Kayakers safe after river search
by James Poyner and Sandi Miller
28th December 2016
Police search and rescue were called out last night when, just on dusk, a concerned citizen reported an empty kayak floating down the Yarra.
Following a flyover from the police helicopter and the investigation of some cars left at the Jumping Creek carpark after dark, Police are confident that everyone on the river yesterday have been accounted for.
Sergeant Stuart Henderson of Warrandyte Police said that the owners of the kayak have been found safe and well, however they had hit a rock and tipped out of their boat and were unable to secure the craft as it floated downstream.
This is the second time in as many months when kayakers have run into trouble in the waters of Warrandyte.
The river is central to the Warrandyte community both residents and tourists and throughout the year people can be seen enjoying themselves in and around the river.
Victoria has experienced a particularly wet Spring and early Summer, the Bureau of Meteorology reporting this September as the second wettest September on record with rainfall at 94% above average across the state, a lot of the rivers in Victoria had flood warnings issued and this pattern is continuing into the new year.
To save anxiety, Police have reminded river goers that they should always let people know where they are and when they are expected back.
“We get this every year where people underestimate the time it takes to get downstream or get into trouble, if you let someone on the shore know what you are up to then everyone can get home safely” said Sgt Henderson.
The key to remaining safe when out on the water is knowledge, preparation and communication.
After consulting with outdoor education instructor and experienced kayaker, Jean Dind, The Diary has compiled a list of general tips and advice to help people play safely when on the river.
Most sporting activities require specialist equipment, when one starts participating in adventure sports then the necessity for this equipment is paramount as it often directly related to one’s safety.
- Transport Safety Victoria stress that A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) is mandatory and if you are going to be going down any rapids then a helmet designed for white water is also advisable.
- There are a range of different types of canoe and kayak on the market all at different prices and made for different numbers of people or water types.
If you are thinking of buying one for yourself, make sure it is appropriate for the type of water you will be mostly paddling in.
Knowledge has both practical and theoretical importance here.
For the practical side, this translates into the skills required to effectively operate your kayak as well as the skills required to play safely on the water. To obtain these skills there are a number of options available:
Whitehorse canoe club is a local organisation that offer lessons with membership, an organisation like Canoe Victoria also offer courses.
- River Rescue
Canoe Vic and Swift Water Training Group offer a range or course in river safety and rescue techniques. A casual kayaker wouldn’t necessarily do one of these courses so that they can rescue someone if they see them in trouble but more so give them the skills and knowledge to know what to do if they themselves or one of their kayaking party get into trouble.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE RIVER
Regardless of one’s level of skill, knowledge of the conditions and hazards one is likely to encounter when navigating a section of river is very important.
There is a system that grades rivers and rapids on their difficulty.
This system goes from Easy which means very light condition with very few hazards to Extreme which may mean going down a waterfall.
There are a number of websites that produce maps of rivers with instructions on popular kayaking runs and information about the class of water or rapid one is likely to encounter and even information about how to ‘walk out’ if you get into trouble, these sites are:
Enjoying the river ultimately comes down to one’s ability to be comfortable in and around the water and to be mindful of hazards such as fallen trees and submerged rocks.
It is recommended that whitewater kayakers/canoeists/paddlers are comfortable swimming in moving water and familiar with defensive swimming techniques including the whitewater safety position.