finding others

I just bought my first kayak, Tsunami 135, this spring. I really don’t know anyone who kayaks around here but I didn’t think I would mind going alone. For some reason I have cold feet. I get out and paddle around the little mill pond in my town and I did go out to the Horicon Marsh (Wisconsin) a few weeks ago alone… but I am a little weird about going out on a river alone. I am sure many of you will probably say that is a good thing. But, I want to paddle!!

I am thinking once it gets warmer and the spring run slows down, I will get out there and then find my level of comfort.

Any ideas or suggestions??

Part of it may be related to me having creepy feelings recently when I am out somewhere alone, be it hiking, backpacking or whatever, ever since that gal down south was killed at a trail head on Thanksgiving Day. Any other women out there that do their sports alone and have any comments??

I suggest that
you look for paddling clubs in your area.

Here is one that I found. I can’t say good or bad about it

Talk to local paddling shops about area clubs.

Take some classes for self rescue and strokes skills.

Be VERY careful going it alone, especially in cold water.

If you are near the Horicon Marsh, …

– Last Updated: May-13-08 11:04 PM EST –

... you aren't all that far from the Mad City Paddlers. You can find information on-line about how to join, and then go on trips that are in your area or within a reasonable driving distance for you. I think they have a trip on the Mecan River coming up, which isn't too far away from you. The website is easy to find. It should be the first hit if you Google "Mad City Paddlers".

I'd tell you to just go out and paddle, but I realize there's more to being comfortable and happy on the water than hearing someone say you'll be okay. So getting started with an organized group is probably the best idea.

I want to answer this …
… concern you have about feeling vulnerable to dangers when in an isolated outdoor enviroment … I am not a woman so I can only imagine some of the fears you may be battling with , and unfortunately I can not in good conscience tell you that those concerns may be invalid or overly exagerated , because they are not … they are real to you because the dangers “are real” , but I think you know this … so what I am saying is , don’t go alone , don’t play the odds , be safe and do what is nessasary to find a partner or group when entering any isolated enviroments , especially in the out of doors wilderness settings … as for safe paddling practices , always remember that water has inherent risk , flowing water magnifies those risk , and risk management is the key to safe and enjoyable experiences and predictable outcomes … one of my favorite sayings is “no heroics required” , time and experience are nessasary to gain acceptable proficiency to manage any type of activity that has elevated risk factors , so go the slow road and allow time to do it’s job properly in the sport of paddling , it is the natural way … I have never had any formal instruction in paddling , but that is my loss , do what the others have suggested and get some , don’t let it be your loss too … the strongest factor in your arsenal of decision making , is “your judgement” , and because you have posed these concerns and quaried for comments here , I believe you do , will always have and use that judgement to your benefit , remember , “no heroics required” , and that from a guy …

Women going alone
You said, "I am thinking once it gets warmer and the spring run slows down, I will get out there and then find my level of comfort. "

Sounds reasonable to me. Make sure to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Can you swim?

On being female and doing outdoor activities alone: if you want to run or hike or paddle in sketchy areas, then definitely go with company–the more the better. But it would be safer to not go to those areas, period. Although sh*t can happen anywhere, I don’t worry much about paddling or biking or hiking alone. Then again, I never do any of those things in the city, which I consider the most likely scenario of attacks

I’ve been in some threatening situations even in rural areas, so nothing is absolutely safe. At the same time, I’m not going to let criminals completely rule my life. I’ve intermittently considered getting a concealed-carry permit, and if you are really worried about being attacked, maybe this is something you should look into. Or a good self-defense class. Learn to fight dirty–you didn’t start the fight, so anything goes in self-defense. Never, ever feel sorry for someone who picks on you.

…the powers that be in WI do not think law abiding citizens need to have the right of self protection/concealed carry. You will have to make do with some pepper spray and maybe a nicely adorned sheath knife- for cutting rope of course. But, best to avoid the places where you feel you will need such tools if possible.


Great ideas
Thanks everyone! I went to Madison yesterday and stopped at Rutabaga’s. I signed up for a class in a couple of weeks. I also checked out Mad City Paddlers and they do have a Wednesday evening paddle I hope to make. I think the class will give me some confidence to meet up with others.

I also checked out the meetup group. That may work out well also.

I like the idea of the bear spray. I used to carry some pepper spray on my bike for dogs. Never used it and have since lost it but I think I will look into this. The problem is that usually when someone who intends to do you harm approaches you, they don’t announce it. Ted Bundy had most of his victims follow him of their own, unsuspecting, free will. I could tell anyone I meet out there to keep at least 10 feet away or I will spray! They would think I was insane and that is no way to make new friends!

I was thinking a course in self-defense might give me some confidence also.

always let someone know where you went
I am a woman and I do go out alone a few times each summer.

I always make sure someone knows where I have parked my car and where I have launched from and that they have the phone number to my waterproof Verizon phone.

I attach the Verizon phone to my PFD along with my Optio WPI camera and a whistle. I always wear my PFD even though I float like a cork!

I also keep an extra asthma inhaler in one of the pockets. Lock an extra paddle in under the desk rigging and have a bilge pump on board. Sunscreen and a bottle of water can come in handy as well.

There is something very free about being able to spend a day on a lake alone in the kayak with my camera. Days like this are good for my soul be they a bit rainy and drippy or bright and sunny.

Just use good judgement and make sure someone knows where you went. I always call in the moment I have everything back on shore safely at the end of the day.

Lots of opportunities!
Rutabaga’s classes will definitely get you off on the right foot! I even took a couple intro-to-kayaking classes there BEFORE I bought my first boat, and I’m glad I did.

I’ve paddled a couple times with the Mad City Paddlers and they are a great bunch of people. A little laidback, friendly, and perhaps leaning more towards the birdwatching-on-mellow-rivers sort of paddling. Definitely worth stopping by one of their meetings (bring your boat, as they often hit the water soon after dispensing with business).

Another great group in Madison is the UW Hoofers Outing Club:

A real mix of college students from all over the world, professors with a wide range of interests, and local slackers like me. Membership is $50, plus another $50 for the Memorial Union, but that allows you to attend Club trips and classes, use all the Club outdoor equipment, and includes all the free paddling instruction you can handle (the Rutabaga classes will be more focused and intense, and have a good ratio of teachers to students, while the Hoofers lessons are good for continued learning and practice). After 5 years of membership, you’re considered a Lifer and need pay no more dues!

In addition to paddling, the Hoofers also do a lot of hiking/backpacking trips, XC and downhill skiing, biking, and everything from stargazing to caving to roller-derby-spectating, all in groups of trained and trustworthy people, so safety is not a concern.

BTW, how did you like Horicon Marsh? My wife and I keep meaning to paddle there …

Good Luck!


move to minnesota (jk) we have conceal and carry just across the border.

To a fellow Wisconsinite
If you’re ever up in the northern part of the state, your more than welcome to join my wife and I for a paddle. There’s too many beautiful lakes to start mentioning any. We’re just west of Minocqua.

trust your…
…instincts. Those hairs on the back of your neck will serve you well - just trust yourself. Get the training you need in the kayak, self-defence but join a group also. You’ll be fine - asking the question already shows that you’re aware and that’s a good thing. Safe travels.

paddling alone

I’m a woman (south of Madison), and I paddle alone a few times a week during the paddling season. I’ve been doing solo trips (and research) out in the wilderness alone for 30 years, and I’ve never had to deal with a jerk yet. I’m sure that they’re out there, but you’re more likely to get into a car accident on the way to the kayaking site. A self-defense class is a great idea, because the self-confidence it gives you will make a huge difference.

The real risks of kayaking alone are hypothermia that slows down your self-rescue, so stay close to shore in warm waters until you’re confident! And do take a class, or go to one of the Wisconsin kayaking symposiums. You’ll get experience, and you’ll also meet people to keep paddling with. Most of my regular paddling friends now are people I met at the Inland Sea Society symposium. Door County also has a fun symposium.

The Madison area has lots and lots of people to paddle with. I’ve paddled a fair bit with Mad City Paddlers–a nice group of people. Hoofers has some fun trips too. The Sierra Club 4 Lakes has an active river trip section too.

Have fun, and stay safe in the water.

female and paddling alone

I’m female too and although I share your concerns about paddling alone, I decided a long time ago that if I wait for folks to go with me, more often than not I don’t get to go. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, be it paddling, hiking, snowshoeing, whatever, women always have to be aware of the safety issues surrounding this. A sad commentary on the world…

At any rate, I go anyway and take whatever precautions I can to ensure my safety.

Go and have some fun. :slight_smile: