Report from the first ever IRF GTE Conference

GTE Conf 6The first ever IRF Guide Training & Education (GTE) Conference for Instructors and Assessors was held from the 19 – 21 April, in the AOS Hostel, in Wildalpen, Austria. The conference participants had the honour of being his first guests. It’s a beautiful place, with very friendly staff and a special, good energy that flows through this hostel making it pleasant for all and a great atmosphere to discuss the many topics related to the regulation of the IRF GTE program.

The Conference was attended by 18 participants from 14 countries. Participants of the conference were: Joe Willis Jones (Chile/USA) – GTE Conf 5President of IRF; Peter Micheler (Germany) – 1st Vice President; Pieter Bekkers (Netherlands) – BOD Head of Sport and Competition committee; Gaspar Goncz (Hungary) – BOD Head of Guide Training and Education; Neil Newton Taylor (UK) – Swiftwater Rescue; Sebastian Larcher (Austria) – Swiftwater Rescue; Andrew Kellett (South-Africa) – African Paddling Association, Safety & Training Officer; Jim Davis ( Australia) – GTE Committee, Head of Recreational Operators Certificate (ROC); Geraint Rowlands (Wales) – Rescue 3; Aljosa Horvat (Slovenia) – Safety Director of ERC R4; Vedat Vural (Turkey) – GTE Instructor; Bela Bacsa (Hungary) – Hungarian Wildwater Racing Committee member; Eneko Yarza GTE Conf 1(Spain) – GT&E Instructor; Lukas Strobl (Austria) – GTE Instructor; Ochaya Bernard (Austria); Hugo Lambertucci (Argentina) – GT&E Instructor; Arnd Schaeftlein (Germany); Marcel Pachler (Austria) – President of the Tyrolean Rafting Association.

It is rare to see the cream of the IRF in one place, only a WRC can compare. The importance of this meeting could be seen in the topics that were presented. Also, the beauty of such a diverse group at the conference, coming from all continents except Antarctica, bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge from all meridians and working experience from the biggest rivers of our planet.

Topics Day 1:

  • IRF Rafting Operators Best Practice Certificate, Assessor’s perspective –  Jim Davis
  • New Certification Workshop format – Jim Davis
  • River Communications – Neil Newton Taylor (practical break – see video)
  • GTE Conf 1aRegional Assessors supervising IRF GTE (role of IRF Regional Assessor, applications to become IRF Assessor) – Gaspar Goncz
  • Disciplinary Procedures ( ethical supervision, blames against Guides, blames against Instructors) – Gaspar Goncz

These excellent topics went under discussion and were honed through great debates and good arguments. How these discussions will affect the final decision as to what conditions a certification for a Guide Class 3, 4, 5 or for Instructors, will be obtained; or whether the River Signals will change, remains to be seen. The discussions will be finalised and actioned by the GTE Exec Com. Finally an opportunity came for a rest and what better way to do that than by paddling on the River Enns – Kummerbrucke section or Gesäuse Eingang.

IRF’s photo album

AOS Hostel’s photo album

After the divine Enns River the first day was completed with a gathering at the AOS Hostel and a presentation of Schnaps/Palinka by Bela Bacsa.

Topics Day 2:

  • IRF GTE implementation by National Authorities – Vedet Vural
  • African Perspective and Safety before Rescue – Andrew Kellett
  • Refreshing brainstorming – Neil Newton Taylor
  • Updating the Award Program – Gaspar Goncz
    • introducing challenges
    • 3 years Renewal
    • First Aid (Arnd Schaeftlein)
    • SUP
    • Hydropeed/riverboard
    • New structure idea and new training standards (Joe Willis Jones)
  • Implementing IRF Event Safety certificates – Gaspar & Joe)
  • How hard can you pull – Neil Newton Taylor
  • Introduction of new online administration system – Joe W. Jones

Again, very interesting and important topics for this second day. New system presented by Joe that day is visually and practically well done. Certainly something that will greatly improve this part of the GTE program. Implementation by National Authorities as well as Safety before Rescue were very interesting. But to refresh after such intensive brainstorming was only possible by going to the river, of course! This was done via SUPing, kayaking, rafting … down the spectacular canyon of the Salza River.

Photo album Day 2 & 3

Day3: With theoretical work and indoor discussions done, they started to practice. The third day was on the river Salza, Wildalpen section, and the theme was: Demo Assessments (Guide, Trip Leader, Safety Craft – Kayak, Oars), Assessment Discussions. It was an active, sunny day with plenty of practical examples of knowledge and discussions through the exam for the license of Trip Leader, Safety Craft – kayak. It was interesting to observe the conference participants in the simulation problems on the river during the examinations for licenses. Stuck on a rock, broken legs, hysterical tourists, hypothermia… taking the exam in front of such a committee is not an easy task at all! I think in the history of obtaining this license, no one has ever had such a test! Interesting simulations of various problems on the river was fun for me, the viewer, but a small nightmare for the guy. He got his license and the participants of the congress got excellent material for further discussion.

The third day was the last and the many topics that were discussed now needed to be merged. Various people were tasked to summarise the discussions and put down the next steps which will then be actioned by those duly appointed to do so.

As the need to modernise certain things, to refine, change the old and apply new solutions, to be productive, to guide the spreading IRF GTE program is so great, the conference was a big hit on all these needs. The development of techniques and technologies needs to be monitored, and the conference is the best solution for quick decision-making. For this reason this is only the first in a series of such gatherings.

All in all, congratulations to the organisers, you will soon see the practical results of this conference, we had a great time and thank you to everyone who helped me to do my job. I was more than lucky to be a part of this whole story even as a reporter, it was a real pleasure to meet you all, greetings until the next meeting.

GTE Conf poster