Paddle alone?

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Paddle alone?

Post by Einar »

Anybody paddle alone?

The last two years I have been working on improving my game; initially, by practicing by myself on a local wave, and then by runnin
the river myself, pushing small stuff hard. Occasionally my practice river rose to an easy 3 and I found I really got off on it, liked it a lot.

Nothing new here. I have been on rivers and solos have come by before, stopped for chat. I have got good advice from some of them and made good friends with others.

I came to canoeing from a club start but soon moved on to private invites to paddle on harder rivers. I know the safety practices; I support them. I'm not trying to refute them or change them, but... I enjoy paddling alone. It's cool, a really different head space.
I have discovered some other paddlers have the same attitude.

(Essentially, in my opinion, whenever you canoe Gr 3+ / 4, you are alone anyways, or at least that is my attitude. If I go into it, then I am in charge of getting out of it. Help is nice, beer will be bought, but.. it will up to me to get myself out. And I have made mistakes, had hard swims, I'm not that infallible or that good)

But the cool side of paddling alone at my level is that it really really sharpens my attitude. Everything I do seems to count more, and I definitely dial out sloppiness. At the bottom of a run I'm pumped, not just by the grade of the rapid, but by what I think I have done. I have become a better paddler.

Risk isn't new to me; I come from a rock climbing, mountaineer, ski mountaineer background and I am aware of the tally over time. No illusions as to what is at stake.

So, train for rescue, help others, think thru your run but.... does any one else paddle alone?
Last edited by Einar on Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by Pierre LaPaddelle »

Einar wrote: . . . I enjoy paddling alone. . .
Good thought-provoking thread, Einar. I can't argue with any of your logic.

But here's an alternate point of view: Me? I don't enjoy paddling alone. For myself, it's all about people -- old friends, new friends, friends I've just met. Laughter has a lot to do with it.

For this Cowboater, paddling rivers is meant to be a shared celebration.

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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by magicmike »

I really like going to our local play spot alone. I learn alot more in a shorter amount of time by myself. As for river running... "you gotta have a shuttle brother". I find I like small groups on most runs these days. Small groups give me the chance to separate from the group on the easy stretches if I want to get into my own space, and have, and be support when its needed. -M-
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by hazardharry »

my most intense runs are taken alone. i can focus when i don't have to look over my shoulder to make sure my paddling buddies are ok. everything does count when you run solo. at the end of a good run my mind is clear and sharp." onclick=";return false;
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by woodsy »

I started paddling alone only because I have days off during the week when no one else is around. But I soon found that I really enjoyed it. I am more focused. I'm on my own schedule, and I can take as long as I want studying a drop or practicing a move. I don't have to wait my turn for a play spot. But I do have to feel confident in the water I am on, I don't take any undo risks, and I always carry a cell phone. I'll often pick a long section, pack a lunch, start early, and make a day of it. I shuttle by thumb on long sections, (paddle in hand and wearing a PFD close to a river, people get it), or hike one way on short sections. Paddling with friends is always fun, but alone you can build a special relationship with the river.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by mahyongg »

I definitely agree on the different head game and it's similar to free soloing a climb for sure, in terms of focus, determination, gravity of mistakes and all that. Enticing, to say the least. Now as you rightly said, if someone wants to do it depends on personal risk threshold (I normally won't, but I also ran some runs with two people that would end up being problematic in most situations that you would not be able to clear up by just swimming well... which really comes down to entrapments/siphonage). Unless that happens, or you get knocked out, you should be fine..

Now for myself, I paddle more aggressive within a group, which I like better (more fun just from paddling, social aspects aside.. which I also usually enjoy), feel much safer (are much safer, to be precise) too. I also know how quick things can go wrong.

Another thing to keep in mind is, if you paddle alone and should something happen, not only yourself may end up harmed but also others that may try to help but are possibly just innocent bystanders without a clue about swiftwater rescue. In any case, i definitely recommend getting SWR training (to everyone, paddling in groups or alone) to get a scope on what happens in the water and what can be done about it. May also change the view on paddling alone. And you are definitely wrong about the "in III or IV, I'm by myself" unless you paddle with people without any kind of training, knowledge or ability...
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by 2opnboat1 »

I paddle 90% of the time by myself, can go at my own pace and it diff sharpens your skills. The first few hard rivers I ran alone was kinda scary but now I will rearrange my plans so I go some where alone.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by JimW »

Only part I would disagree with is this:
Einar wrote:(Essentially, in my opinion, whenever you canoe Gr 3+ / 4, you are alone anyways,
Personally I feel that is true on some Gr 5, but below that there is usually a lot we can do for each other when paddling in a group. Character of river plays an important part as well as grade so maybe it is too specific to tie it to grades?

I very rarely paddle on rivers alone; sea (kayak) and lochs I do but on rivers I prefer to have friends along. That said whenever I go to the artificial WW course, although there are lots of kayakers there, no-one is looking out for me and I am essentially paddling alone. Similar thing happened at the weekend, I faffed around fitting a bulkhead, missed my friends, got on the river with someone else I knew, lost track of him when I had to stop and empty, met other friends in passing and then spent a long time scouting the last grade 4 before deciding it wasn't for me - there was a constant stream of kayaks paddling past (big festival) but I wasn't with any of them, and to run the final 4 I would have needed encouragement from another c-boater!

I totally understand paddling alone, it definitely changes your thresholds.
It is strange, it is not that I paddle recklessly in a group, more an awareness that alone a minor slip up could be fatal.
Having a suitable group to provide safety cover that I don't actually use is somehow important - a few months ago I was paddling with another OC1 and we decided to portage a 4 because we couldn't provide effective safety cover between 2 of us due to the complexity of the rapid, and my relative inexperience in OC1. If there had been a few more of us present I'm sure we would both have run it, and I would probably have swum to the side without using the safety cover :)
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In closeing Paddle Alone

Post by Einar »

At the end of the day 95% of my paddling is in a group. As read in my original post the limited amount of "solo" paddling that I am doing is on my easy 3 training river but, limited as that is, I am amazed at how much that single difference has positively affected my skills. It has made an outsize change in my skills.
If I had the jam I would take it up another notch.... but I don't have the jam. Not yet.

The thought on paddling "a-loner" has been misread or taken out of context.
In 95% group i often lead and when there I consider it good safety in my personal style to 'Think that I am alone' and therefore I am going to be taking care of my business. At the top of every rapid I regard it as if no one is coming to get me... therefore what is My line, where are My exits, what are My hazards? After all, it is my butt. It is more a "style of attitude" than a declaration of reality, my partners are making the same decisions and can take different lines for their different reasons.
In a canoe I rarely swim but I always allow that today may be the day. As a lead group boat -with a solo attitude- my boat is rigged for self rescue with a throw bag clipped on the back grab loop and I carry a separate bag around my waist wit a small selection safety gear.
Thinking alone while in a group si an essential part of my safety.

Also at the end of the day I have come to personally regard rescue a personal result, whether in a group or solo. Having taken the courses, hung the paper on the wall, bought lots rescue gear I... (anecdotal alert)... have observed that it is the same people that show the prime initiative in moving forward on a difficult rescue. Some people move towards the sound of the cannons, some people follow up later. All the gear and training doesn't seem to change that human factor, IMHO.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by jakke »

I used to say, no, never paddle alone. Until a friend of mine pointed out that, when guiding a group of inexperienced paddlers, you are on your own. The best you can hope for, is they call emergency services, but you can't expect them to come after you or assist you in any way.

And that's true in a way, even though I rarely paddle alone, except for flatwater or very easy rivers.

Being alone on class III/IV is relative, but I get the idea. Very often I paddle on class III and above like I'm alone. Simply because I don't have the trust in the group that they have the awareness and/or skills in case something goes wrong.
Being in a reliable group can really boost the fun level though, since you can push yourself harder, knowing there is assistance to help you deal with eventual consequences.

But I can totally see why people like to and do paddle alone. And when done with consideration, it doesn't have to be all that dangerous.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by chuck naill »

I was reminded yesterday that it does not require a class four rapid to get into trouble. A hidden rock or missed paddle stroke will do just fine. :o

I have paddled alone or run rapids ahead of a group on rivers. I think it becomes more problematic in remote areas where a hike out is necessary.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by drrpm »

A solo trip is a different experience and one that I enjoy occasionally. Its easier to focus on the river and your own paddling and the solitudde can be nice for a change. I would not choose to paddle a river at the top of my ability alone, but I don't think that solo paddling a run well within ones skill set is excessively dangerous.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by driftwood »

I have paddled class 4 alone. So I won't tell you not to do it. It is a different experience. I have also had a near drowning incidents where my butt was saved by a friend, Had my tail brought down off a multi pitch climb with a dislocated shoulder (again by a skilled friend). In addition I have had a number of wilderness incidents when I was alone and responsible for saving my own but, including being injured from a fall and trapped on the wrong side of a flooded river (i swam it), repelling on a rope only to find it was cut 3/4s the way trough, getting lost in the middle of a 30 mile open water sea kayak crossing at 1 am, and each time I got my self home safe on my own skills and will.

Most of my scary moments happened not when I was pushing myself, but when I thought I was well with-in my skill level.

So this is what I have to say to you: Most of us before we go soloing consider that we are engaging in an activity with a heightened level of risk. Until you have actually experienced a situation where it seamed unlikely that you were not going home in one piece if at all, thinking about the risks you are taking is too hypothetical for you to take seriously.

It may be that you have had these experiences and find the value of soloing outweighs the risk. I don't mean to assume anything about your experience. Either way think about the folks who you are going home to, and include them in your calculus.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by Mike W. »

More often than not, I'm alone on the river. Everything from park & play to hunting. It's pretty interesting in September, when we can hunt till 30 minutes past sunset. That makes it dark when I get to a solid class 2 rapid. I hunt from an Old Town Scout. I've got knee pads, but no straps. I have to run the rapid in the dark & keep my gun dry.

In the spring, the water is high & the rapids are mostly washed out. That's when I attain a couple of miles in my slalom boat.

A bunch of fire depts. use our river for training. Once I was asked how I stay in the boat. They were quite surprised to see me fasten the lap-belt in my C-1, then put the skirt on. One of them said that he would have just pulled me to try to get me out of the boat. I told him it wasn't a big deal. By the time someone realized that I needed help, called & they got to me, it would be a recovery. They all looked at each other as if they didn't want to hear that, but it was most likely true.

If I didn't paddle alone, I'd have to do a LOT less paddling.
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Re: Paddle alone?

Post by Rand C1 »

Ya, I paddle alone sometimes, when its up you gota go, or let it go bye.
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