog post in itself.

    When I did come out of my boat I knew what was waiting down river so I didn’t care about my kit, you have to look after yourself in situation like this.

    S.T.I.G

    Self
    Team
    Individual
    Gear

    The most I can take out of it is I know what went wrong and I did the right things as soon as I was swimming, however I was very lucky and the outcome could have been far worse. At those levels I should not be swimming, the consequences could have been grave.

    Adrian

  3. Hi Francis,

    With out going too far into the excuse pile, on inspection I had decided I was going to drive through on the right hand side of the hole and be set up to be tight enough to the right hand side of the foot bridge and down the ski jump / chute. But just before I got in my boat, a friend who had been talking to some one far experienced on the Glens in high water who said you need to go hard right into the eddy, it transpired that there was some miss communication and he said toward but not into the eddy.

    So on my run in the guy in front of me had a little bit of drama so I didn’t back myself, decided to go with the into the eddy line and half arsed it doing neither right. The swim was a result of that. I think that whole process is a whole other blog post in itself.

    When I did come out of my boat I knew what was waiting down river so I didn’t care about my kit, you have to look after yourself in situation like this.

    S.T.I.G

    Self
    Team
    Individual
    Gear

    The most I can take out of it is I know what went wrong and I did the right things as soon as I was swimming, however I was very lucky and the outcome could have been far worse. At those levels I should not be swimming, the consequences could have been grave.

    Adrian

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