Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT)
Levels I, II, & III - 4 Days

Perform effective rescues when river running

Get international certification as a Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT)—the standard for river guides, instructors, and paddlers. Build confidence, knowledge, and skills through hands-on practice and simulations.

You'll gain tools for rescues, starting in easy rapids then challenging yourself in harder water and more complex situations. Become competent performing effective rescues with limited resources—and making smart decisions when river running.

You can also take the course over two 2-day blocks by doing the Whitewater Rescue (WWR) Levels I & II and then, anytime within the three year certification period, taking the WRT-Bridge Level III.

Prerequisites

  • 16 years and up. 16 and 17 year olds need written parental consent
  • Swimming ability is necessary
  • Pre-course prep (see below)

Take away materials

  • Waterproof course manual: Whitewater Rescue Field Guide
  • Locking rescue carabiner & 5m of tubular webbing for your rescue kit
  • Certification card, practical evaluation record sheet, Whitewater Rescue Technician sticker

What to expect

  • Get tons of hands-on practice with professional instructors, a great learning environment, and a well-run course
  • Increase your knowledge of the river environment to avoid hazards and work with the water, not against it
  • Practice techniques such as swimmingwading, and throwing ropes to move around the river, perform self-rescues, and rescue others
  • Learn knots, anchors, and rope systems for use in equipment recovery and transportation
  • Gain the tools to carry out effective rescues with limited resources when river running 
  • Progress from learning skills in easy water to performing more complex rescues in bigger rapids
  • Gain experience and confidence through challenging simulations and drills

Knowledge

  • General concepts of whitewater and swiftwater rescue
  • Personal and group equipment
  • River safety and scene management
  • River signals and communications
  • River features and hydrology
  • Related medical topics: drowning and hypothermia

Basic skills

  • Swimming in moving water: self rescue and whitewater maneuvers
  • Throw ropes
  • Contact rescues
  • Quick release safety harness and ‘live bait’ rescue
  • Rescue of panicked subjects
  • Shallow water crossing techniques
  • Knots, anchors, and basic tensioning systems
  • ‘Strainer' swim

​Advanced skills

  • Transportation systems 
  • Advanced anchors and compound mechanical advantage systems
  • Supervised swim in a hole and hole rescue
  • Advanced swimming, throwing, and 'live-bait' rescues

Rescue problems & scenarios

  • Advanced foot and body entrapment
  • Canoe, kayak, and raft pins and wraps
  • Team rescue drills and extended simulations
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Doing the pre-course prep will help pave the way for a great course. By learning this material beforehand, we can spend more time during your course practicing where it matters: on and around the river. 

Once registered, you’ll be emailed the Preparation Guide with full instructions and resources. You can work on this offline and it will likely take around 4 hours.

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This is a general list of what to bring for a Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) course. Please refer to your ‘student information package’ (emailed to you once you register) for a complete list specific to your course.

Equipment rentals are available. 

For the river:

  • Whitewater helmet
     
  • Whitewater rescue PFD (personal floatation device) with quick-release harness 
    Needs to be in good condition and fit properly.
     
  • River shoes - closed toe
    River shoes with full toe coverage that are supportive but also lightweight and draining with a grippy sole. This could be a model made specifically for the river or a lightweight running shoe. Neoprene shoes can work if they have enough support and traction but neoprene socks or booties are not adequate.
     
  • Wetsuit or drysuit
    One of these is necessary for courses before mid-June or past mid-September in eastern or central North America. You'll always need one on glacier-fed rivers.
     
  • Base layers, insulation, and socks
    Make sure to have several layers of socks, pants, and tops made of wool, fleece, polyester, or another synthetic material to wear in addition to your wetsuit or drysuit (or to be worn on their own on sunny days and in warm water).
     
  • Surf shorts
     
  • Rash guard
     
  • Snacks, lunch, and water bottle or thermos
    Keeping yourself fuelled with calories is one of the keys to staying warm and happy. We usually don't stop for a long lunch break but instead, take several shorter eating breaks throughout the day so it is good to bring lots of food and things that don't require much preparation on the side of the river. Also make sure to have some high calorie snacks that you can keep in your PFD pocket.
     
  • Sunscreen, lip protection, bug repellent
     
  • Neoprene gloves (optional)
     
  • Neoprene head warmer (optional)
     
  • Camera (optional)
     
  • Sunglasses or prescription glasses with strap (optional)
     

For on land:

  • Comfortable clothing
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Tuque (warm hat), gloves, or mitts for early and late season courses
  • Sun hat, visor, or baseball cap
  • Raingear
  • Gear bag or container to store your equipment for transport
  • Day pack or drybag to store your belongings during class
  • Pens and notepad

Consider the following items but refer to the ‘student information package’ for your course to see the accommodation options available and a more specific list:

  • Meals and cooking equipment
  • Camping equipment or bedding
  • Towel
  • Personal hygiene products and medications
  • Indoor clothing and shoes
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If you have a group of 4 or more for one course, get 10% off the tuition. Each person can register individually. When the first student books, please let us know about the group along with everybody's name and we will apply the discount.
 

If you have a group of 6 or more for one course, get 15% off the tuition if you pay all together with one e-mail transfer or cheque. Contact us anytime to register your group.

Professional river guides and camp staff: see pro deals here.

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Get professional instruction and certification at your location or bring your group to us. Our instructors customize the instruction to meet your goals and needs. 

Visit the Group Training page to find out more.

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Q. What is the daily schedule like on a Boreal River Rescue course?

A. After registering, you'll receive a 'student information package' with specific meeting times for your course. Typically class starts at 8:30am and goes to 6:30pm. There may also be an evening session scheduled by your instructor on the first day.

Q. Are there any prerequisites?

A. Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) course prerequisites are:

  • You must be 16 years of age to participate. 16 and 17 year olds need written parental consent. 
  • You need to be able to swim effectively to acheive the certification
  • You need to complete the pre-course prep (around 3 or 4 hours)

Q. Is attendance mandatory?

A. Attendance for 100% of class time is mandatory. If you cannot make a session you must get permission from the instructor in advance. Students who miss a section of the course without pre-approval may be asked to leave the course for the sake and safety of the other students.

Q. How are students assessed and evaluated for certification?

A. Evaluation criteria:

One of the most valuable aspects of Boreal River Rescue - Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) Level III certification is that it includes a practical evaluation. This proves that an individual holding the certification has demonstrated competency with their river rescue skills and not simply attended a workshop.

The assessment takes place on the river in a supportive, fun, and professional environment with the goals of evaluation, review, and continued learning. Students will get multiple chances to demonstrate competency with their skills. To achieve the WRT Level III certification students need to:

  • Attend all sessions and participate throughout the course
  • Demonstrate an understanding of river safety and river rescue skills
  • Pass the practical evaluation on the last day.

Q. How long is certification valid for?

A. Your certification is valid for three years from the date of issue.

Q. How do I get recertified as a Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT)?

A. You can recertify your Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) Level III certification by taking the 2-day Recertification (WRT-Recert) course within three years of your last certification. You must complete a pre-course prep assignment by the start of the course. Please bring your current certification card with you to your course. You can also re-take the 4-day course if you would like even more practice.

Q. I have current certification but I'm not sure if the 2-day Recert/Bridge option is right for me or if I should take the 4-day WRT course?

A. To successfully recertify or upgrade to your technician-level certification in two-days, it is important that you arrive for your course ready to use your skills and knowledge from your previous training courses and experiences. 

The 2-day option is great if you have been practicing most of your skills regularly and spending time in and around rivers during the three years since your last course. We recommend taking the complete 4-day WRT course if you would like more supervised practice time, if you haven’t spent very much time around rivers since your last course, or if you aren’t able to perform the skills outlined in the pre-course prep assignment.

Q. Can I take the WRT-Bridge or WRT-Recert course if my current certification is through another provider and not Boreal River Rescue?

A.  Yes.  Please contact our office for approval.

Q. How do I register for a course?

A. Choose a specific date from the list of upcoming courses displayed on each course page. Click “Details/Register” and follow the registration instructions or contact us

Q. What is the cancellation policy?

A. For Boreal River Rescue courses run by our office:

  • For cancellations more than 60 days from course start: full refund minus $35 registration fee.
  • For cancellations less than 60 days but more than 2 weeks from course start: 50% refund.
  • For cancellations less than 2 weeks from course start date: no refund.

For courses run by one of Boreal River Rescue’s training partners:

  • See the cancellation policy included in the 'student information package' for your specific course or contact the ‘course sponsor’ directly.
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All the info you need in your back PFD pocket

Available in EnglishFrench, and Spanish.

The Whitewater Rescue Field Guide is a useful tool that's easy to bring along when you’re on the water. The 100% waterproof and tear-proof manual folds up to fit into your PFD pocket. 

Boreal River Field Guide - English.jpeg

Written by our rescue instructors, it provides useful information, diagrams, and reminders on:

  • knots, anchors, & mechanical advantage systems
  • raft, kayak, & canoe pins and wraps
  • throw bags
  • live bait rescue
  • foot entrapment
  • whitewater swimming & swift water entries
  • shallow water crossing techniques
  • drowning & hypothermia
  • communications
  • emergency call
  • equipment checklist
  • rescue scene management

Order your copy

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Upcoming courses

"The instructor was excellent! He was knowledgeable of all the techniques and truly seemed to enjoy teaching. Thank you for a great course."

- Chase Reid, Whitewater Kayaker from Vancouver, British Columbia

Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) course
Squamish, BC, Canada

"I was expecting to improve and extend my knowledge/skills for throw bagging, live bait etc. My expectations were met and more! Instructors were AMAZING! "

- Caro Jang, whitewater canoe expedition leader from YMCA Camp Pine Crest, Ontario

Whitewater Rescue Technician (WRT) course
Gatineau River, Quebec, Canada