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Old 07-16-2005   #1
ski_kayak365's Avatar
Mountains on the river!!!, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 702
Swimming: Hold paddle/boat or not???

Question for teaching. I teach basic rolling and class I-II river classes. And up in class for friends. When teaching, I always tell them to hold onto their paddle if they swim. and boat if possible. With all the recent posts about loosing paddles/breaking paddles, and watching ppl let go of them when swimming, what is the general Idea? Should ppl try to hang onto their paddle when they swim, or should they just try to get out? Things change when your in a hole getting trashed, but even then, I try to hold onto my paddle, except Pine Creek or Tunnel. What do you all think, or what were you taught? Any input from instructors would be great aswell.


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Old 07-16-2005   #2
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 305
I try to do both if I can't I try to hold my paddle, It's easyer to chase a boat than find a paddle.

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Old 07-16-2005   #3
prozoned's Avatar
the fort, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 140
whenever i wet exit i try to hold on to both, but my first priority is my paddle because a boats easier to find
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Old 07-16-2005   #4
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 86
hold on

Hold on to your boat and paddle unless you are headed into a dangerous situation and need to swim hard, climb over a log, etc. Keep the boat and paddle in the same hand so that you can stroke with other hand or grab the stern loop of a rescuer. Keep the boat downstream of you so that it doesn't pin you against a rock. If you get close to shore, shove it hard and swim after it.

Some of the most dangerous situations I've seen have been people chasing boats down rivers which are maybe just at the end of their ability or experience levels where they would normally even scout and getting into bad positions because they are focused on getting that boat and not the section of river they were paddling.

Take responsibility for yourself and don't put others into danger going after your stuff when you could easily have held on to it.

Also, I know of a guy in Ecuador who had to spend 4 nights in the jungle after losing his boat on the Chingual (I think it was that river).

Plus, boats, paddles and everything in that boat is expensive to lose!
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Old 07-16-2005   #5
Boulder, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 122
self rescuing is key.... I do my best to hold onto both my paddle and boat when I swim, I can't afford to buy new gear!!!! I let go of my boat if I am getting tired, having trouble getting to shore, need to avoid a dangerous situation, or if someone tells me they have my boat and to get to shore. I never let go of my paddle, and if I do I swim downstream to get it!!!! (again, as long as I am not swimming into a dangerous situation.)

So, yes, teach your students to keep ahold of their gear, it's a good habit to get into. I just recently got my combat roll after several years of trying and I still boated a lot (class 2/3), but I have never lost any gear because I always keep ahold of it when I swim!

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Old 07-17-2005   #6
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Thought-criminal, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 989
Have you ever USED your paddle to swim? It works ten times better than your hands, just like paddling in a boat. Sound stupid? Try it. Flat out on your stomach, head first, stroke like you're in a boat. If you need to, you can swing your feet around to bounce off of rocks. I'd say if you're in a situation where you need to get to shore then forget the can find it later. But use the paddle.
I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick "Americans" as their mascot. -Jack Handy
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Old 07-18-2005   #7
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Farmington, New Mexico
Paddling Since: 1990
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 140
I agree its pretty easy to "paddle" sans boat, but it can be awkward. You're taking up a lot of space, and the thing I used to tell guests when i guided duckies -yes, GUIDED duckies, laugh all you want- is that its far easier to swim with nothing in your hands, so get yourself to safety (another boat, the bank, the nearest flyfisherman) ASAP. A paddle and boat both float, get them worked out later, and personal safety is huge. I can completely understand the difference with personal gear vs. commercial gear though. I don't wannna lose my own schwag either. I think the river situation completely determines what happens with my gear.

On a related topic, do any guides who read this tell their raft guests to let their paddle float and swim to the raft? I got in an argument over this on a westwater trip with a bunch of raft newbies.
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Old 07-18-2005   #8
Raft Guide
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 19
We always tell our customers to hang onto the paddle and assume the "whitewater float position" first, then as the situation dictates we will tell them to actively swim toward the boat, toward the bank, etc. They will need the paddle when they get back into the raft, plus someone falling out almost never catches the hand line and is just out of reach, so the paddle extends that reach. The reality, though, is that they almost always throw the paddle away anyway.

When I am out with my friends I tell them to get their ass back to the boat as fast as possible (forget the passive floating bit), but still hang onto the damn paddle!
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Old 07-18-2005   #9
Woodland Park, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1975
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 43
Swimming, using your paddle like you would if you were in your boat, while doing a modified scissors kick, flutter kick, will get you to shore the fastest, no question. Try it in a lake or pool and you will be amazed.
However, this does take a degree of coordination that many athletically impaired people do not possess. Also it would only be usable in actual rivers, as opposed to creeks (depth of water and frequency of rocks being the difference for obvious reasons)

When talking about people who are in Class 1-3 water, the water temperature is the only real risk to the swimmer (granted foot entrapment can happen in Class 2 and above). So if the swimmer is dressed for the water temperature it is best for him/her to keep the boat and paddle in 1 hand and sidestroke (or hold onto another kayaker's boat) with the other. (This brings one additional point to the discussion: any kayaker should be dressed according to the water he or she may end up in, comfort while paddling in your boat should be of secondary concern only)

It's important though for that swimmer to be aware of the immediate surroundings and if the rescue kayaker says to let go of his boat, to do so immediately. Holes and/or exposed boulders with narrow passages can cause problems for both rescuer and swimmer to pass through safely, but singly is much easier allowing the rescuer to pick up the swimmer downstream of the obstruction and continue with the rescue.

Class 4 and 5 water is a different scenario that requires improvisation along the way since the variables are considerable as well as the danger to both rescuer and swimmer. In this class of water it is usually better for the swimmer to get to shore as quickly and safely as possible. If that means forgetting about the boat and paddle, so be it. Boats and paddles are replaceable, manufacturers are always willing and able to make more.
Lives on the otherhand are not replaceable, unless you believe in reincarnation.
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Old 07-18-2005   #10
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
I saw someone paddle/swim the other day and it looked pretty cool so I will try that.
My opinion on this is that if you want it, you better hang on to it. I know this is a tough line to draw but there seems to be a change in attitude out there that every beginner should start running class III their first run and that everyone is obliged to chase their stuff all over the river. I dont mind chasing stuff but I dont want to be expected to do so unless I am organizing an explicit beginner trip. I believe in the learning curve and walking rapids and avoiding class III until you have a solid roll. Hell we all still swim but if you are on a river and you swim several times everytime you do that river you better starting buying beers and lunch or keeping up with your own gear.

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