Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Group Integrity
It can drive a trip leader nuts. Keeping a group together, that is. Even on our unofficial Sunday morning paddles we have folks suddenly disappearing or going off by themselves for a brief time. Since we are not an "official" group, a sort of live and let live attitude predominates. So far, so good.

But it is getting colder up hear, and survival times in the water will quickly drop over the next few months. Now I always think in terms of taking care of myself and continually (well, mostly in warmer times) practice my self rescue skills as well as rescuing others. Still, as I get older and the water gets colder I find comfort in knowing I am amidst others with similar skills.

In the October, 2009 issue of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker (thanks JB) Wayne Horodowich (founder of the University of Sea Kayaking) has a nice article, Group Paddling Creed, that takes on this very problem. Core to what he has to say is the necessity for members of the group to agree on what they are about (I paraphrase) and what is expected of each paddler. He talks about being on time, pace of travel, equipment expected and other essentials to making the group experience enjoyable and safe.

'nuff said.

Paddle safe...DS


bonnie said...

That sounds rather excellent.

The funny thing at my club is that I think it's the more experienced groups that are prone to scattering. Everybody's so safety-conscious when we're out with beginners, there's a bit of "woohoo, I'm off the leash!" when the more advanced people are out on their own. It doesn't always occur to us that even experienced people can have odd things go wrong!

I've done it & had it done to me.

I think my most mortifying "doing to" was the time we were coming back from a lunch paddle & I thought 2 of my friends were just lollygagging, chitchatting, lilydipping.

I did eventually circle back just as we got to our basin. Turned out that they were moving slowly because one got seasick & the other was holding his kayak while he threw up.

Boy, did I feel like an idiot.

Fortunately that was a good memorable lesson without a major cost. I try to be better about that now.

Silbs said...

Hey, Bonnie, I hadn't thought of it in those terms. We do tend to be very conscious of new and inexperienced paddlers. Seems to me that one of us, by some mysterious method of selection, takes on the responsibility of shadowing those "newbies", but we do tend to not notice what the regulars are up to.

Anonymous said...

Alas, I've seen s**t happen to almost everybody and in almost every conceiveable situation! I take the view that I'd be doing a disservice to my paddling buddies if I DIDN'T keep them apprised of what's going on, and I kind of expect them to do the same for me. Probably the Mom/guide coming out, though....


Silbs said...

from Leslie: I have chummed around with adventurious free spirited folks for a while now. They are hard to corral and organize, by nature they are independent, this is not to say that risk is ignored or the other guy is toast if he screws up but what drives an adventuresome soul is their personal drum. Rock climbing, an inherently dangerous sport especially multipitch stuff where the leader is dependent on skill first and ultimately the belayer if skill (luck) fails, is about as organized as these souls get. The good thing is that organization is around group safety. No one has a good day if someone gets hurt. I think that our group has safety in mind but misses the skill differences from the best to those of us who are less skilled. That divides the group.
Perhaps a few words about that and a skill based group split is appropriate. I feel OK inside the SSYC wall in almost anything (hurricanes excepted) but pick my days and companions outside the wall. Gary put it very well years ago,"'Don't go out there if you wouldn't do it alone' and don't depend on someone else s skill to save you, they may have enough to do to save themselves." Somewhere in there is the truth. We need to discuss this and I hope it doesn't divide the group or make some of the highly skilled paddlers feel that they are expected to babysit, no one wants that.

steve said...

Our setup is a bit different, we have 2 or 3 coaches when the group goes out under the auspices of the kayak club. This makes it our responsibility for the group and we usually have one coach out in front with the more advanced and the others at the back taking care of the newbies and slower paddlers. Despite clear instructions not to paddle alone there are always some astronouts out there on their own that have to be watched all the time.When conditions are more dangerous the supervision tightens up a lot.
At least we have warm water all year round.

Silbs said...

That's pretty much how we do it at our symposiums. On Sunday paddles, however, we are not "official", not even a club, so there is little organization. Sounds like you are doing it right.