Australian canoeist, Roo Davis, was tandem paddling with his nine-year-old son on a local, manageable class 2 section of river when things took an unexpected, ugly turn. Quite literally.
The avid canoeist explained that his son had recently watched his older sister paddle the same stretch and was determined to step up to the challenge. Davis senior obliged.
“Unlike his more experienced sister I knew his technique was slowly developing, but he was still a beginner. However, I thought I could compensate for his lack of turning power by using solo techniques,” said Davis, as he recounted the story on his Youtube account.
Unfortunately, Davis was in fact unable to compensate for his son’s lack of turning power and at 3:36, we see this harsh reality manifest. Davis attempted a cross-duffek stroke, but it was too late and ineffective under the circumstances; the paddling duo had not quite made it down the far-right channel they were aiming for. Instead, they were turned sideways by the river’s powerful current. The canoe became pinned on a rock island in the center of the river.
In mere seconds, the canoe began to fill up with water, making it totally immovable. Coming to terms with the impending danger – as well as seeing the visible panic on his son’s face – Davis instructed his son to jump out of the boat and into the flow downstream.
His son jumped and Davis quickly followed suit. Less than a second later, the canoe almost fully wrapped in half around the rock before popping out downstream alongside the swimmers. Davis called it “a clean flush” as neither of the paddlers were harmed in the process.
“It was my fault for expecting at that moment my son to have the quickness of skills he had not yet developed,” commented Davis as he reminisced on the close call.
Surprisingly, the duo were able to paddle the damaged canoe for another hour until the take out, with the assistance of some rope reinforcement between the lacing.
On children and risk, Davis commented, “I think there is no excuse for not carefully calculating and understanding the risks before taking children on adventures. I think it’s also a mistake to be paralyzed by fear and not let children be exposed to risk while under supervision.”
Davis concluded that even though things went awry, both paddlers had been fully prepared with the appropriate rescue gear, PPE and emergency communication systems, as well as transportation (with the boy’s mother and sister) ready to meet the paddlers at each access point along that section of river.