PADDLING: WHAT DOES YOUR GROUP NEED TO KNOW?
Early fall is a beautiful time of year for paddling. The water is warm, the days sunny, and leaf peeping, from your kayak, canoe or SUP (stand up paddle board), is a ton of fun. Before your next trip, take a few minutes to think about what your group needs when getting on, and off, the water
The put-in: Everyone is anxious to get on the water. There’s a lot of information to cover before you start any activity. Below is a review of a few paddling-specific considerations before you launch, including:
Ask everyone, “Can you swim?” As a leader, identifying non-swimmers and/or inexperienced swimmers provides valuable information to help you minimize risk for the individual(s) and group while on the water.
Personal flotation devices (PFDs): Do participants know why we ask them to wear PFDs? Do folks have PFDs appropriate for the activity? Explain the function of a PFD for those new to paddling. Always check to ensure PFDs are zippered, buckled and properly adjusted for fit.
Electronic devices & water = disaster. Electronics are adversely affected by exposure to water, esp. salt water. These devices are expensive to replace & repair. To avoid mishaps, provide multiple reminders about leaving devices behind or securing them in a waterproof container.
An unexpected water event (for example, flipping a canoe): Explain what to do if a person ends up in the water (based on paddling activity & location). This information is especially important for novices paddling sit-in kayaks, who frequently worry about getting “stuck” in the cockpit. A brief overview of what to do in case of a water event goes a long way toward alleviating participant concerns.
It’s been a great day of paddling! As a leader, how do you ensure things don’t go awry at day’s end?
Make an exit plan: Take-out areas can quickly become chaotic, esp. if they are small and there are a lot of folks getting off the water at the same time. Make & share a plan with your group before they reach the take-out point. Don’t forget to have an experienced paddler remain on the water until everyone else is on-land, just in case something happens.
Exiting the area: Access to/from a launch point often entails navigating tricky terrain, including wet rocks, slippery steps and ramps. Dehydration, low energy, and footwear may also be contributing factors to a slip, fall or trip at day’s end. What are some ways to mitigate the possibility of an accident in these situations?
Sprains & strains: Strained back & shoulder muscles are not uncommon when people load their boats (or SUPs) onto/into their vehicles at the end of a day. As a leader, assess the needs of the group, and step in to lend a hand, or identify others to help, and minimize the potential for a late day injury.
See you on the water!
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This article was first published on 10/01/2019 at https://www.outdoors.org/articles/blogs/paddling-what-does-your-group-need-to-know by Kristi Hobson Edmonston