• Bryan Comments on PFDs for CBC

    Here is a video interview I did a couple of years ago for CBC following Red Cross National Life Jacket Day. Actually, they barely used any of the interview they did with me. You can also read some of my comments regarding the interview at my personal blog at

  • Cold Water Boot Camp

    Originally published on my personal blog in 2012 at

    Recently I read the updated story about a paddler that died on April 1st, 2012, in a lake in Washington state. In the article, one of the people interviewed mentioned a "Cold Water Boot Camp" video that they make their paddling students watch. A little googling brought me to Wow, what a great website. Watch the video contained in the download section (for me, it worked best to download a high quality version and watch it offline), it's a 10 minute program that delivers the message. There is also a 30 minute version on DVD which I am considering ordering.

    The video program features Winnipeg professor, Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, aka "Dr. Popsicle." Dr. Giesbrecht has been informing outdoors people like me on the dangers of cold water for quite a number of years. I've seen several of his videos on YouTube and even on the Rick Mercer Report (this video is hilarious). However, this was the first time I've seen his Cold Water Boot Camp program.

    Be sure to also watch some of the individual videos under the Boot Campers section. They are very informative. There are a number of things I took away from those individual videos and interviews - for one thing, the messages coming directly from the individuals really hits home. Another thing I noticed, is just how much effort it takes the rescuers to get the swimmers out of the water. Watch as they pull the swimmers in and imagine how it would be for another boater (canoe, kayak, motorboat - take your pick) to assist you if you were in the water. And in this case it was trained rescuers pulling a swimmer up onto a very stable boat with a low, smooth rounded gunwale. Doing the same thing into a kayak, canoe, or a fishing boat - good luck. Also, when the swimmers are pulled from the water and interviewed on the boat, note how bloody cold they are, and how they actually get colder than they were in the water.

    There are a couple of important take home messages that I'll be better incorporating into my own paddling lessons after watching this video, some of it I knew already and all of it has been reinforced:

    1. It's not hypothermia you need to worry about, it's cold shock, then incapacitation.
    2. You will never live long enough for hypothermia to be a concern without a life jacket or PFD on.
    3. It's ALWAYS cold water season in this part of the world.
    4. Swimming in cold water is very, very hard.
    To summarise the effects of cold water and the time you have to deal with the situation, Geisbrecht coined the phrase "1-10-1", a phrase that many of my students have heard me recite.
    1 - 10 - 1
    1-10-1 is a simple way to remember the first three phases of cold water immersion and the approximate time each phase takes.
    1 - Cold Shock. An initial deep and sudden Gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600-1000% greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. Cold Shock will pass in about 1 minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and getting control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing. 
    10 - Cold Incapacitation. Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self rescue initially, and if that isn
  • River Safety Day

    Last year I participated in River Safety Day, spearheaded by the folks behind the Prairie Lily and Inland Marine Technologies. I attended a few of the planning meetings and got to spend some time that afternoon playing in and on the water doing some rescue demos. It was a great day on the water, even if my capsize was a bit contrived. Although I'm unable to participate this year (I'm attending a canoe course that day!), I look forward to being a part of this event again in the future. They created the following clip to promote this year's event.

  • Surviving After a Paddling Accident

    Last week while packing for a canoe trip I was contacted by Global Saskatoon to comment on how to survive after a mishap on a paddling trip. In addition to being a paddling instructor, I am the Paddle Canada representative for Saskatchewan, and am a co-author of the AdventureSmart paddling safety awareness program called PaddleSmart.

    The interview follows on the recent tragic death of David Dice along the Churchill River, a section that I paddled in 2010. I do not know the details of what happened, but according to news reports David was found below Needle Falls on Kinosaskaw Lake. Shortly after David was found by fishermen, his wife Enid Dice was found upriver somewhere along Needle Rapids. She had been there without supplies for 8 days. The reports don't offer much for details, though they do mention she had a fire going (it will make your life easier to have some reliable means of starting a fire on your life jacket or in a pocket, and redundancy is good!). The Dices are very experienced outdoorspeople and paddlers, and David's early death is a loss to the paddling community. My condolences go out to all of those grieving David's death. A few more details were reported via CBC:

    One of the first people to speak to Enid after the ordeal was Ric Driediger, owner of Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, who was also one of the last people to see the couple before they set out on their trip.
    He says he learned, from Enid, that the couple's canoe capsized as they were navigating a set of rapids on the lake known as Needle Falls*.
    They were separated and Enid swam to shore with her husband's backpack that had a sleeping bag and an emergency fire-starting kit. There was no food, however.

    *I wonder if this statement as reported is correct. It seems more likely that they were running Needle Rapids (C2+ to C3), about 2.25 km above the falls, or the outlet from Sandfly lake (C3), a further 1 km above Needle Rapids. It seems unlikely that they would have been running the falls (C5), but the earlier sets of rapids are manageable for the canoeist with skills in rapids. This also makes sense since Enid had no gear other than what she swam to shore with and was separated from her husband who was reportedly found on Kinosaskaw Lake in the eddy below the falls. Were the capsize to actually have occurred at the falls, she would have been mere meters from her late husband, the overturned canoe and much of the gear including the SPOT.  A map of the region: Open this map full screen.

    Aerial view of the rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake. We portaged these.
    Class 3 rapids at the outlet of Sandfly Lake.
    Uppermost portion of Needle Rapids from the spot where we scouted the set. This is the river left channel. 
    Jay & Rod scouting Needle Rapids. 

    David & Enid's Blog: David and Enid's Travels

    Here are some items you should consider having with you, or on you, whenever you head out paddling. Most of these items will fit into a small pouch that can be attached to the life jacket or contained in a pocket. These items are described as "The Essentials Plus" in the PaddleSmart program:

      • Transport Canada Required Items:
        1. Life jacket
        2. Whistle
        3. Throw bag
        4. Bailer
        5. Waterproof flashlight

    • Other Essential Items:
      1. Fire making kit
      2. Signalling device (e.g. whistle, signal mirror)
      3. Extra food and water
      4. Extra clothing
      5. Navigation & communication devices
      6. First aid
      7. Emergency blanket or shelter
      8. Knife
      9. Sun protection
      10. (the 10th item on the Ten Essentials AdventureSmart list is a flashlight, already lsited above)
    In the pocket of my PFD I have a small pouch that in the video linked above has had the contents spread out. The contents include a signal mirror, granola bar, fishing line, snare wire, ~20' of thin cord, orange bandana, emergency blanket, lighter, & fire starter. In the canoe or kayak I also almost always have extra clothing, rain gear, some form of shelter (tarp &/or a bothy bag), extra food, water (though we can usually drink our water from the lake), first aid kit, more lighters, matches and fire starting stuff. 

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What our Students are Saying about Us

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What our Students are Saying about Us

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