Monday, May 21, 2012

Rescue Me! Thursdays offer free training

Tom Lindblade (far left) and Scott Fairty (second from left) with some of the participants in a recent Rescue Me! Thursday.
This is year two of Rescue Me! Thursdays, an initiative of the Illinois Paddling Council. These weekly training sessions were initially created in order to train the Paddlers Patrol, another IPC initiative--a volunteer group that provides safety boaters for local events, such as the Flatwater Classic, the Illinois Paddlesports Festival and the New Year's Day Paddle.

The concept is simple and smart: Take advantage of the Marge Cline Whitewater Park in Yorkville, IL and the expertise of Ryan Rushton and Scott Fairty of Geneva Kayak Center (located on the course) to offer weekly training sessions on basic swiftwater rescue. The brains behind this belong to Tom Lindblade, president of the IPC, who has been an experiential educator and canoe instructor for more than four decades and was recognized three years ago with an "Excellence in Instruction" award by the American Canoe Association.

Tom Lindblade, mentor to two generations of paddlesport instructors and president of the Illinois Paddling Council.
We had the good fortune to be present for this past week's session on wading rescues. This was the fourth in this year's series, following cold-water rescues, rescue ropes, and boat-over-boat rescues. Lindblade teaches most of the classes, with help from Scott Fairty. Towing, bumping and unpinning boats will follow in the coming weeks.

The group wades into the river, using paddles for support.
"Imagine if someone who was rescue-trained had been there when those three men died in the dam," Lindblade says, referring to the tragic incident in 2006 that led, years later, to the demolition of the deadly Glen D. Palmer Dam and the creation of the whitewater course in Yorkville. "That kind of thing can happen any time, and now we've got whitewater in the area, so these skills become more necessary."

Scott Fairty (green helmet) takes six participants safely out into the current.
Attendance has been good: between 9 and 17 people per week. The training is free (though non-ACA members must pay $5 for insurance when they sign the liability waiver) and no reservations are required. Just show up at the whitewater park at 6 p.m. on Thursdays in May, and you're part of the class.

Alec simulates a pin on a rock.
"This is one of the most important things we can do," Lindblade says.

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