Here’s a video that Jessie McCarthy posted on Professor Paddle a while ago. It’s a good example of how you can run something no problem one time and then the next time be a little bit off and turn into a cautionary tale. Watch the rescue and see how many things go wrong.
Update 2016: I know it’s easy to Monday morning quarterback, but for the benefit of newer kayakers I’ll just point out now that on a drop like this there should have been safety ready to go the minute someone started swimming in that hydraulic, which is deceptively sticky. (Sometimes less surgey hydraulics are like this, they don’t look as intimidating as huge thrashing holes but they can quietly flypaper you to the pourover and you’re less likely to get kicked out by natural water movement.) Basically, it’s the kind of drop that doesn’t look that hard but if something goes wrong it’s probably going to turn really bad very fast.
The guy hanging off the line didn’t look prepared to throw the bag accurately and once the bag was gone there wasn’t much more he could do. The kayaker standing on the rock behind him was more prepared and had solid footing – they could easily have had someone there ready to throw a bag from the first moment. The second guy to come plummeting off the ledge should have been told by the people below there was a swimmer and not to run the drop. And nosing your boat into a hydraulic like that to help the swimmer was brave but really likely to add another swimmer to the scenario, which is what happened. And finally, a lot of people would probably say that the drop was not tall enough to need to throw a paddle on, which is what people do so they don’t break their paddle when they land.
Here’s an example of a beautiful throwbag rescue by professional kayaker Dave Fusilli after his friend swam above a 60 foot drop. It wasn’t a place they were setting safety on and it’s not a comparable situation to the first video at all, but it is a great example of someone being super competent in a rescue situation and completely nailing the bag throw.
PS. I’m not responsible for the music.