Whitewater (kayaker) death in Vic & Courses

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.

River info: https://www.adventurepro.com.au/paddleaustralia/pa.cgi?action=details&id=thomsonriver1#.VhNjwjdtef8

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

I read about the kayaker death in Victoria soon after getting back from the whitewater packrafting course in Tassie. Very sad… And reinforced how important it is to keep developing your paddling, river reading, and rescue skills.

I can highly recommend the Canoe Tasmania beginner packrafting course for those who are thinking of going to the second course in November. We only had limited paddling experience before doing the course, mainly sea kayaking and gentle rivers, and it was our first time in whitewater. We learnt a lot about ourselves, what we can do, what we need to practice, and what we are not ready for. Highlights were the rope rescues (wear gloves if your hands need toughening up), swimming, getting back into the packraft mid-river, learning to read the water and identify the lines through rapids, having a rest in the eddies, and of course, the paddling. The Tassie scenery and weather were delightful. The other people on the course were great, interesting and supportive. A big thanks to Mark and fellow instructors, Alex and Dan.

Sad news indeed, but congratulations Mark and team on providing a great weekend of training; a wonderful service to the Australian packrafting community. I will give a plug for the last few places on the next course at the packrafting presentation in Sydney tonight.

Cheers, J.