What I learned the hard way about paddling

Or beginning whitewater paddling…
As far as safety, I don’t need to tell any of you that strainers and cold water are your big enemy, not rocks, flipping or swimming.

  1. Part of pulling off a combat roll is being comfortable under water….and a big part of being comfortable underwater is not freaking out when you’re not getting air. So practice it and see how long you can last.
  2. As for not freaking out when your helmet is bouncing off rocks, well, that takes a certain amount of just getting used to it and believing that the safest place to be is tucked forward.
  3. That being said, Combat rolls are incredibly cool.
  4. Got to keep fed and hydrated because my own judgment is off when I’m not. Note to self…most whitewater paddlers don’t stop and rest and eat as much as I like to so and I need to remember this and bring snacks.
  5. Make sure even the good guys have cleared the hard spot /drop before you go in. If there’s only one line you want it clear. Ask Andy Frey.
  6. Tie stuff down…this means to your boat if you’re in your boat and tying your boat down when you’re not in your boat.
  7. Bracing (and rolling) on the back deck with my head in the water. Thanks Eric Jackson.


Things I didn’t learn the hard way only because Jeff Bowan gave such a great presentation at my first hrckc meeting. Cold water is really dangerous…actually, come to think of it, I did nearly learn that the hard way, but not when I was boating. Diving into Lake Superior on a hot September day when the lake looked like everyone’s vision of the Caribbean  but was probably in the low 40s.
And some things I’ve yet to learn…paddling alone may be dangerous, just as hiking along and mountain biking and swimming alone are. But I like them.
So you may see me on the mighty Hackensack or Delaware alone and holding a beverage…but you won’t see me on something that challenges me alone.
Did I mention how much fun whitewater is?