Hierarchy of crucial skills

I have read with interest the passionate responses to the recent rolling post. I am always enlightened by the insight and experience behind them. Hence I put forth an expanded query as to what fellow p-netters believe to be a listing and ranking of what are considered to be crucial sea kayaking skills.

I would consider it more beneficial if you qualify the type of paddling that require the skills and by relative merit. If they are sequential, then a 1, 2, 3 ranking. If parallel, then group the ones of equal importance please.

For the record, I typically day paddle for several hours in open salt water. The 10 to 20 nautical mile trips are in winds to 25 knots and waves to 4 or so feet.

  1. self awareness of my ability and the environment
  2. experienced judgment to wear and bring adequate gear
  3. good boat control for tracking and turning
  4. ability to self rescue with reliable rolling then reenter and roll
  5. prudent weather and navigational expertise
  6. physical fitness, strong senses of humor and adventure

They are all 1’s
There is no reason to rank them. They are all important. I can’t imagine what rationale anyone would offer for learning/using one first or last. In fact I would say the burden is on those who believe there is a ranking.

Good list!
Maybe not a skill, but important would be to leave a float plan, or inform someone your leaving on land of your plans, in case you don’t return.

Good list, though wide - and so will vary by paddler/venue/etc.

Easier to make lists in more specific areas I think. If you narrow it to just rescue skills (your #4), and look at them as layers of defense rather than value ranking - I like Lull’s list. Other’s experience can shorten our learning curves dramatically.

Why, it’s COMMON SENSE, hahahahah
Jim3237 says so. Didn’t you get at least that much from the rolling thread? :wink:


– Last Updated: Sep-15-05 4:45 AM EST –

It's an interplay of these attributes vis a vis the venue that one is undertaking. Judgement is the evaluation of this interplay. "What ifs" are needed but too many can lead to hypervigilance. The fun and sense of exploration are overtaken by fear. The hypervigilent person can't stand not being omniscient. Try as s/he might, there is awareness always of a "what if" out there not accounted for and the person is consumed with fear about that. What to do? Best to stay home. But what if lightening strikes the house?


Risk creep vs integrated excitement

– Last Updated: Sep-15-05 7:12 AM EST –

For me, an integration of solving these complex matters is what exites and challenges me rather than a tendency I had when younger to keep moving up the risk factor.

Thus I am learning to avoid the polarity of either too much safety or excitement only from taking bigger and bigger risks.

Thus I don't feel stultified by keeping a safety margin, don't take on a defensive mind set that only looks at avoiding risks and do find that sweet integration of all this that makes the whole experience an intensely involving yet tranquil one of managing it all.

Perhaps for some at least, the numero uno biggest skil lis the trait of NOT becoming bored, and thus always placing oneself in more and more difficult conditions until one has creeped the safety margin to zero and one has decided that there is no fun unless it is all hanging out there.

Bracing and sculling
I might be tempted to put them a notch ahead of rolling or re-enter and roll if traveling with others, more equal if paddling alone.

It’s Not “VS…”

– Last Updated: Sep-15-05 8:02 AM EST –

nor as polemic as you present it. Rather those two exist on a continuum. More often when you pushed youself a bit and learned a new skill, "risk creep" occurred. Without risk creep, you cannot develop skills (and resulting greater experience and judgement).

While there may be a few who will allow the risk to creep higher and higher until they literally go over in a terminal way, the majority of folks will reach a point where the risk (and fear) renders the experience no longer acceptable or fun. Innate sense of self perservation kicks in and will pull the person back.

The person who never leaves his couch except to go to the frig and bathroom exist on one end of the continuum while at the other is the daredevil who sees no risk not worth facing. One will probably die of heart disease, terminating a restrictive/constrictive life, while the other will die fast, hard and perhaps young. The rest of us will likely live and die somewhere in the middle.


Continuum Again…
rare is the person who can roll and not be able to brace or scull (better than a non-roller). Same mechanics.


Different lived experience

I tend to find a great deal of common perspective with you, and true here as well.

In one way however my lived experience is somewhat different perhaps than yours, although many of your posts seem to be in the direction I am writing about here, so I wonder if just the limits of this medium.

My lived experience is that am as like you concerned that all the safety talk can lead to a stultification of the explorative and fully lived existence as are you!

And I do however see in our american culture at least a great deal of machismo, some of which I had to be real about this that is in the direction of daredevil addictive type ways of relating to the world. This in my view is a risk creep vs integrated way.

I am just saying a good skill is to learn the difference between macho and an adventurous spirit. The former is a liability just as couch potatohood is.

A #1 most important!!!
Falling out of the boat.

You butt boaters know this as the “wet exit”.

If you can’t do it clean don’t go near the water.


That’s why I’d put bracing and rolling ahead of rolling for someone paddling with others - they may be someone who is still learning a roll, or has a roll but has not had it tested in nasty stuff. So then the first priority would be to keep them from needing it in the first place, at least until it is proven that they’d have it in a real life bad conditions flip.

For the other scenario (someone alone) - I don’t think it is safe to assume that everyone who “has a roll” has the assured habit of bracing, or can scull and brace competently on both sides. I’ve known people who could roll well enough that they had really lost the habit of trying to brace or scull before going fully over. And I had my roll on my right side a good bit before I got a reliable scull, just because of where I was concentrating my practice.

And there is the issue of competence on both sides. I have “had a roll” for a good while now on my right, and as long as I happen to fall over on my right or roll thru to that side from the left I can usually flip into a scull or any other kind of support I want. (If I remember to in the first place.) But my left is just not reliable yet, in fact the scull is still not quite there. And I assume there will be times when you really need to be able to come up on the same side you went over on.

(This is the reason I am holding off on learning to handle surf until next season - I don’t think I should be in there until my left side is as solid as my right.)

Risk Creep
That happens - but I think it’s a rare person who can move thru it without some amount of incremental gain. A few degrees here, a little more over the paddle there, the first practice rolls in chip or swells… this takes time. And this has to happen in time left over after job, family, getting the car fixed and the rest of daily life.

(Hopefully) during that time you are still getting out on the open water and paddling. And it is as important to know what you can’t rely on for sure, and have a backup plan, as to know what is bomb proof.

In the ranking of crucial skills, that kind of risk assessment (ugh! sorry for the business term) has to come into play. While a lot of these skills do exist on a continuum, at any given moment they’ll probably be present in somewhat of an uneven assortment until someone has expended considerable time learning and practicing them so they are real. Someone who just passed a 4 star BCU assessment, for example, probably has them all solid. But for someone (like myself) who is still moving up thru the ranks to ultimately get there, I know there are some parts that work better and some that work worse.

Hey Andy,
You ever coming back to the states or did you make that transfer permanent? They say once you go to Australia that you don’t want to come back. BTW, I agree with your order.

Funny this question should be asked
I was re reading Randel Washburne’s Coastal Kayakers Manual last night and on chapter 2 he discusses the rings of defense and states four in order:

1 - Avoid trouble by anticipating weather conditions, tidal currents, etc.

2 - Survive rough seas by keeping upright and continuing on a course of safety (brace strokes)

3 - Recover from capsize by Eskimo Roll/re entry.

4 - When all else fails -signal for help.

He really puts alot of emphasis on 1 and 2. Bracing skills are harder to learn if you don’t expose yourself to challenging conditions every once in awhile. They really have to be automatic to work and become well established reflexes.