How to Paddle Safely as a Group

Humans by nature are social animals and thus, many people prefer company when they paddle. Then, there is the issue of safety since paddling a kayak does present the paddler with certain inherent risks and thus, padding with a partner or a group is safer than paddling alone. However, padding with a group can be challenging and there are safety issues that must be considered as well.

Thus, regardless of whether you are padding with a single partner or a group, it is important to keep in mind that you are a member of a team and thus, you need to paddle as a team in order to safely reach your destination.

In the following article, we will examine exactly how to do just that.

Know the Goals of the Group

So, the first thing to know when paddling with either a partner or a group is that different people in the group may have expectations for the day’s adventure that are different from yours. For instance, some members of the group may simply want to have a relaxing day on the water while others may feel the need to challenge themselves.

Thus, it is imperative that you discuss the goals for the day with the group to make certain that everyone has the same expectations and is on board (pun intended). But, if they are not, then it might be best to paddle separately rather than as a group or, choose different paddling partners.

Either way, you absolutely must keep in mind that any group, regardless of its size, is only as strong as its weakest paddler and thus, you must plan and paddle trip accordingly.

Know the Skill Level of the Group

Similarly, it is also very important that you be familiar with the skill level of each paddler in your group as well as any limitations that they might have. For instance, do all of the paddlers in your group know how to roll and, if not, then do they know how to participate in an assisted rescue? Also, do any of them have any old injuries such as a shoulder dislocation that might hinder their paddling or rescue ability? If not, then you will need to plan your paddling adventure to accommodate your weakest paddler.

Communication Is Key

Good communication is another key to safely paddling as a group.

Thus, it is important to be aware that different paddlers paddle at different rates as well as the fact that some kayaks are faster than others. Therefore, it is easy for a group of kayakers to become spread out to the point where a human voice will not carry to the next paddler in line.

Consequently, you need to have an alternate form of communication. However, it need not be complicated and thus, while some paddlers use marine VHF radios while others employ walkie talkies instead, whistles actually work just fine. In fact, a single, long, blast on a whistle is generally recognized as a universal signal for gaining someone’s attention while a series of three blasts is recognized to signal an emergency situation.

In addition, a paddler can also use their paddle as means of communicating with fellow kayakers. For instance, by holding your paddle over your head horizontally is a signal to stop while holding your paddle vertically indicates that the following paddler should either approach or pass you. In addition, by holding you paddle aloft vertically and then leaning it to one side or the other indicates to the following paddler to turn right or left. Thus, you kayak paddle is like a set of brake lights and turn signals for your kayak.

Bring a Radio or a Personal Locator Beacon

However, in the event of a true paddling emergency, having a marine VHF radio along can be a lifesaver.

Not only will it enable you to communicate with your fellow paddlers, it will also enable you to speak with the captains of other boats in the area as well as the Coast Guard in order to ask for help. Plus, a marine VHF radio will also enable you to monitor the weather by listening to the NOAA official weather forecast for your location. However, it should be noted that marine VHF radios are only legal for use on saltwater.

Thus, there is another handy little electronic device called a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which is wise to have along if you are padding on freshwater instead. With this device, you simply extend the antenna and then press two buttons simultaneously in order to activate it. Then, it will send a signal to a series of satellites orbiting the Earth which will then relay your emergency signal to the local authorities along with your longitude and latitude.

Final Thoughts

So, when paddling with a partner or a group, it is very important to keep in mind the three golden rules of paddling with a group which are establishing mutual goals, knowing the skill level of your fellow paddlers and, communicating with your fellow paddlers.

By following these three golden rules, you will find that your group paddling adventures will be both far more fun and far less stressful because they will enable you to plan your paddling trips according to the strengths and weaknesses of the members of your group.

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