We could all practice more and improve our throw bag skills – at the end of the day it could save a life – so why aren’t we getting practicing it more? Read on for five top tips to improve your bagging skills.


Where you throw your bag from can make for a successful rescue or a failed one! There’s a number of factors you need to consider when deciding where to set safety.

  • Distance. Can you throw that far? And if you can will it still be accurate? The closer you can get to your target the more accurate you will be.
  • Will they see it coming? If the swimmer doesn’t see the bag coming, it’s unlikely they will catch, so typically a downstream position is best at a point where they are likely to be on the surface of the water. Again if the swimmer is submerged in a feature it’s unlikely they will catch your line.
  • Stand back! Leaving some distance between you and the water’s edge is really important to keep you safe, you need room to move and if you end up in the river with your mate then a bad situation, just got worse.

Good rope management

Holding the end of your line is a common and bad habit, it leaves you with no backup, no line to pay out if you need to. Basically, we want some spare rope in our non-throwing hand, and there’s a couple of ways to do that. First is to find the end of the rope and pull an arm’s length or two of rope out, the other and my preferred method is to just grab a big hand full of rope. Get in the habit of good rope management, the last thing you want is to be tripping all over your line. We can achieve this by coiling the rope into what is known as bunny ears (coil the rope into loops on either side of your hand).

Coils also work as a backup, if you miss your first throw then you can throw your coils instead, bonus! A little tip, the smaller your bunny ears, the less likely they are to get tangled in the air and not reach your target.

Right throw for the job

There’s more than one way to throw a bag, and we all have our favourite, but not every throw is appropriate for the situation!

  • Underarm. The people’s favourite! This is my preferred throw, you can get reasonable distance and it’s fairly accurate. But what if you’re throwing from behind a rock or other obstruction? Also be careful with overhead branches or obstructions!
  • Overarm. I find this throw to be really accurate, and you can get good distance. I find this throw works best when throwing from above your target. This throw will also work great if there are overhead obstructions! I do find it less accurate than the underarm, so this tends to be my 2nd choice.
  • Sidearm. The big bonus with the sidearm is distance, if you need to empty a 20m bag this is how you’re going to do it. But without practice, the sidearm tends to be really inaccurate as it’s hard to time when to release the bag.

Don’t pick a favourite and stick with it, practice them all, get good at them all, and you’ll be able to bag your buddy every time.

I like to point at my target with my coil hand, this helps me focus on my target and depending on the throw give me an idea of when to let go of the bag.

Be dynamic!

So you’ve thrown your line, and your buddy has grabbed it, what now? It’s all too common for people to hunker down into a static position, shock load the rope and either get pulled over or cause the swimmer to have to let go due to the force, either result sucks, so let’s move instead.

By being dynamic and moving with the swimmer while pulling in the rope you massively reduce the tension on the rope allowing you to stay on your feet and your swimmer to hold on much easier.  If your position decision making is good you should have some space to move downstream, although this is not always possible.

Be vocal

Swimming can be a pretty stressful and disorientating situation, so be loud and give clear and simple instructions to help them to help themselves. Often a simple ‘LINE!’ will snap a swimmer out of survival mode, and get them focusing on you. The simple commands such as ‘Grab the rope’, ‘on your back’, are great for getting them safely to shore.

Throw bagging is a vital skill, which is often not practiced nearly enough. As they say, if you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail, so grab your mates and get practicing in a safe environment to do so!

There are plenty of more helpful tips to sharpen up your throw bagging, but I’ll save those for Throwline top tips 102. Stay safe out there and if you do bag a friend, make sure they drink their bootie beers!