Instructor honored for swiftwater rescue initiative

Sam Fowlkes

Sam Fowlkes

Sam Fowlkes, who teaches paddlesports and rescue at Western Carolina University, recently accepted an award considered among the most prestigious in the field of technical swiftwater rescue for an American Canoe Association conference he helped coordinate.

Fowlkes, chair of the ACA’s safety and rescue committee, co-chaired the association’s landmark 2013 Swiftwater Rescue Conference, which was held in October in Western North Carolina. The event featured seminars from the leading water rescue educators in the nation, including people who developed techniques and wrote the first instructional materials in the field. Participants included more than 100 recreational paddlers, certified paddlesport instructors and emergency responders from 22 states and three foreign countries.

From left, Jim Coffey presents a Higgins and Langley award to Sam Fowlkes, an adjunct parks and recreation management instructor at WCU and chair of the American Canoe Association's safety and rescue committee. (Photo by and courtesy Ryan Maxwell)

From left, Jim Coffey presents a Higgins and Langley award to Sam Fowlkes, an adjunct parks and recreation management instructor at WCU and chair of the American Canoe Association’s safety and rescue committee. (Photo by and courtesy Ryan Maxwell)

The Higgins and Langley Memorial and Education Fund, which is the water rescue division of the National Association of Search and Rescue, bestowed one of the international Higgins and Langley Awards for special commendation to ACA for the initiative in June. In accepting the award at an event held in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, Fowlkes said ACA has been promoting safety in paddlesports since 1880 and was one of the pioneering forces in the field.

Fowlkes has served as an adjunct parks and recreation management instructor at WCU for 16 years.