How to Use a Throw Rope in Whitewater Paddling

How to Use a Throw Rope in Whitewater Paddling
The throw rope is a fundamental tool for rescue in water sports and is carried by all responsible river guides. It provides a lifeline for white water rafters and kayakers who have unintentionally become swimmers. Throw ropes usually have a clip or carabiner on one end and are stuffed into small bags, which are more easily thrown than loops of rope. Throwing a bag seems a bit unnatural at first and should be practiced by anyone who might need to rely on the skill in an emergency.


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Throw rope Clip or carabiner
  • Throw rope
  • Clip or carabiner
Step 1
Attach one end of the throw rope to yourself with the clip or carabiner or belay it around your back. Your rope is useless to the victim (let's call him the "swimmer") if it is not secured.
Step 2
Shout or whistle to the swimmer. Make him understand your plan of rescue and tell him to grab the rope, not the bag.
Step 3
Remove some rope from the bag to accommodate a wind-up for your throw. Hold the bag in your throwing hand and grasp the end of the rope in the other hand.
Step 4
Judge the speed of the river's flow and the swimmer's distance from you and prepare to throw. Shout "rope" to the swimmer and adjust your footing to brace for the rescue.
Step 5
Aim slightly upstream from the swimmer and smoothly throw the bag and prepare for the impending jerk when the swimmer grabs the rope. If the rope is thrown downstream from the swimmer, it will quickly swing away from him toward the shore. Underhand throws are quick and accurate for a short toss, but overhand or sidearm throws cover more distance.
Step 6
Allow the current to do the work once the swimmer has grasped the rope, swinging him to the shore. Back up if necessary to keep the rope taut and to advance the swimmer's movement out of the current. If you need to do any hauling-in through strong current, use a thumbs-inward grip on the line and/or sit down to strengthen your position. If you have missed your target, retrieve the rope and try again.
Step 7
When the rescue is over, carefully stuff the rope back into the bag.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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