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ACA River Safety and Rescue Terminology Guide

Tuesday, April 28, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Kelsey Bracewell
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ACA River Safety and Rescue Terminology Guide


Paddlers learn a lot of things their first few days in a paddling course.  One is the language of paddling – the words and phrases instructors use to describe paddling. Those specific language choices are important because they allows clear communication (or lack thereof). No one wants to misinterpret something critical, like “take out on river right because there’s a nasty strainer on river left.”


The language of swiftwater rescue can be particularly challenging. With common terms and phrases like “river right” there’s a reasonable chance of a student making a correct guess; but what does it mean when a paddler says something like “use a line ferry to set up a Y cinch, and then use the messenger to set a zip line with a pig rig so everyone can get back to the strong side?”


Several years ago, a survey of swiftwater rescue instructors found that there was disagreement about the meaning of some common terms. Disagreement existed even in the ACA's Safety and Rescue committee. Therefore, to help new swiftwater rescue students, and to ensure that swiftwater rescue instructors teach consistent information, the ACA’s Safety and Rescue Committee has developed a terminology guide, which can be found here. This guide defines course content found in ACA’s swiftwater rescue curriculum and will serve as an important teaching resource. The current publication is the first edition; ACA anticipates that this document will be expanded upon in the future.


All members of the ACA Safety and Rescue committee participated in developing the reference. The overarching Safety Education & Instruction Council would particularly like to thank lead authors CC Williams, Nate Ostis, Justin Padgett, and Robin Pope for their work on the project, and Sam Fowlkes for his leadership of the Safety and Rescue committee, as leaders and creators of this publication.

ACA Mission

Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling, stewardship support to help protect paddling environments, and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration, and recreation.

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