After driving home from the Canoe Tasmania Beginners Packrafting Course this weekend I was very saddened to hear of the death of a fellow whitewater paddler in Victoria that occurred last Friday. It seems to me to have received very little media attention but according to Vic Police a 48 y/o male died on the Thomson River whilst whitewater kayaking. My heart goes out to his family and friends and that of his paddling partner. See:
I have no knowledge of the incident or the experience/skill of the paddlers other than what has been reported on this news report and various media outlets that have essentially provided the same information. All I can say is that the incident is a reminder that real dangers exist on whitewater - even on grade 2 sections of river such as this one.
I would certainly encourage all packrafters/whitewater paddlers to at least undertake a basic river rescue course (e.g. Australian Canoeing Level 2 or equivalent) and to practice the skills/knowledge learned on these courses regularly. It is particularly easy to get complacent in a packraft on whitewater because of how forgiving they essentially are but it is also easy to get into serious trouble on whitewater very quickly. The old adage ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’ I think applies particularly well to the hidden dangers of whitewater paddling.
There are I believe three spaces left on the next Beginners Packrafting Course that Canoe Tasmania is running over the 7th and 8th November in NW Tassie. http://tas.canoe.org.au/introductory-whitewater-packrafting-course-2/
The main focus of this course is on learning to better understand whitewater and on learning to be safe whilst packrafting. Whilst it is aimed more at beginners, those who already paddle grade three will still greatly benefit from a course such as this. The course is specifically designed to compliment a full weekend Level 2 River Rescue Course such as those offered by various State paddling bodies and commercial organisations. I can certainly recommend the river rescue courses offered by Canoe Tasmania and encourage others to register their interest in such an event. Courses tend to run once sufficient interest is shown in them rather than simply being offered at a set time each year, so contact Canoe Tasmania directly: http://tas.canoe.org.au