WhiteWater Instructor Refresher Course

Last sunday the dutch whitewater education committee of the Watersportverbond organized their yearly whitewater instructor refresher course. In order to keep your instructor license valid you need to take one refresher course every three years. As my license was stil valid till end of 2014 I could have skipped till next year. That’s not a smart move though, because you always learn new things at a course, especially if you think you already know everything (which is a foolish thought just by itself ;-).

Anyway, last sunday the course was at Dutch Water Dreams. The morning started off with a kickoff by Gerben Klinkenberg. You could pick two clinics/workshops for the day, the first clinic possible on the dwd course, the second either inside or on the flatwater outside. Every clinic was interesting, so it was hard to choose which one to follow. We could choose between:

  • Edging your boat, necessary or unneeded for beginners?
  • Boofing: Timing, movement and position explained, how do you learn someone to boof?
  • The bow stroke: A dull stroke for beginners? Or maybe not?
  • Cowtail: Possibilities and limitations of using the cowtail. When to use, when not? Can you work safely with cowtail? Are there alternatives?

So, all those clinics would be nice to follow, but after some thought I decided to pick the cowtail one. Given by Gerben it would certainly be interesting and would certainly pick up some extra safety lessons and tools to use.

After a short bit of theory on the cowtail, pros and cons from elastic vs static line, it was time for some practice.

First up was testing what zero, one or two times in the buckle meant for relasing your quickrelease. Zero would mean a lot of pressure on the buckle which might lead to not opening it as it’s pressured inward. Doing it two times means a lot of friction, only advised if you use your life jacket as a climbing harness and don’t want it to get loose. Best safety on the water is just 1 time through the buckle, so the line makes an S bend. Also was shown what happens if your cowtail wraps around your body, if for example in a hole, and you won’t have a chance to quickrelease as the friction is way too much. So, a cowtail could be a very dangerous tool on the water!

Towing with a sling (src: http://www.unsponsored.co.uk/press/?p=7581)

Towing with a sling (src: http://www.unsponsored.co.uk/press/?p=7581)

Next topic, using a sling with a carabiner instead of your cowtail so you are able to release it when needed and don’t need to pull your quickrelease. Everyone got the change to test this by pulling a boat out of the outflow with a sling. It’s nice to let the thing go when you need/want to, but seriously difficult to keep the sling on your shoulder instead of slipping to your elbow and keep paddling while struggling with the sling. Definitely need to practice this more, as I can see why safety wise this can be the better option on some rivers/settings.

One of my fellow instructors in the group then asked what’s it like to get your quickrelease off when under pressure. So after setting up a relay system on the flatwater with a bridge in between, you were pulled towards the bridge. After falling upside down, you needed to hit the quickrelease and then roll back up again. The first instructor tried but didn’t have enough pull on the rope to let the quickrelease release. After some trying a boat was filed with water and attached to your boat, so more pull was created on the rope. Everyone tried and experienced what it was like to get the quickrelease released. One instructor didn’t release and needed to swim, which showed that even a safe situation on flatwater can turn in a hazardous situation if you don’t stay focused.

After a little evaluation it was time for a short lunch and then onto the next clinics. Some of them were inside, mine was outside as well. We could choose from

  • What to bring as an instructor and why? Safety, First Aid, Spare equipment, clothing etc…
  • Different learning styles in your group. Who needs what information and differentiating so everybody can stay in your group and learn on their own speed/abilities
  • Instructor as Entertainer: Learning is entertainment. How do you deal with people, when do you teach, when do you entertain. Enthousiasm, fear and building confidence
  • Video analytics: What can you do with modern tools in your lessons/learnings. Film everyting? Use an ipad?

So picking this one was even harder, as I found all of them really interesting. Eventually I decided to pick the entertainer option, as most times I am way too serious and not entertaining enough.

Given by Paul van Boerdonk from Zwalker, this was surely an interesting topic. We did some improvisation on the flatwater as the course pumps were off. We did some cases and everybody had to lead a group and improvise on the situation that happened. Some of the topics came back from last year . Especially cool was the difference in style between the different instructors and Paul as he showed how being enthousiastic really drives people to start doing things and wanting to learn things. While focussing on too technical or detailed stuff get’s your students wondering and not in the good mood to learn.

Afterwards a small evaluation was held with all instructors in the main room about what was learned. Cool to see other intructors, learn from their tips and their style, and meeting new people.

Even though I am in the clear for the next 3 years license wise, I will certainly try to be there again next year, as you can learn a lot and meet new people and old friends.

My thanks to all instructors and clinic givers. Special thanks to Gerben for organising it!