Putting together a group paddle? Do it right. In this article Holtey outlines the details of organizing a group paddle, from choosing Lead and Sweep Paddlers to coordinating a "Float Plan."
Related Article: "Group Kayak Expeditions: Formations & Communications" Safety is a concern to all boaters and other outdoor sports enthusiasts, especially when on group excursions. By educating yourself and fellow paddlers of the possible dangers, admitting your limitations and being aware of theirs, and preparing with plans and equipment, you can eliminate most unfortunate situations. Maintenance, preparation, planning, and practice are the keys to good safety protocol. Here are some tips:
Inspect your equipment regularly for defects and damage. Leaks are the most critical thing to look for:
Take care of this before you are on the beach to so that your companions
and the launch are not delayed. Use a check list to make sure that all
the necessary equipment is ready and also in good shape. (see Safety Articles Index)
PREPARATION: THE FLOAT PLAN
Group organization is important to eliminate any confusion or miscommunication. A float plan is a good place to start. The plan should consider:
Everyone needs to know the plan as well. Have a group meeting prior to launch in order to accomplish the following:
Regular head counts while on the water is a good idea.
The Lead Kayaker should be a strong paddler, with experience and a good idea of where you are going. It is his job to:
No one in the group should pass the leader.
The Sweep Paddler should also be a strong experienced paddler who might be inclined to paddle at a slower pace. It will most likely be this person who will have to assist a paddler in distress. They should have experience in kayak rescue techniques. It is the responsibility of the sweep paddler to:
It is helpful if the lead and the sweep can communicate via VI-IF radio or cell phone. It is best to keep the group close together but in some conditions that can be hard to do.
When planning a trip that envolves several days paddling in areas unfamiliar to some of the group, practice sessions in varied conditions are a valuable idea. Holding surf clinics, for instance or rescue demonstrations; getting together for short excursions in wind and waves, etc. will make these conditions less challanging.
Maintenance, preparation, a plan that involves all members of the party, and practice will greatly reduce mishaps and confusion. There is always room in your gear bag for common sense, so bring it and use it on every trip.
Related Article: "Group Kayak Expeditions : Formations & Communications"
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