Throw Ropes

Safety Guides & Info

A throw rope is a simple contraption and an essential piece of safety gear and you should carry anytime you're paddling. Not only should you carry one, but you should also know how to use it. Used properly, a rope becomes an extra long arm to reach out to paddlers in trouble. It can be used to support a trapped person, retrieve a pinned boat or retrieve swimmers.

Throwing the Bag

Throw bags are most commonly thrown underhand. Overhand throws can be very powerful and are especially useful when you are sitting in a boat or standing in deep water or in tall grass. In any case, smoothness and timing are what will help active good distance and accuracy. Timing is key to hitting your target. And it takes some practice to achieve both distance and accuracy.

Grab the top of the bag with your throwing hand and withdraw the end of the rope with the other hand.

Keep your eyes on the target when throwing and use a smooth, easy arm swing. Make eye contact with the person you are trying to reach. Yell "rope" when tossing the rope. They may not always be able to hear you over the water, but it is a good habit to get into and it is a good attention getter.

Release the bag as your throwing hand crosses your line of sight.

If you miss the target, haul in the bag and keep trying. Since the person you are trying to reach will be moving quickly down river, it is also helpful to have other rescuers positioned downriver with throw ropes ready.

When throwing a rope to a swimmer be sure to throw accurately and be positioned so that you can haul a person safely to shore. Always check your footing before throwing the line. Be prepared for quite a pull on the line and don't be caught off guard - you don't want to end up having to be rescued yourself.

When hauling in the rope the Whitewater Rescue Manual suggest you use the "fireman's grip." Grab the loop with your thumbs facing inward (as opposed to the more natural way of pointing your thumbs outward.) This creates a caming action that prevents the rope from slipping and help you pull harder. Be prepared to quickly release the rope in case of trouble. Pulling in a swimmer puts a lot of stress on the rescuer holding the line. Just hanging onto the rope isn't enough. Rescuers will more than likely have to use some sort of body belay to haul the swimmer in. Sitting increases the security of a belay and allow the rescuer to brace his feet. Whitewater rescue manuals outline several different throwing and belaying techniques.

Catching the Rope

If you are on the receiving end of the throw rope it is important to pay attention. Grab the rope, not the bag. This keeps the distance between you and the rescuer as short as possible. Move aggressively to the rope. Swimmers should roll onto their backs so their body planes to the surface instead of getting dragged underwater. Pass the line over one shoulder. Be prepared to let go of the rope quickly. Never wrap the rope around your arm or tie the rope to your body.

Restuffing the Bag - No need to coil the rope. Simply restuff it into the bag foot by foot.

If you carry a rope, ALWAYS carry a knife. Ropes and moving water make hazardous partners. There is a plethora of information to be learned about throw ropes and their many uses including rescuing swimmers and pinned boats.

Throw Bag Rescue

Use a throw bag station whenever running a rapid where the potential for a rollover is possible. Careful choice of throw bag location is important. The rescuer needs to be aware of where the victims and canoe will end up once successfully secured to the rescue line.

It's also important that the person managing the throw bag has lots of practice in choosing a good location for the throw bag station, throwing the rescue line, and anchoring the rope once the victims have grasped it. Before the rescuer throws the bag, a whistle should be blown to alert the victims. An inexperienced rescuer is more of a liability than an aid.