When a bunch of mission-driven folks come together to accomplish something bigger than themselves, you have to celebrate the “win”!
We started out with the premise that there are too many paddler fatalities happening in Tennessee on lakes and class I waterways. We looked at the success TSRA has had over the last four years using certified rescue instructors to teach safety and rescue to entry level boaters, and we realized that with the significant demand for training that is keeping our L4 SWR Instructors busy already, we might need to tap into a new resource to maintain our standard of training and expand offerings to the recreational paddlers. **We need more *L2* and *L3* Rescue Instructors.**
ACA Tennessee State Director Andrea White started off talking with Scott Fisher at NOLI - Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute, an L5 Whitewater and Rescue Instructor who was already on track to pursue a role as a paddling Instructor Trainer (IT). We brought ACA Chairman of the Board Robin Pope into the conversation, who agreed that certifying new instructors at this lower level might succeed in targeting instruction to an audience of entry level boaters that is in need of the training. And TSRA leaders like President Sally Barr, past President Gary Weatherford, past President Woody Woodall and VP Jessie Beckett brought the conversation to the Board level about how the club could best support the effort.
In full disclosure, TVCC President Mike Shillinger was also *very* supportive. Ultimately tornadoes in Chattanooga and Covid fallout precluded TVCC participation...but not for lack of support for the mission!
Covid tried to take us down, but a combination of good timing (class was scheduled to coincide with the state opening events up to 50 people), the fact that L3 skills have less personal contact than L4/L5 skills, and determination to make it work really came through. We replaced classroom time with Zoom sessions, we required buffs and, for some exercises, N95 masks. We used an outdoor facility for on-site classroom learning, and everyone was super diligent about masking up, sanitizing and more.
Alex Stiner Photography donated his time to help us with photos so we could try to get more reach driving awareness about paddler safety training. When Alex didn’t have good river shoes to traverse the whitewater environment with his camera equipment, River Sports Outfitters in Knoxville donated a pair of Astrals to sponsor his efforts and save the day!
And before it was all over both USA Raft and Nolichucky Gorge Campground and Cabins stepped up to help us out, too. It’s good to have a river family that believes in working together to make a difference!
We put out a joint press release about our efforts.
Reporter Kelly Grosfield and photojournalist Andy Jackson of WJHL News Channel 11 geared up to cover the class for the local TV news.
Jonathan Roberts from the Johnson City Press came by to share the story.
We even got a segment mention on talk radio in Chattanooga on Tony Sanders Outdoors - TSO Saturday morning.
In the end, we have six new certified Rescue Instructors in Tennessee, who have joined the mission to help change the paddler fatality rate in our region.
Debbie Briscoe, Bluff City, TN
Renee Garside, Franklin, TN
Jim Heisinger, Clarksville, TN
Jesse Hollaway, Murfreesboro, TN
Christopher Lowe, Carthage, TN
Ellen Omohundro, Gladeville, TN
Of note, Scott Fisher also certified as a Rescue IT.
Congratulations are in order!! What they did was hard (!) and what they are about to do is important. Let’s all cheer them on!
Alex has put together a photo gallery of some of the best moments.
If you know of Instructor Candidates who would be interested in pursuing an L2 or L3 certification as a Rescue Instructor, please reach out to either Andrea White or Scott Fisher.