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How to Throw a Rope Bag In Whitewater to Rescue Paddlers


Rope Throw Bag: NRS Rope Throw Bag

Rope Throw Bag: NRS Rope Throw Bag

Photo © nrsweb.com, used by permission
One of the most important pieces of whitewater rescue equipment to aid swimming kayakers, canoeists, and rafters is a throw bag which is also called a rope bag. A throw bag enables the user to toss the rope to a person who is out of their boat and requires rescue from the river. Throw bags are tossed from a stable postion into swift water and even rapids enabling the swimmer to grab the rope and get pulled to safety. These steps will instruct would be rescuers in the art of using a throw bag in whitewater and swift water rescue scenarios.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: To Practice: 1/2 hour. In Real Life: Just Seconds

Here's How:

  1. Quickly Get to the Throw Bag

    Remove the throw bag from the kayak, canoe, or raft, being sure to untie or unclip it from being secured to anything. If it is strapped to your waist, remove it. The throw bag should be completely removed and unattached from everything and everyone.
  2. Open the Throw Bag

    Open the mouth of the throw bag so that the rope can be freely removed from the bag without restriction. You may need to un-Velcro the cover of the bag and squeeze the plastic retainer on the drawstring.
  3. Grab Hold of the Throw Bag and Rope

    Hold the bag in the hand that you plan to throw the bag with. Remove the end of the rope from the other hand and hold it firmly.
  4. Aim Ahead of the Swimming Kayaker, Canoeist, or Paddler

    If the swimmer is being carried downstream, plan to throw the bag downstream or ahead of the swimmer. If you simply aim for the swimmer chances are the bag will land upstream or behind him or her since they will continue moving while the bag is in the air.
  5. Throw the Throw Bag

    This is the moment of truth. You will throw the bag and not the end of the rope. Be sure to hold onto a significant portion of the rope end securely. A second person can also hold the rope end, providing additional support. Throw the bag with the rope in it using an underhand motion. Don’t worry about throwing the bag downstream of the swimmer as they should be able to swim to it.
  6. Get to the Rescue Rope

    The person in the water should let go of the kayak or canoe if he or she is clinging to it and swim in the whitewater to the rope. Be sure not to try to stand up and don’t get tangled up in the rope.
  7. Securely Hold the Rescue Rope

    The swimmer should have hold of the rope and not the bag. At this point the current will do the work. Both people involved in the whitewater rescue, the rescuer and the person being rescued, should just hold securely onto the rope. If there is another person with the rescuer, that person should also hold onto the end of the rope providing even more support. The water will carry the person downstream causing him or her to swing toward the shore.
  8. Get the Swimmer to Safety

    Once the person gets to shore help him or her to safety. Congratulations! You have just completed your first whitewater rescue using a rope throw bag.


  1. Don't throw the rope bag behind the swimmer as they won't be able to swim upstream to get to it.
  2. Don't throw the bag using an overhand technique. It won't go as far and is less accurate.
  3. The whitewater rescuer needs to throw the bag and not the rope.
  4. The person being rescued from the whitewater needs to grab the rope and not the bag.
  5. If the swimmer holds onto his or her kayak or canoe it will generate a lot of force on the rope. In this case, more than one person should hold the other end of the rope. If there is a tree nearby the rope can be wrapped around the tree for further support.

What You Need

  • Rope Bag / Throw Bag
  • Knife (For Safety)
  • PFD on the Everyone Involved
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