By Chad Christopher
At some point in our kayaking journey we have probably all been unable to find a group to paddle with, even after picking up the phone and making numerous phone calls.
“I don’t know buddy, you might not be ready for this run,” you might hear. Or: “Hey, I think there is another group going to the local Class II/III run today.”
Most people can’t drop everything to go paddling with a complete stranger who they met over a website or social media, so when you meet up a new crew it’s important to make a good impression.
Here are a few tips for new paddlers trying to find a solid core paddling group.
Be Honest with Yourself
Before trying to contact paddlers and set a trip, ask yourself if you’re really ready to go to this particular river. The fastest way to not get a invite back to a paddling group is to be the carnage for the day. I’m not saying that if you have a swim it’s the end of the world, but speaking from experience certain paddlers that have multiple swims can get branded and word gets around quickly.
Did you do your homework? In this digital age there is probably GoBro video on YouTube of the entire river you are considering. Let your group know which rapids you would like to run, but don’t be afraid to walk. Instead of pushing your limits, consider what is best for the group.
Be an Asset
Do you paddle with safety gear? Are you considerate of others? Are you offering to help with shuttle? These are simple questions to ask yourself when you show up and throughout the day. If you are a kind and considerate person, most of the time you will get along just fine. It’s good to remember that kayaking is as much a team effort as it is about individual skills.
Be on Time
Aside from the fact that this is a pet peeve of mine, group moral can dip when everyone is waiting for the new guy to show up at the takeout. Set your alarm for 15 minutes early, do your gear preparation the night before, and be there on time to help load boats. If you are geared up and ready to go when you get to the river, it speaks volumes about your preparation and readiness for this new run.
Show your Gratitude
Again speaking from personal experience, taking people down new runs can be just as intimidating for the trip leader as the new paddler. I feel a sense of personal responsibility for the group’s wellbeing and it can be mentally stressful keeping a close eye on a particular person the whole day. You end up scouting rapids and describing moves when you could be hanging out with your friends and chatting in a eddy. Gratitude in adult beverage form never hurts.
Hope this helps new paddlers out there, send me a note in the comments below if there is something else that you feel is important.
—Chad Christopher is a member of Jackson Kayak’s Regional Team.
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