Throw Lines!

In my previous life, before seeing the light of SUP, I used to canoe a little bit.  OK, I used to canoe and kayak an awful lot, and one of the many bits of gear you come across in the canoe and kayak world (especially if you paddle moving water) is the throw line or throw bag.

So what is a Throw Line?

Simply put, a throw line is bag with some rope in it that you can throw to a person in the water and then pull them to the bank. Simples!

There’s a little more to it than that, but not much.

The bag

The line is contained in a bag for a few reasons:

It keeps the rope contained – the last thing you need on the water is several meters of rope tangling up your board.

It allows you to throw the rope – throwing the rope and the bag is a lot easier than throwing just a rope.

It allows an easier re-throw – the bag is designed to be filled with water to help throw without repacking the bag.

The Rope

The rope in a throw line is called float rope.  It’s rope that floats.  It’s usually a man made fibre such as polypropylene.

Different bags use different sized rope, usually around 6-8mm.  The thicker the rope, the stronger the rope and the easier to grip.  The strength shouldn’t be an issue in SUP, as its only really a concern when rescuing pinned canoes in moving water, and they can weight a huge amount when full!. Whilst the thicker rope is easier on the hands, it also makes for a larger bag, so there’s always a compromise to be made.

Safety First

As with a lot of safety equipment, there’s no substitute for experience and proper training. I’d strongly recommend going on a Swift Water Rescue Course to learn more.  It a fun, if slightly scary way to practice a lot of different rescue techniques.

River Knife

If your going use a throw line, always carry a suitable knife.  Ropes and water can be a dangerous combination, and moving water is worse.  Knifes can be either fixed or folding, with or without points. Whatever you choose, it’s worth making sure it’s useable with one hand.

Clean Line Principle

Apart from the bag, the line you’re using shouldn’t contain any knots or loops.  The idea is that there is nothing to snag on the river and cause a hazard. Some lines, and we’re talking a few years ago now, had a handle at both ends.  This is now considered very bad practice as it can easily snag on rocks or branches.

Any loops on the bag should also be small enough not to get a hand through to cause an entrapment.  Usually, loops are only big enough to fit a carabiner through.

Throwing the line

So then, you’re stood by the river, wearing your BA (remember, the riverbank is the most dangerous part of the river!) and you see a fellow paddler floating in the river.  What do you do?


First things first – get their attention. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to use your throw line. If you can, get them to swim close to the shore and possibly use you paddle if needed to assist.

Throwing the Line

if they can’t make it to the bank, it’s time to unleash the throw line.  There’s several different ways to throw the line, but in all cases you need to asses your surroundings.

Are you on stable footings? Are there any hazards the casualty will hit?  Are there any obstacles you could hit with the line?

Underarm or Overarm?  Throwing underarm is the usual, recommended way of throwing.  It’s quite slow, but more accurate.  If there are any trees, overhead branches or other things in the way, you may not be able to throw underarm, in which case an overarm throw is needed.  This can either be like bowling a ball or throwing a grenade, or like throwing an American Football.

In all cases, you undo the top of the bag and pull out the loose end.  If the water is fast flowing, it may be worth passing this piece of rope around you back to give you more grip and stopping power.  Once you’ve got the loose end out, DONT LET GO OF IT!!!

Holding the neck of the bag, you are looking to throw the bag over the casualty so they can easily grab hold of it.

Once they’ve grabbed hold, you need to brace as the rope will go taut, and they will swing in towards the bank, or you can pull them towards either be pulling the rope, hand over hand, or by walking up the riverbank.

If you need to rethrow the line, quickly pull it in and fill the bag with water, then just throw the bag – the line should follow it quite easily.


Once your rescue is over, you need to repack your line.  There is no special technique needed, but it’s usually easiest to put the line over your shoulder and stuff the line a handful  at a time into the bag.

Swimming on a line

Being the casualty is something that is very often not practiced, but can make a huge difference to a rescue.

If you are on the receiving end of a line, try not to wrap it around your wrist or hand (or anywhere else) – you may need to let go in a hurry.  Ideally, you need to be swinging on your back and grasp hold of the bag on your chest.  Try and get the rope under your shoulder so the rope lifts you slightly when it goes taut.  At no point should you try and clip yourself onto the rope.

Once you’re at the bank, you shouldn’t let go until your safely back onto dry land and safe.



N1SCO Not-So-Inland Championships

The 2017 N1SCO Inland Championships took place on the sea at Swanage (again!), so here it is…

the N1SCO not-so-Inland Championships.

Swanage 2.0 – SUP Harder…

for a number of reason (mainly related to waves and the hopeful lack of them), I was really looking forward to the N1SCO Inland Championships being held at Bray Lake near Maidenhead.  The location was the nearest to us lot in the barren northern wasteland that lies beyond the Watford Gap. The plan was to head down on Friday evening, set up camp, grab a bite to eat and enjoy a swift half, purely to replenish essential electrolytes, minerals and hops, before enjoying a health smoke cured porcine related breakfast and a day of relaxing paddleboard racing.

On Wednesday, I received an unexpected call from Captain Saltwalk himself with the news that there was an issue with Bray Lake (something about an ill tempered mutated sea bass) and they were looking to move the event, possibly to Swanage as we’d been there before and it would mean less paperwork for Alex and the Naish crew.  If it moved, would I still be going?  After a bit of thinking time, the answer was ‘yes’.  OK, it’d be 4 1/2 hours driving each way, plus more expense for camping, but, count me in 🙂

Thursday saw a few frantic calls and messages to arrange overnight accommodation, but Herston Camping where we camped for the European Championships had spaces and we’d be welcome again.

A few of Saltwalk Team couldn’t make it down due to the much longer drive, and after various juggling of drivers and passengers, 6pm on Friday saw fellow Saltwalk Teammate Sara and myself leaving Aldi stocked up with bacon, bread rolls and cider and heading south past Birmingham and Oxford, under the M4 within shouting distance of Bray, skirting past Southhampton and  through the New Forest to Bournemouth, Wareham and eventually into the lovely seaside town of Swanage.

The journey was largely uneventful, even if it was two and a half hours beyond Bray – just don’t mention the dogging site or the Birdie Song!

Upon arrival at Herston, we soon found the rest of the Saltwalk bunch lurking out of the way towards the bottom of the camping field.  Fortunately pop up tents really do take two minutes to put up and peg down, and we were soon enjoying a couple of drinks, philosophical conversation  and Neil’s fairy lights.  At no point in the evening did it get silly, and at no point did we take the Micky out of certain web-toed paddling shoes worn by some members of the group…

Pre race fuelling session

Saturday morning saw a quick pack up of the camping gear and we headed down to the seafront.  I’d actually had a reasonable nights sleep despite the noise of the surf crashing onto the beach two miles away…

We managed to claim some free on road parking and wandered down to the Saltwalk van which was being used for the race registration.

Another day at the office

Yet again, Swanage was utterly glorious. Golden sandy beach, clear water, blue skies and wave after wave of rolling surf (2 inches is a huge amount of swell, isn’t it?).  After registration it was time for breakfast, and we cranked up the stove and cooked a pile of bacon rolls on the seafront whilst we sorted out the boards.

Hmmmmmm. Bacon

It was soon time for the race briefings to start.  The first race was to be around 5KM.  Starting at the pier, up the beach to the harbour wall, around a couple of buoys and then down the beach and round the tiny speck of yellow that was the bottom turn, before retracing our paddle strokes up to the harbour wall again and finishing on the beach.


The race itself was much better than my first experience on the sea at Swanage. With the wave height being smaller (chest high if I remember correctly, although the photos all appear to show a few inches high), and much less wind it was much better going.  I even managed to pass a few people!

The next races were the sprints.  Yet again, the less windy and wavey conditions were much nicer than the last race and I had a proper battle to the finish line against a couple of my fellow racers where some tactics actually paid off! A couple of pivot turns were also attempted and as I didn’t end up wet were executed successfully 🙂 Just don’t ask how far back I stepped, or how far out the nose came!

Not coming last

Following the sprints, we didn’t bunk off for some refreshments, and any reports of us doing so are fake news.

It’s hard work racing

The last race of the day was the technical. After some confusion at the briefing, this was to be a proper super lap course.  A beach start followed by three laps, one of which could be shortened (the super lap) at the paddlers discretion, and a run up the beach to the flag to finish.

Startline for men’s wildcard sprint race. This wasn’t taken on the way to the pub…

As with the other races, it was much easier for me than the last Swanage outing. Less wind and swell were ace. The only potential fly in the ointment was being rammed roughly from behind and having a major dunking approaching one of the buoys! Fellow Saltwalk member Neil was apparently very sympathetic and only laughed for a couple of minutes…

Technical race startline

I did make up a few places and had a fight to gain another place on the run up to the last turn before the beach.

With my race over, it was time to watch and cheer the rest of the fleet home.

Casper helping one of the junior races homeStartline for men’s wildcard sprint race

For the race, Alex had arrange for Naish team paddle, several times World and European SUP Champion Casper Steinfath to pop over from Denmark

to give a few paddling clinics.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the clinics due to having to get home, but I did end up with a signed race bib 🙂

Casper with the cast and crew of the N1SCO not-so-Inland Championships

The prize giving was on the beach (Helen managed a bronze medal and Team Saltwalk received the club award by turning up mob handed at each race), followed by fish and chips and ice cream as the sun went down.  A fantastic way to end a fantastic race.

Chippy chips on the beach

Yet again, huge thanks must go to Alex and everyone else who helped to organise the race series. Given the challenges in moving a venue a hundred miles down the road with a couple of days notice, it all went superbly.

So what’s next?

Well, there’s a few more UKSUP races this year, but roll on 2018!

Having looked at my results over the three N1SCO events, I recon I may stand a chance of being on the podium by the year 2039, assuming no one else improves, and possibly a zombie apocalypse 🙂

See you on the water 😎

Photo credits:  photos on the blog are either my own or shamelessly taken from the UK N1SCO Facebook pages where they belong to Casper Steinfath, Andy Stallman or Ian Gray Promotional Filming and Photography.