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Bellyak: A New Life-Saving Swift Water Rescue Tool

Summer is here and that means people are taking to the water for fun and to cool off. Watersports are very popular and along with the fun comes an element of danger. One company, Bellyak, is doing their part to contribute to safety on the waterways this summer by offering a swift water rescue training program that features their innovative lay-on-top kayak.

Swiftwater rescue (also called whitewater rescue) is a subset of technical rescue dealing in whitewater river conditions. Swiftwater rescue is an essential skill for anyone working on moving water. The primary purpose for swiftwater rescue is to save yourself and to be able to make effective decisions in the rescue of another.

Scott Fraser, CEO of Highland River Adventures INC., a school specializing in adaptive paddling, uses a Bellyak in all of his swift water rescue training.

How does Scott Fraser know the Bellyak works so well for water rescues? Just 6 months ago, Fraser used a Bellyak to rescue a woman and her son from a river after their car lost control and crashed during a winter storm in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Now, he’s bringing Bellyak and water rescue training to emergency responders.

A New Tool for Saving Lives in Swift Water Rescues

Fraser discovered that the Bellyak was especially suited for swift water rescue when he experimented with the boat’s buoyancy in a local dam.

“One day I tossed a Bellyak into a dam to see what would happen. It popped right up on the water,” said Fraser. “Then, I experimented with using it as a reaching tool and a tie-down rescue tool. I knew then it would be a great tool for swift water rescue and ice rescue.”

The difference between a Bellyak and a traditional rescue board is in the design.

“The contour of the bellyak allows rescuers to keep a victim stable in the water and the buoyancy allows you to use this as a cpr platform or emergency triage platform because the shore may not be available when care needs to be given,” said Fraser.

Training Emergency Responders in Swift Water Rescue

Scott Fraser saw firsthand how a Bellyak can save lives in swift water rescue and he decided to share that knowledge by training emergency responders on how to use this new tool.

Fire fighters are often called to respond to water emergencies so this additional training can help save lives.

First, Fraser and his team took the Bellyak and worked with fire departments to train them on rescue techniques and safety protocols. The Bellyak then became a piece of equipment that fire departments added to their rescue toolbox.

“The Bellyak is a fast response tool. Emergency responders can float or swim out to the person and effectively rescue them,” said Fraser.

So far, four organizations use the Bellyak as part of their swift water rescue efforts, including the Eaton Rapids Fire Department and the Delta Township Fire Department.

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About Scott Fraser

Scott Fraser, CEO of Highland River Adventures INC. a school specializing in adaptive paddling. He is also a certified American Canoe Association instructor in the state of Michigan and the chapter coordinator of Team River Runner; a water sports program for veterans with disabilities.


About Bellyak

Bellyak is located in Asheville, NC and owned by Adam and Anna Masters. Countless hours of research and testing have gone into the Bellyak’s designs to ensure ultimate comfort and safety on the water. The patented designs are tested and refined by enthusiasts worldwide.