So far we've discussed avoidance techniques, use of your boat as a launching platform, and aggressive swimming pushing over the strainer. The later works reasonably well on small diameter branches, what if the branch is over a foot in diameter?  This is where the Canadian Log Roll technique becomes a viable option. 

  1. Slow down for a soft landing with your feet on the large diameter strainer
  2. Arch your back to enable your body to plane on the water surface
  3. Once stable, shuffle your feet along the log to reach one of the ends
  4. Jump off the log

This takes a bit of practice to master but can be very effective (and a lot of fun). 

Strainers are very common on many of the creeks we like to run, especially after floods take place.  For the most part, scouting and avoidance are our best defense.  When running a new and steep creek, I will short stretches that I have scouted, get out, run downstream for more scouting.  It takes longer but I factor that into the planned time on the river.  We always incorporate a strainer drill and get the students to experience but the right way and the wrong way to swim into strainers.  For many, the thought of charging hard towards a strainer is very counterintuitive.  Read the following short articles to learn more about this important topic.

Site selection is really important for this drill.  You need swift and deeper water to ensure safety and a good teaching experience.  Most use a large diameter (6") PVC pipe with both ends capped (so it will float).  The pipe can be hung off a low bridge, between trees, or between solid rock anchors.  Charlie Walbridge uses two stout canoe paddles and some guide belts to secure his strainer pipe - fast and easy to set-up.  The pipe needs to stay up on the surface of the river to be effective.  Some fire companies use a pressurized fire hose to practice on - this provides even more realism since the cloth covering isn't smooth.  Send students down one at a time and have them try both passive and aggressive techniques.

Once the strainer drill is completed, switch to a foot entrapment drill.  Thanks to Ron Ray for this great tip.  Replace the strainer pipe with some long climbing webbing.  Have the students experience a foot entrapment on the webbing.  They can easily escape by straightening out their feet.  For the more adventurous, have other students work their way upstream to release the student foot entrapment manually.  You can also provide the entrapped student a paddle to lean on.  Many find this exercise quite valuable.

Early detection and avoidance are the best way to deal with strainers. Be very aggressive in steering clear of strainers. If you come across a strainer that can't be safely avoided, ram your boat ashore upstream if possible and get out. If swimming with your boat and it looks like you can't safely steer the boat away from the strainer, push off the boat and swim quickly away from the strainer.

Assuming you can't avoid the strainer, the typical defensive swimming approach - feet downstream with a back stroke will not work. Once your feet go under the strainer, the rest of your body will do the same. The best approach is to face downstream in an american crawl, swim aggressively towards the strainer, launch/push your body over the log and kick hard to get the bottom half over the strainer. Sometimes you can climb a strainer pile if there are a number of decent hand and foot holds. Do whatever you can to prevent any part of your body going under the strainer. In the ACA SWR class, we practice this technique with an artificial PVC pipe strainer. Here is an excellent video demonstration of this drill: Strainer Drill.