Fitting in with a group

I have almost always paddled alone. I am basically a quiet water paddler and always take the necessary safety precautions and let someone know where I will be and when to expect me back.

But every once in a while I have been tempted to try paddling with a group but have always been concerned about fitting in. By that I mean mainly paddling speed and distance. Especially as I have gotten older (72) and probably would be considered a slow poke. Don’t ask my paddling speed as I have never made any effort to try and clock myself and don’t have a GPS. I do a lot of stopping to smell the roses anyway.

Do group paddles generally require or expect certain minimums? If so I assume someone must decide what sort of progress they expect out of participants. Are considerations of any kind made if someone can’t keep up? I would not want to be the anchor that holds a group up.

Any comments or opinions appreciated.

Not exactly answering your question, but useful information has been discussed here:

Yes and no and sometimes. Look to the specific group to find out what their requirements are. Like people they are all different.

Having a supply of cold beer at the takeout smooths over a lot of bumps… B)

When we are with a group, we go at the groups pace. If all goes well, we’ll paddle with them any time. If some want to go fast and leave the group, we won’t paddle with them again.
On the other hand if some one wants to smell every rose on every beach, we wont paddle with them again also.
We love to encourage newbies to join us in which case I’ll lead and Nanci will follow up the rear and yell to me to slow up as necessary.

Race training is a whole different ball game !

Beer and the keys to the only vehicle.

The local ADK paddle group in the Albany area generally defines two groups. Lilly Dippers (name chosen by that bunch, not derogatory) and the regular group. Which tends to get too spread out by paddle’s end but that is another story.

We have a few who like to scoot out faster than anyone else. They are on their own, though on the normal evening river paddle none of them are likely to get into trouble.

A paddling group near where I stay in Maine breaks up the paddles by protected versus open water trips. It is clearly stated in the announcements which is which. The latter gets the stronger paddlers.

Our group schedules paddles for the fast, distance group and for the Lilly dippers. In the 20 + years I’ve been paddling, I’ve gone from the first to the LD .
I try to find places that are best appreciated at a slower pace like swamps and small rivers. We have people who can ID birds and animals by sound and sight.

I paddle with several groups. If they are largely a floating social club, that’s fine. I’ll scoot ahead and come back to check on them. It’s all good. We never leave anyone behind.

I will have to check into what is going on in my area. I just need to see if maybe there is a group of olde phartes that I might be able to keep up with or at least not hold back.

That’s a darn good question Bill asked. It’s something that’s concerned me when a symposium has trips as part of the curriculum. I’ve not taken them because I’ve no idea of the paddling speed during the trip. In most cases my classmates have been guys, who are naturally stronger paddlers.

I know what my cruising paddling speed is because I track it. In strong headwinds my speed drops anywhere from half a mile to 1 MPH, sometimes more if I’m fighting wind waves. I guess one of these days I should ask the coaches leading these trips.

Most of the MeetUp Paddles in my area will post boat requirements.
PFDs, 14 foot, front rear flotation, spray skirts for example.

They will also give expected mileage for the day and skill level needed.
These are all open water. Long Island Sound, Hudson River or Rhode Island coast.

Best thing is to contact the trip leader to see if you are a fit .
FYI I know many paddlers in there 70s that are way stronger than I.

Group padding is lots of fun!

I’ve always had real good luck paddling with my small group (me, myself and I). We always get along and we stick together since our paddling speeds are alike. Now and then I join in with other small groups and enjoy that too.

I think the main difficulty with groups is that it takes planning and I seldom plan anything more than a couple of hours before I go.

@Rookie Just ask the coaches about expected pace - they have to have one in mind for the group they are leading. In fact if it is a training symposium that should be something you can find. For ex if you dig around you at used to be able to find expected cruising speeds for a given star training level. 3 mph for 4 star etc. I have to think that the ACA has similar things.

The other thing you need to ask about is distance. As the level of paddlers goes up so does the distance.

I paddle solo most of the time because I’ve tried groups and usually get impatient waiting for everyone. I like to feel like I’ve had a workout after paddling. I’m also quite a bit younger than 72, so kudos to you for still getting out on the water!

I think you find a group that looks like it might be your pace and try it out. Tell them you’re comfortable paddling by yourself and if you’re going to slow they don’t have to wait for you. Try your best not to be the first or the last in the pod, and decide afterward whether you liked the experience.

What’s the worst that can happen?

I have been a member of about a dozen different paddling clubs, mostly whitewater oriented, in at least six states that I can think of off the top of my head. I have also participated in group paddle events with various meet-up, adventure, and other informal groups as well and have served as a volunteer trip leader to run paddling trips on local creeks run by a Nature Preserve.

Different groups are as different as different can be. Most paddling clubs will make some type of attempt to judge the capabilities of participants when it comes to whitewater trips at least. Often this is based solely on information provided by the participant. But that info is not always accurate.

On more organized trips, the group usually has to adapt to the pace and capabilities of the least able paddler. This can sometimes be a problem. Sometimes the more capable, ambitious, adventurous become frustrated. It is pretty common with paddling clubs for members to sort themselves out after a couple of trips. Often a couple or handful of compatible paddlers will branch off on their own and start running their own small trips. Some people simply bridle at any sort of limitation whatsoever and find they are better off paddling on their own. Less capable participants may sense they are over their heads and drop out. I assume the same thing happens with various meet-up groups.

Day trips on rivers generally require some type of inter-person coordination and cooperation, such as agreeing to meet at a certain place at a certain time, organizing and running a shuttle, and usually a general agreement that trip members will assure that everyone gets off the river safely.

If you are looking at a particular group or event, I think the best thing you can do is give an honest appraisal of your experience, desires, and capabilities, assuming there is someone who is acting as trip leader or organizer. I have paddled with meet-up groups in which there were no restrictions on who showed up whatsoever. Anyone might turn up. I personally avoid those types of venues now.

I strongly suspect if you are patient you will be able to find another like-minded individual to paddle with, but it might not happen with your first attempt.

I think you’ve gotten great advice already. If you contact the group or club leader you may well find that there is someone else just like you looking for a paddling partner to share a tandem canoe…for example I’d he happy to take out my tandem canoe with a worried newcomer any time. In the past if I felt the need to paddle fast I’d just go back and forth from front to back of the group. Other times I’ve been happy to slow my pace and paddle alongside the slowest paddler to keep them company. Most groups that organize paddles and invite anyone interested will not be in a hurry and will know that they need to accommodate everyone…but on the other hand there are no requirements for becoming a trip leader so it’s best to talk to them and get a feel for the group dynamic. I paddle for pleasure and would not want to paddle with a “hard core” group that takes themselves too seriously whether or not keeping up was a problem.

I appreciate all of the comments. I will keep the many good points in mind as I consider whether to seek out a group paddle or not. I am still uncertain whether me and my little solo canoe are good candidates for a group. My age and current level of paddling fitness might not be right. I poke around fine on my own for hours at a time but I can just sit and drift whenever I want a break.

Bill, you aren’t the only aging paddler here.
" Young men go fast so they can see everything; old men go slow so they can see (and experience) every thing."

And then there are some of us old men who go slow because we can’t go fast anymore, and don’t see much of anything because our eyesight sucks.