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Steve's Safety Corner

Published on 1/6/2015
Steve’s Safety Corner

Welcome to the 2015 Paddling season! The continued mild temperatures and ample precipitation in the Pacific Northwest mean plenty of paddling opportunities to start the New Year. On a more solemn note, the two recent paddling fatalities, an expert paddler with a strong team on Robe Canyon and a solo sea kayaker paddling in calm condition near Bainbridge Island, give ample reason to pause and consider the risks associated with paddling.

As dedicated paddlers we know that there are risks associated with our sport. While not at the forefront of our thoughts at the time, the decisions we make can have serious consequences for both us and our love ones. The risks associated with paddling can never be eliminated but the good news is that we can take a number of positive steps to reduce or minimize these risks. While not a complete list the following is worth considering for your upcoming paddling adventures.

Make sure you have the right gear and equipment for your paddle adventure. Consider adding waterproof LED light, waterproof matches, lighter and candle, and a compact shelter (Space Blanket) to your kit.

Paddle with a strong group. Not too big and not too small but just the right size. The size of a strong group will change depending on the paddling objective. Paddling solo greatly increases the risk if something goes wrong. Look for a group that encourages an open decision making process, is supportive of all paddler’s decisions to walk a drop or not paddle and looks out for every member of the group.

Scout and set safety for drops where everyone is not familiar with the line. Encourage and respect individuals that paddle rivers within their skill level. It is much better to own a class III drops that to miss your line, flip or swim in a Class IV drop.

Acquire and practice a bomb proof roll for both your on-side and off-side. Visit a warm pool for roll practice this winter. It is almost always safer to be in you kayak upright and paddling instead of swimming.

Consider how your actions on the river could affect the paddling group. You may not be the trip leader but you can still contribute to a positive and safe paddle experience for the group. Be observant and aware of the group and the environment.

Make a commitment to improve your paddling skills this year. Consider taking a swift water training course, an incident management course or leadership training this coming year.
Enjoy the paddle!

Paddle Smart, Paddle Safe, Have fun!

Half of the WKC Safety Chair
Steven Exe

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