Those who know Slim Ray know that he’s one of the best river rescue pioneers on the planet. While a back injury suffered on Asheville, N.C.’s Green River in the early ‘90s might have kept him from continuing to run the gnar, his poise and professionalism in river rescue is still second to none. All that is available now with the release of the fourth edition of his uber-popular River Rescue, which is bigger and better than ever. PL checks in with the Grand master of river rescue…
Ray’s new version features 292 pages, 106 illustrations, and 144 photographs, including new photos and first-hand accounts of rescues; expanded material on big-water rescue, with new gear and methods; sections on self-rescue and rescue of others—by hand, boat, rope, and other ways; chapters on tools and techniques—including rope work, throw bags, boat handling, and high- and low-tech gear to use when seconds count; and an entire section on rescue organization—including leadership, teamwork, patient care, evacuation, and more. It’s been called the authoritative reference for canoe, kayak, and raft—from beginner self-rescue to big river teamwork.
PL took a few seconds to catch up with Ray the River Rescue Master about his newest tome:
What’s different about this version compared to the original?
Ray We’ve updated parts of it, mainly having to do with new equipment and kayak designs. Overall the pace of rescue innovation has slowed somewhat, although the improvements in kayak design (and the things people have been doing with them) have been dramatic. There has also been a lot of improvement in PFD design and rescue vests are now common.
But the biggest difference is in the photos, which were, to be honest, getting a bit out of date. There’s nothing wrong with having some “period” photos in a rescue book that was first published in the mid-‘80s, but they did need to be updated. I was able to find some genuinely scary rescue photos thanks to the internet, and I think these add a lot to the book. More people are carrying inexpensive digital cameras now and putting up their photos, which was very helpful. We were also able to get some of the photographers, the rescuers, and the rescued to tell us their stories in their own words, and we’ve added several new sections with these.
What do you feel is the current state of paddlesports safety? Is it getting better, etc., and are most paddlers embracing it as much as they should be?
RayBetter than ever before. Paddlers now have much better equipment both for boating and for rescue, and more people carry rescue gear. Rescue PFDs are now common. You still have accidents and always will, but then people are paddling things that seemed impossible only a few years ago, so the bar is now much higher. We’re happy to see that self-reliance has become a paddling credo and that boaters for the most part take care of themselves. The new incidents we’ve highlighted in the book show that pretty well — all those rescues were done by boaters on the spot. There just is not time for fire departments or rescue squads to come and rescue you even assuming they are well equipped and know what they’re doing. I think that overall safety awareness is now higher than it’s ever been, and I’d like to think that River Rescue has helped in some way.
What did you learn from your own accident on the Green?
Ray A couple of things. First the incredible power of the water. It’s one thing to see the charts and another to feel it break your body like a matchstick. Second, the need for trained, experienced people on the scene if you do get hurt. The people who were with me knew exactly what to do and it made a real difference. Third, I suppose, would be the downgrading of difficulty on rivers. When I got hurt in ’91 the Green was considered cutting edge whitewater. Now it’s run routinely and they even have races on it.
River Rescue 4th Ed.
Softcover 6×9 inch perfect bound, inside B&W
Suggested retail $24.95 US