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In October, I had the fortunate opportunity to attend the 2017 ACA Swiftwater Rescue Conference in Mill City, Oregon. This was my first time attending the SWR conference, and it surely will not be my last. The best and brightest in Swiftwater Rescue education presented topics on mechanical advantage systems, entrapment situations, rescue scenarios, steep creek rescues, throw bag tips and tricks, swiftwater swimming tactics, boat unpinning, boat-based rescue, and so much more amazing content.

Presenters included
Sam Fowlkes
Julie Munger
Mike Mather
Aaron Peeler
Jim Coffey
Tom Burroughs
Dave Kessmann
Ty Tuff
Travis Reid
Marcel Bieg
Charles Duffy
…and more

People from all backgrounds and skill levels were welcomed to attend. Attendees included paddlers from all disciplines (kayak, canoe, raft, SUP, etc.), participants from local fire & rescue, participants from search and rescue teams, and outdoor educators. Being that I am not yet a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor, I was not sure if I would have the necessary skills to attend this event. But, as I have participated in a number of swiftwater rescue courses over the years, I was excited to learn new things so I registered anyway after consulting with Aaron Peeler about the event. I am sure glad I signed up and attended!

The Santiam River was a wonderful venue for this conferee ACnce! Fishermans Bend Recreation Site made it easy for multiple workshops to be held simultaneously, and without the distraction of watching other workshops going on nearby. It was also right next to the river, so we could wake up, prepare breakfast, meet under the pavilion, and then break out into our education sessions for the day without ever moving our vehicles. The weather was a little chilly, but being that it was swiftwater rescue, we were all quite used to being a little cold.

Was this the same as taking a swiftwater course? No. But if you are passionate about swiftwater rescue, then you’d love this conference! The concepts were similar, but there were a lot of different techniques being presented and tried out. I learned about creating a harness from tubular webbing I carry in my pin kit to rappel into a steep creek for a rescue scenario. I also learned how to ascend back up the rope as well. We performed boat-based rescues from a kayak, a canoe, a stand up paddleboard, and a raft. We worked as a team to create different cinch methods for entrapment situations. We swam A LOT! Scenarios were set up and I worked on teams with other participants to problem solve, get hands-on with the skills we learned, and solve these problems within a time limit (to add a little more pressure). We constructed mechanical advantage systems, learned how to simplify them, and how to convert a system to a more efficient one.