Whitewater Rescue Manual
By Charles Walbridge & Wayne A. Sundmacher Sr.Charlie Walbridge is one of the first seven individuals inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame. He is being recognized for his many contributions to the whitewater safety and rescue field. Charlie has conducted numerous swiftwater rescue clinics for NRS associates and we’re proud to be associated with him!The International Whitewater Hall of Fame and Museum is located at the Adventure Sports Center International, McHenry, Maryland
Cold-Water Protection (Pg 24-25)
Water draws heat from the body 25 times faster than air. Like windchill, the effects of cold water increase when the current is fast. Sudden immersion in snowmelt or spring runoff is extremely debilitating, causing a substantial loss of strength, coordination, and judgment rather quickly. All cold-weather paddlers should select the gear needed for the insulation required to stay warm.
Drysuits and wetsuits both work effectively in cold water. In a wetsuit, air is trapped inside the neoprene material, and the suit fits snugly enough to keep most cold water out. What little water gets inside is quickly warmed by the user’s body heat. Drysuits create an actual barrier between the environment and the paddler, eliminating that initial “cold-water shock.” Paddling drysuits are made of a waterproof material with latex seals at the neck, wrists, and ankles. The paddler regulates the inside temperature by adding or removing layers of insulation, such as pile or polypropylene. In milder weather, a water-proof shell top or paddle jacket can be combined with pile clothing or a wetsuit for comfort.
The first goal is to protect the torso, which shelters the “core” of the body. The greatest heat loss occurs in the armpits and crotch. Next, pay special attention to the extremities. The head radiates a surprising amount of heat. If the helmet alone is not warm enough, pile or neoprene liners can be worn inside. Neoprene booties cover the paddler’s feet, and if the sole is thick enough they can be used alone. Another alternative is to wear lightweight neoprene socks inside sneakers. In cold weather a boater’s hands quickly lose the strength and sensitivity needed for effective paddling. Neoprene gloves or mittens are one answer; mittens are warmer than gloves, but more awkward and harder to find. Pogies (mittens that cover both the hand and the paddle) permit direct hand-to-paddle contact for maximum control with a kayak paddle. In borderline weather, carry hand protection along for possible use later in the day.