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How to Toss a Throw Bag

Effectively using a throw bag to rescue a swimmer is a vital skill for any whitewater boater. Timing of the toss, placement of the rope and safely penduluming the swimmer to shore are all essential for doing it successfully. Rescue instructor Jim Coffey shows the best techniques for using this important tool.

When selecting a position to set up for using a throw bag to rescue swimmers, there are several things to consider. Make sure there’s no shoreside vegetation, debris, strainers, etc that can interfere with the throw or put the rescued swimmer in danger. You want a spot with good footing; remember, when your captured swimmer swings down with the current, there will be quite a force on the rope. You don’t want to be pulled into the water and become another swimmer! Also, take into account where the swimmer will be pivoted into shore. Ideally it will be into calmer water, with no entanglement obstacles.

Timing of the throw is important. It’s best to toss to the swimmer when they are upstream of you. This will give you time to get braced before the swimmer’s weight is on the rope. If your swimmer is a large person, and the current is very swift, you may even want to pass the rope behind your back (never tie yourself into the rope), drop to your butt and brace your feet against rocks.

Toss the bag so that it goes over the swimmer, within reach for them to grab the rope. You want the bag to go past them, so they’re grabbing the rope, not the bag. If they grab the bag, excess rope will spool out and they’ll go farther downstream than necessary.

If your swimmer doesn’t grab the rope, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to coil the rope for a second effort. However, if there may be other swimmers, it’s important that you coil your rope and get ready for another effort. See the other links on this page for how to quickly coil a throw rope, and how to restuff a throw bag.