Swiftwater Rescue Training Course SRT-1

Next SRT Course: April 20-22, 2018


Skykomish River (meets at Big Eddy State Park)


Lead Instructor: Zak Sears


This course teaches rescue techniques with regard to limited resources in a wilderness setting. This three day-24hr. course meets the needs of professional river guides as well as USFS and BLM employees. Recreational river runners or anyone finding themselves working on or near moving water will gain valuable techniques in dealing with water hazards and emergencies. This intensive 24 hour class generally has two to three hours of on-land instruction each morning prior to entering the water. Course focus is on wilderness-based rescues with limited rescue resources, personnel and communication. This course is designed to meet varying student skill levels. Self rescue and hazard avoidance and recognition are key components in this swiftwater course. We teach technical rope systems, and then systematically remove hardware to increase the demand on the student to problem solve with limited gear and resources. Designed for people working on or around rivers or running rivers privately.

click here for syllabus

(source: swiftwater safety institute)

click here for a recommended gear list for this training

Swiftwater Safety Institute Instructors setting a log pin recovery drill for SRT-1 course attendees, Elwha River 2015

Swiftwater Safety Institute Instructors setting a log pin recovery drill for SRT-1 course attendees, Elwha River 2015

Triad River Tours Washington State RCW79A.60.430 Compatible Guide Training

Our training regiment and intense focus on safety and preparation is designed only for people who we intend to hire, and it is what sets us apart from the competition. Everyone needs to know what to do and how to handle the multitudes of emergencies that could potentially happen on any river trip. Talk is cheap, and every commercial outfitter talks a good game when it comes to river safety; but it's a very different matter to be on the river getting ready when temperatures are cold and no one is there to watch you (or post photos to your Instagram). 

Our staff is loaded with extraordinarily talented and qualified professional guides. We utilize unworn, great equipment and a vast selection of preferred techniques that form a collectively stout approach to river safety. Our approach starts with research and preparation; that means that every day we possibly can be, we are on the river. The company pays for many extra guide training trips that are specifically catered to enhancing and expanding the abilities of our younger guides. We have an extensive online database with excellent information on relevant topics such as swiftwater rescue, cold water immersion, risk management and statistical probabilities, detailed and interactive maps, procedural lists and system details, and much more, so that our guides are always well equipped with the right information to get the job done. 

Guiding is often glorified by the uninitiated, but make no mistake, this is a very serious business with potentially serious consequences. Every year dozens of people die while recreational river rafting, and while we can't control every aspect of the river, we can control aspects of ourselves, our approach, our knowledge, and our equipment. That's where the proper training comes in. 

Note: If you're an experienced commercial rafting guide looking for a place where your skill and experience are valued, please contact us directly at (360) 510-1243 or email us at traidraft@gmail.com; feel free to look over the requirements listed below, but be mindful that this page is meant for our first year guide applicants.

Minimum Guide Training Requirements for Triad


1. SRT-1/Swiftwater Rescue Training: Triad River Tours offers a SRT-1 -swiftwater rescue training in partnership with Swiftwater Safety Institute. This 3 day course takes place on the Skykomish and/or Sauk Rivers (depending on river conditions), and provides graduates of the course with a 3 year certification. The non-exclusive course is 24 hours of coursework in total (most hours will count towards your 50 hour guide certification), and is mandatory for all current and hopeful guides of Triad River Tours. This SRT-1 course is specifically designed for river runners and is highly recommended for all river rafting and river guiding professionals. Attendees with varying levels of experience are welcome to attend. All Triad River Tours operations procedures, risk management protocols, and standards of safety are based on what you will learn in the SRT-1 curriculum. Each year we select our guide trainees from the SRT school, and put a great deal of emphasis on swiftwater rescue skills in our guide training program. If you would like to attend our upcoming SRT-1 course, please make your reservation as early as possible to ensure your spot. Details for the content this course can be found here. 

We like to see our potential rookie guides sign up for and pay for their SRT-1 training. This training usually takes place early in the year, during April. College students often will need to take one day (Friday) out of classes in order to attend. This training usually runs $300-350 in total. When we have a chance to see a guide applicant in action, and work with the rest of us in a neutral setting which is demanding in a similar way to our duties as guides, we have a better idea of how and if they will fit in with our program. 


2. WFA/Wilderness First Aid: After an SRT-1 training the next step is to make sure you have the proper First Aid capabilities. Even if you're on the river as a trainee, someone can always go underwater for too long, break an arm, or need to be evacuated. We really like the Wilderness First Aid course provided by Remote Medical International (click here to explore that course). These courses are often taught at Western Washington University, and run about $200. The curriculum is up to date and extremely applicable to what we do. The Wilderness First Responder is a longer course which will give you the skills to deal with life threatening emergencies on multi-day trips, specifically in locations where you will be far away from Emergency Medical Services. The WFR is definitely a great course, but if you don't have time for it, the WFA is a great course and is acceptable for our guides.


3. Washington 50 Hour Guide Certification: It is illegal in Washington to run commercial whitewater rafting trips on any whitewater section of river (click here for details) without completing an approved 50 hour guide training curriculum by a senior guide trainer (the legal minimum for commercial guides in the State of Washington is available by clicking here). We provide our employees who have not yet completed these requirements with access to an internship program which includes the 50 hour certification. We will help you get your certification, but you must put in the time and effort. We believe it is important for our guides to be exposed to a multitude of various river conditions and situations prior to working on commercial trips; thus, we give you plenty of time and opportunity to accomplish this during your first summer. We do not charge for our guide training program but it is lengthy and demanding (a copy of the minimum skills test can be found by clicking here). Guides should expect to invest at least half of their first summer working on their craft, and although we see many of our first year guides making well above the industry average in wages, we really want to see a high level of commitment to your training and attainment of river skill during your first year. 

Guide Certification and Skill Set Expectations for First Year Guides

  • Wilderness First Aid -or- Wilderness First Responder (Remote Medical preferred provider)
  • SRT-1 "Swiftwater Rescue Technician" (Swiftwater Safety Institute preferred provider)
  • 50 Hour Certification on river skill in accordance with Washington State RCW 79A.60.430
  • Flip Drill Standards: 1 flip and recovery in 30 seconds. 3 flips and recovery in under 2 minutes.
  • Z-Drag Standards: simple z-drag in 30 seconds. Complex Z-drag with self equalizing anchor within 2 minutes.
  • Ability and application of R1 (solo paddle) a raft on every section in which you will be potentially guiding.
  • Standard CPR class (Red Cross preferred provider)

Swiftwater Rescue Skills and Expectations

SRT-1 Course on the Elwha River in 2015 with Triad River Tours owner Luke Baugh (on the bank in the yellow helmet), working on boat pin drills

SRT-1 Course on the Elwha River in 2015 with Triad River Tours owner Luke Baugh (on the bank in the yellow helmet), working on boat pin drills

Having a Swiftwater Rescue certification isn't just a matter of liability, and it's not just one more thing to check off your list and add to your resume. The core curriculum of our guide training and that of the SRT-1 by Swiftwater Safety Institute are the building blocks of our company's systems for running safe river trips. This is stuff we believe in. Triad River Tours is a big believer in staying ahead of the game when it comes to swiftwater rescue techniques, equipment, and overall methodology because our guides are what sell our trips. When we put the most qualified guides on the river with the best possible equipment, we know that we stand the best chance of impressing our guests so that they will come back again and again. Despite the reality that swims happen all the time and it is inevitable, generally, people want to stay in the raft and they want themselves and their friends/family to stay safe. With Western Washington ranking among the deadliest of commercial whitewater rafting state based industries, and one of the least regulated, we believe it is critical that our guides and guests are as informed and prepared as possible for every danger on the river. The dynamic nature of the geologically active rivers in Washington make them especially challenging from a risk management viewpoint, and thus, they are exceptionally well suited to teach swiftwater rescue to the public and to our guides. Furthermore, the team dynamic at our company is one of individual reliability and accountability. We are a creative group of outdoor professionals. Our trust and dedication to one another is one which is based on respect, and respect comes from believing in your fellow guides. When we run into a situation on the river, be it an emergency or just a flat tire, we want to know that the person next to us is going to give us quality recommendations and ideas. Working creatively amidst chaos and danger is our job, and to do it most effectively we must do it together. It all starts with each of us knowing our jobs, and trusting in each others abilities.

There is no substitute for first hand experience when it comes to whitewater. First and second year guides are rarely as equipped or as qualified as more seasoned guides who have more river miles and more exposure to different types of rescues. A properly designed, whitewater river guide applicable SRT is one that distills down the most common accidents and problems on commercial rafting trips, and focuses on the best possible methods of resolving those problems. The Swiftwater Safety Institute offers an SRT-1 course specifically designed for whitewater guides, and it is taught by some of the most respected multi-day guides in our industry. This is the foundation of knowledge that we want every rookie/first year guide to have BEFORE we make an investment in them as a potential employee. 

By working with and sponsoring trainings in Washington State with the Swiftwater Safety Institute, we have teamed up with some of the most informed and well practiced swiftwater rescue trainers in the world, with a curriculum specifically tailored towards recreational whitewater boating. The Swiftwater Safety Institute, based out of Jackson, Wyoming, is in our opinion the clear industry leader in cutting edge procedures and risk management detail. We cooperate with them to produce what we think is the most effective swiftwater rescue training in the state. Swiftwater Safety Institute and Triad River Tours share common goals and company creeds, including theory and practical skill sets that each and every guide should have before taking a paid client down the river. We believe in creative adaptations in real world situations based on likely scenarios, with a clear chain of command, and a step by step approach to rescue, recovery, and prevention. Our partnership with SSI exemplifies the values of our company. While we look around and see others looking at what kind of barbeque sauce to use and how much potato salad each person should have, we spend our off season training, practicing, refining, and redefining our approach to safety, so that each year we come into the game prepared for any situation. We believe that every professional river guide should be compensated fairly, above industry standard, and effectively on par with living wage professionals. Sustaining great guides over time is a costly endeavor, but we believe it is worth the time and expense both in relation to business, as well as our ethical relationship to the river and our guests. Proper training is invaluable for incoming guides, and each guide is required to pursue advanced medical training, and swiftwater rescue training. While we do not see rescue scenarios every day, we view it as our duty to be prepared to rescue not only ourselves, but any of our friends that happen to be on the river and need our help. Being prepared for every situation starts with bringing the right equipment, the right personnel, and the ability to synergize the two in order to protect human life from the invariable dangers of whitewater river running. 

Guides who would like to be considered for employment should email a resume and statement of intent to triadraft@gmail.com. We prefer to hire our guides out of our swiftwater rescue training, so enrolling in that training (above) is the best first step towards entering your guiding career. Our foundation of guide training is based in Washington State RCW 79A.60.430, and while we respect the dedication to achieve this industry required minimum, we see it as just that; a minimum. In the view of our management, we need to set the standard in the industry for quality assurance, training, and preparation for career guides. Obviously, our first priority is the safety of the public. We run whitewater rivers in a very unregulated state, which has some of the most dangerous river features possible (cold water, tree falls, changing river corridors) and one of the worst safety records (as a state) in the nation. We take this very seriously, and so should potential river guides. 

While focusing on the well being of the public, we can relax on our pursuit of profit margin and business in general. We believe that focusing on the job at hand will result in superior rafting trips, which in time will procure a successful and positive business model. This is what we teach our guide trainees. Public safety is key, and as river guides we are ambassadors of the river in almost every way. We are the facilitators which often serve as intermediary between human beings and their necessary connection with the natural environment. We work on public lands, under permits from local, state, and national authorities. We are given this power to utilize public resources as a base asset to our business; this understanding, of our relationship to the safety of the public, and our responsibilities thus, are critical for anyone attempting to become a river guide. 

For decades, professional river guides have created a system of accountability, of respect for nature and human life, and a code for how to do your job. 50 years ago the Grand Canyon was the new frontier. More recent whitewater communities and hubs developed in West Virginia, Idaho, California, Colorado, and overseas in Africa, South America, Asian, and beyond. River guiding is a now global tradition, which starts with understanding the foundation of the lineage of river runners. The history of our profession reveals masters of our profession who came before us and did it right, did it safely, and they did it with less than what we have today. We can learn from history, from statistical data, from trial and error, and from field testing of our skills and methodologies.

Guide Training Outline 

(note: all guides are required to pass both written and hands on competency tests)

Government Agencies | Partnerships | Sourced Educational Materials 

United States Forest Service

National Parks Service

Department of Natural Resources

Bureau of Land Management

WA State Legislature

Washington State Parks

Skagit County Parks and Recreation

King County Parks

American Outdoors Association

American Whitewater

Swiftwater Safety Institute

Remote Medical International

Minimum Skills and Knowledge Requirements


Prusik (3 wrap)


Double Fishermans


Girth Hitch

Figure 8 (on a bite)

Directional Figure 8

Reading water


Preventative Rescues

Google Maps

USGS Hydrographs

Time vs. Hurrying





River Right, River Left






Laterals and Diagonals

Keeper Holes and Recirculating Holes

Ferry Angles

Running Rivers

Safety Talk (Styles: NRS, Bearpaw, TRT)

River Study (maps, flow charts, protocols)

Paddle Guiding

Stern Mount & Paddle Assist

Center mount


Hand Signals (OK, First Aid, Eddy Out, Whistle Blasts)

Defensive Swimmer Position

Aggressive Swimming in whitewater and self rescue

Chain of Command (Guides, Trip Leaders, River Managers, Rescue Boss, Incident Commander,)


Wading (single person, A-frame, “triangle” or “pivot”, wedge)

Drowning and Near Drowning





Pins or “wraps”


Head injuries

Pre-existing medical conditions & cardiac arrest

Foot entrapments




Drugs and Alcohol

Improper or Improper use of equipment

Hubris and Arrogance

Boat and Victim Recovery

Throw Bag Skills

Strong Swimmer Rescues

3-1 Z drag

Anchor systems

Vector Pulls

Tension Diagonal

Self Rescue



Personal Equipment





Clothing (wetsuit/drysuit etc.)


Throw bag


First Aid Kit

Cell Phone

Company Equipment


First Aid Kit





Pin Kits

Evacuation Phones

Guest Equipment




Booties (if applicable)

Liability Release Forms

Business and Legal Knowledge

Liability and Insurance


Standard of Care

Duty to Rescue

Employee Handbook




Notes: Company approved references: Swiftwater Safety Institute Manual, Remote Medical International WFA or WFR Manual, River Rescue by Les Bechtel, The Guides Guide Augmented by William McGinnis, Safety Code of American Whitewater (online)

Guide Training Rookie Examination Study Guide

The rookie examination will be two parts. 1 written exam (1 hour) and 1 hands on exam (1/2 day). These exams will be primarily based upon: 


  • All on river training sessions
  • Anything a lead guide has ever told you or thinks you should know
  • Swiftwater Safety Institute Handbook
  • RMI WFA Handbook
  • River Trip Protocols (Evernote)
  • Rookie Checklist
  • Employee Handbook
  • Safety Code of American Whitewater
  • Article: “The Chilling Truth about Cold Water Immersion” 
  • Our company website and anything it has a link to
  • “Sharing the Skagit” (on Evernote)
  • Washington State Legislation RCW 79A


Other Online Guide Training Information

Guide Training Video Opportunities

Position Openings and Employee Policies

Current Positions Open: 

Whitewater Photography and Social Media Internship (apply here)

Entry Level Whitewater Guides (apply here)


River Guides are Outdoor Hospitality Professionals

If you desire a career in the whitewater industry while working in a dynamic and creative team environment and think that our company could be a great fit, we encourage you to apply to work for us. We hire, on average 2-3 new guides per year, and hire and train 2-4 whitewater and photography interns. We conduct a guide training session which is quite different than the brief introductions that are out there. As a result, typically, we hire guides who have previous experience. First year guides can sign on to Triad as interns for their first season and learn as they go. Eventually we work out first year guides into the rotation on our easier sections of river and eventually into the more challenging runs. We work with multi-day expedition companies to find the best guides available, and can offer you a future in the industry that will grow with you as you progress as a professional guide. If you are interested in working for Triad River Tours or its affiliate outfitter, Mountain River Outfitters, please send a resume and statement of purpose to us through the contact us form on this website. We will return your message as soon as those documents have been reviewed. 


Equal Opportunity Policy

Triad River Tours is an equal opportunity employer. We are committed to providing a work environment that is both accepting and in compliance with all applicable laws regarding employment discrimination.  Triad’s policy is not to discriminate by reason of race, color, religion, disability, sex/gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, genetic information, citizenship status, national origin, age, or veteran status.  In addition, we promise to comply with all applicable laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on any other factor.

Triad River Tours will make a reasonable accommodation for all individuals with a disability, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship for our company.  We want the most cohesive workplace possible, and are prepared to make compromises for those with disabilities in order to keep our company as diverse in personnel as we are in innovation.


Hiring Practices and Human Resources Responsibility

Triad River Tours fully accepts its responsibilities to the laws regarding equal opportunity when it comes to our hiring practices.  We insist that all individuals be treated with respect and dignity.   We specifically aim to increase diversity in our workplace through encouraging minorities and protected groups.  We absolutely encourage people of these protected groups to apply with our company.


Work Environment/Harassment

Triad River Tours has a difficult work environment which causes incredible strain and difficulty for many of its employees.  Our jobs require that we work in stressful situations in close proximity to each other.  Conduct that is considered harassment is clearly dictated in Title 7, and can be found at the following URL:  http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/index.cfm.  If you do not have access to a computer or need additional assistance with these laws, or feel that you may have been harassed or otherwise mistreated while working for our company, we will be happy to provide you with a paper copy of the equal opportunity laws which apply to your situation.  We absolutely want you to come forward with any complaints you may have so that we can deal with them appropriately and swiftly.  Triad River Tours takes allegations of harassment very seriously.  Triad River Tours expressly forbids any kind of harassment or discrimination on the job, by its direct employees, contractors, managers, customers, and anyone who we do business with.  We will not allow illegal harassment to take place at our company.  If you at any time feel that you may have been harassed or discriminated against, immediately call (360) 510-1243 to speak with Luke E. Baugh, who is in charge of informal EEO complaints. All employees have access to a sexual harassment complaint form which is available on our online company database.



Statement of purpose regarding employees

Even though we are not a large corporation, we believe that the behavior and professionalism of our guides pervades into the industry; we believe in leading by example.  All guides are required to respect their peers and ensure a safe and positive work environment for all employees.  We are all professionals creating a professional workplace atmosphere, sometimes far away from home.  Triad River Tours is truly dedicated to ensuring a positive workforce, and we feel that one of the ways to do that is to remain committed to a diverse workplace. This is a workplace that relies heavily on teamwork, and interpersonal communication, it is critical that all employees who work for Triad or wish to work for Triad, also respect all people.  

We want the BEST applicant, not just the one who has the money and time to do it, so we focus on internship programs and training sessions that aren't too expensive but yet are very demanding. We do not care wether you're male, female, or neither, or wether you are 6'8 or 5'2. We don't hire based on your sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, or any other surface level differences. We want the right PEOPLE that really care and are passionate about getting people safely exposed to the wilds of our northwest rivers and can function on our team. We want someone with the guts, character, and fortitude to do this job the right way, and stay focused and dedicated to the task to the end. The quality of being in some individuals, coupled with the sheer desire to keep people safe and master the art of river running is critical, and it is rare. We will wait for these people to apply with us. 

We really like our guides to express intention or commitment for more than one year because experience makes you safer and thus more valuable. If you're on the fence about guiding over the long term, or if you think this may be just a passing summer phase, our program isn't going to be a good fit for you. Our operation and our managers are intense and demanding, and while we no doubt have fun and enjoy what we do, this is a professional workplace with high expectations. Let's be realistic, first year guides are statistically the most dangerous out there, that's just the reality of the situation. Guides with 5 or 10 years experience as commercial guides typically saw more flips, pins, and accidents during their first couple years in the industry; that's just how it goes for most of us. The other side of that coin is that if we use the least experienced (cheapest) guides out there, then we essentially are relying on the general public, and more specifically our customers, to be guinea pigs for the experimental program of deciding wether or not someone is actually cut out for the profession. While it's unavoidable, it's something to be very aware of and cautious about. This leads us to demand more, and offer more, to our less experienced guides, particularly our first year guides. They often lack the experience to make the right decisions in difficult circumstances, and we understand that, so we typically surround them with experienced people that can lead the way and show how it's done.

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