The term ‘swift water’ or ‘white water’ is used to describe the state of a river after heavy rains or a dam release.

In Tasmania, this flood state does occur and a sudden deluge can often carry fallen trees and branches with it, causing dangerous obstacles to form. Existing foliage growth and rocks can form additional obstacles. Together with fast, turbulent water waves, rapids and eddies form in the river that are exciting and challenge even experienced paddlers.

Gain Experience

• Develop skills, knowledge and experience through a local paddling or boating club or training provider.

• Be very familiar with swift water features, avoidance techniques and basic rescue skills.

• Ensure your group has adequate skills, knowledge and equipment to complete the trip safely. Before getting on the river

• Check the level and condition of the river. In flood it will be much faster and more dangerous. Contact the local Department of Parks and Wildlife office if in doubt.

• Do not attempt rivers or rapids that are beyond your fitness and paddling or boating ability. If in doubt, stay out!

• Let someone know where you are going and what time to expect you back.

Top 10 tips for a swift water paddler

1. Join a paddling or boating club or find a training provider to teach you the correct paddling technique and safety skills required.

2. Know your own limitations and capabilities and don’t attempt environments beyond them.

3. Let someone know before you go and when you return.

4. Check your craft and equipment are suitable for the conditions and in good repair.

5. Dress for cold conditions, hypothermia can set in very quickly.

6. Carry some energy bars and a flask of hot drink.

7. Wear a lifejacket and helmet to save your life.

8. Never paddle alone, minimum of three in a group.

9. Start the trip early in the day to avoid low light conditions.

10. If in doubt; don’t!

Surf Life Saving Tasmania Rescue Services volunteers expand flood swift water rescue capabilities

This weekend the Surf Life Saving Tasmanian Rescue Services Forum took place. This was a travelling forum; first stop was Ulverstone where a full weekend of training for Emergency Response Teams (ERT) commenced. Then the forum travelled to the south of the state for the Sunday, whereby teams went on the water to test their capabilities in challenging swift water conditions near Judbury.

30 current club and future Lifesaving Managers and club-based Emergency Response Team members attended the forum that provided the necessary information via a combination of theoretical and practical skill demonstrations for SLST members to enhance their current skills within their ERT roles and gain further knowledge within the areas of Flood Swift Water Rescue (FSWR).  The sessions provided valuable information to all members relating to their roles, responsibilities and obligations when carrying out duties within an 'emergency service'.  Some of the following topics were covered;

  • Landscape of SLST’s Rescue Services
  • New Statewide Digital Radio Network
  • Flood Swift Water Rescue Pathways and Training for Volunteer Personnel
  • Safety Management Systems and legal requirements

Both days, members who expressed an interest in becoming part of the Flood Swift Water Rescue Team were given the opportunity to participate in some practical ‘Broad Water Operations’ training. On Saturday at Forth River at Port Sorell and Sunday the Huon River, near Judbury. The on water venues remained unknown to those who took part until the day, to create a ‘realness’ to the scenarios, as if the teams were activated for their services as they have been in the past. For instance, Launceston based members assisted SES and other emergency services with flood rescue support during the floods in June 2016. Selection of an appropriate venues was key to the success of the inaugural Rescue Services Forum, as fast running waters and challenging conditions were required to be able to test the skills and capabilities of the volunteers involved. A location near Judbury was chosen and deemed suitable for what Surf Life Saving aimed to achieve that day.

“This weekend, certainly exceeded expectations and commitment shown by members that we continue to demonstrate operations beyond the red and yellow flags. In addition to showing to members the importance of continuous professional development and upskilling to broaden the organisations capabilities, this was an opportunity for Surf Life Saving Tasmania to demonstrate that that the underpinning skills gained through what is typically known as surf rescue are most definitely and easily transferable across to the dynamic swift flood water environment 365 days of the year. Further reinforcing the organisations capacity for interoperability of skills between Tasmanian Emergency Services.

The Rescue Services Forum makes up part of our ongoing program of training for Flood Swift Water Rescue Operations to further enhance Surf Life Saving Tasmania’s inland, inshore and offshore rescue capabilities” said Boyd Griggs, Lifesaving & Services Manager.