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Higgins & Langley Award
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ACA Members Receive Prestigious Higgins & Langley Swiftwater Rescue Awards


The Higgins & Langley Memorial and Education Fund honors outstanding achievement in the technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue. Awards go to swiftwater and flood rescue experts worldwide in several significant categories, including the Outstanding Achievement Award, Program Development Award, Special Commendation Award, and Swiftwater Rescue Incident Award.


The awards were established in 1993 by members of the Swiftwater Rescue Committee of the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker who lost his life in 1980 while rescuing a child who was swept down the flood-swollen Los Angeles River, and Jeffrey Langley, a Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter-paramedic and swiftwater rescue pioneer, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993.  Although there is always an element of heroism involved in dangerous technical rescue operations, these are not awards for heroism, but rather awards that recognize preparedness, teamwork, and a job well done—sometimes under extreme conditions—where training is vital to the success of rescue missions, as well as the safety of rescue personnel.



September 23, 2017 (South Bend, IN)


Mike Mather, ACA Level 5: Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer Educator received the Special Commendation Award.  Special Commendation: Recognizes the breadth of possible contribution in the field of swiftwater rescue. Awards of this type can be for media contribution, product innovations, strategic planning, individual heroism or esprit de corps. Results are reflected within the swiftwater community and/or the general public. 





NY State Department of Environmental Conservation - Forest Rangers, several of whom are ACA certified Raft Instructors, (including Art Perryman pictured) received the Program Development Award. Presented to individuals or agencies that commit time, resources and training for successful swiftwater rescue program development. Programs must reflect a level of excellence that defines a state of the art deployment for swiftwater and flood rescue, and can be considered international models for the science. Long-range outcome is a fundamental criteria. 








Sam Fowlkes

June 2, 2014 (Asheville, NC)


ACA Level 5: Advanced Swiftwater Rescue Instructor Trainer Educators, Robin Pope and Sam Fowlkes, both received Special Commendation Awards, recognizing their extraordinary efforts in organizing and hosting the first ACA Swiftwater Rescue Conference in October, 2013. The intensive, three-day, on-river training featured a series of workshops presented by some of the most respected names in swiftwater rescue, including Slim Ray, Les Bechdel, Charlie Walbridge, Aaron Peeler, Mike Mather, Walter Felton, Virgil Chambers, Pam Dillon and Jim Coffey. Participants included more than 100 recreational paddlers, certified paddlesport instructors, and emergency responders from 22 states and three foreign countries.


Robin Pope

In addition to founding the Swiftwater Rescue Conference, Robin and Sam both volunteer countless hours serving on the ACA’s Swiftwater Rescue Committee, Safety Education & Instruction Council, and Board of Directors.


They will receive their awards on Friday, June 6, 2014, at 7:30 PM, at the annual National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) conference in Woodcliff Lake, NJ. 

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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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