Nice post. Ive seldom shared my solo experiences with others
for me, discussing the actual event almost defeats the very purpose. I'm not a fan of soloing cause I can't find a paddling partner.
Sharing the experience can be special too, but Ive only done it with a couple people. I dont mean that others sharing their experiences are wrong or that they paddle solo for the wrong reasons
Im speaking only about me.
Ive stayed in the closet about solo mountaineering, climbing, and paddling for twenty plus years not for fear of being considered irresponsible or being political incorrect; but rather for fear of pushing someone else to try it who otherwise wouldnt. Given the number of people who say they are doing it now
maybe discussing how to make it as safe as possible is the best thing. Like Safe sex!
I believe if you have to ask about solo paddling, youre probably not ready to do it safely. Youll know when youre ready. I think the peer pressure not to solo paddle is key to keeping it safe. It is not something to be taken lightly and seeking the experience too soon is unsafe. Solo paddling skills depend far more on judgment and judgment only comes from experience
experience only comes from mistakes. Making those mistakes in a paddling group may not kill you. Making those same mistakes will kill you solo. Dont mistake paddling skills for judgment.
I think each person has unique reasons for paddling the things they do. My reasons for seeking the solo experience may not/dont justify the added risk(s) to most others. While I respect others opinions and certainly consider them when assessing why I solo; in the end choosing to solo comes down to simple honesty with the man in the mirror: honesty about why I do it, honesty about my skill, and honesty about my judgment.
I agree that if youre not willing to run a drop solo you shouldnt be running it. Meaning the safety net provided by the group shouldnt be a factor in your decision to paddle a drop. That said the mental aspect of the sport has such a big impact on performance that it is easy to understand why having that safety net for mental reasons is so important for some. When ones mind is right, they can paddle to their full potential. But no matter how skilled one is, when the mind is not right
things will go wrong.
MAKE NO MISTAKE, PADDLING SOLO DOES INCREASE THE OBJECTIVE RISKS AND TO SAY OTHERWISE IS MISINFORMED OR DISHONEST.
Rationalizing the risk away changes only your state of mind and your perception of the risk(s). Doing that for your specific individual mental needs is fine, but we should not help others rationalize the risks away.
Dont use Rachel Moldovers article about the "Dangers of Boating with Others"
to justify solo paddling. Her tongue-in-cheek article points out only that many groups paddle unsafe. Such rationalization doesnt make solo paddling any safer
only that we need to improve paddling safety in general. No doubt Rachels solo paddling is safer than that of many groups, as she points out, but that doesnt reduce the risks of solo paddling.
So how can one make solo paddling safer:
1. Be honest about your ability and judgment.
2. If you find yourself trying to rationalize away the risks, then know youre only fooling yourself.
3. Dont take any shortcuts! Just because something is a normal paddling habit on a river youve run 100s of times doesnt mean it is a safe practice. Use the AW Safety Code as a guideline. By ignoring guidance to boat with a minimum of three we should adhere even more to the other proven risk reducers.
4. Paddling in control means knowing what is around the corner or beyond the horizon line
take a quick look!
5. Be prepared, if you dont have it or know it, you cant help yourself.
The pearls of wisdom I rediscover each time I read the safety code or a book/article on paddling safety, have no doubt helped me stay safe. I would be remiss if I didnt confess to some close calls though. Almost all my solo close calls have been on class III-IV rapids. Dont be fooled that boating conservative lines or walking the CL V drops make solo paddling safe.
Solo paddling is not as safe as paddling with others. Solo paddling can be done safely, but the margin of error is reduced. It is even more important if you choose to paddle solo to follow safety guidelines even closer.