Paddling Alone - Part II


– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 4:30 PM EST –

I gave my progression without going into lengthy details.

I started in late summer 7 years ago by myself. I paddled almost exclusively on lakes and ponds after one excursion into one of inner bays of Boston Harbor and quickly figured out (or intuited) that it was not a good choice (although nothing happened). I then began reading everything I could get my hands on. Taught myself self rescues and a roll that fall and continue from there. Also worked on assisted rescues and, yes, have had to use them in situations successfully.

Actually, much of my experiences were recorded here at PNet. Some are probably archived. If and when I die out there, someone can point to those archives and my stupidity... :)


my $0.02

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 4:33 PM EST –

1. your local club sucks. Period. Great stewards of the sport and if I were you I would out them here so we can all write them and tell them what we think (assuming you're giving us the straight skinny). Like sing, I'm not a fan of clubs (no pun). IMO they are full of people who want to elevate themselves and create some exclusivity. That's not my bag. I'm sure there are some good ones out there but this is my experience.

2. Your friend may be interested in getting you started with roll mechanics. I love helping other people become more capable and watching them enjoy themselves.

3. Become comfortable with wet exits. Practice on land, bail from your boat, hang upside down in your boat. Become comfortable in the water if you are not already. Surely there is someone who can join you for a day on the beach and a beer afterward.

4. Let us all know where you are. I would be mildly surprised if this fine bunch of paddlers doesn't have someone willing to spend a day with you to get started. If you're in SE MI, buy me a Bell's Oberon I will gladly help (and the oberon is optional).


You can get the mechanics of rolls and braces in a few lessons from a knowledgeable friend, the submersion comfort has to come from within. Like several others, I taught myself how to reenter and roll. Stupid? Not under the conditions I tried it.

Really, as someone else said, option b is not an option.


I have read many of your posts here. It is certainly OK to talk about your experiences.

The problem is that the OP may not have any idea of those other posts and your post is basically advice to the OP to go out alone. There are some hints that indicate that, in this case, such advice is not appropriate.

so do clubs
Guess who are members of clubs?


And, I Was Specifically Responding…

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 4:40 PM EST –

to these two questions, without reading anymore into it:
"Buy some instructional videos and get out there and do it ALONE. In other words, teach myself.

1. I plan to go to a local lake and, at a spot not far from the boat launch area, teach myself how to roll. I see no other options for acquiring a roll.
2. I will paddle in a local creek. It has flowing water and Class I/II “bumps.” Nothing serious. There are some fishing holes with depths above one’s waist. Nothing more."

Quite simply, I think it's doable based on my experience and that of others.


Lessons - now I’m confused…
Obviously your local club has signed off on the lessons you most need. But that doesn’t that you aren’t within driving range of some place that you could go for something like a two day program in WW. I seem to be seeing a cuople of opinions about that above.

Have you looked around for a WW center like that to work on the moving water stuff?

That’s about moving water. Flatwater, that doesn’t move, may be another matter. Please note I am serious about the not moving part of that, at least until your skill level comes up. But quiet ponds, lakes, places like that may be a safe place for working on basic skills.

Read the posts

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 4:56 PM EST –

"4. Let us all know where you are."

If you followed the thread, it would have been apparent that he's in eastern PA.

"I would be mildly surprised if this fine bunch of paddlers doesn't have someone willing to spend a day with you to get started."

I've indicated a few places near him that are very willing to help new people out.

As I said before…

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 6:14 PM EST –

There are lots of good resources near him.

From an earlier post of mine:

Northeast Kayak School on the Lehigh. Jerry is a great instructor and has a great reputation.

KCCNY is a white water club based in NY/NJ. They are very big on teaching new kayakers. Also, AMC NY/NJ chapter.

Edited to add the links:

read my edit

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 8:56 PM EST –

If you're here to help, then help. If you're here to be sanctimonious with people who take issue with you, you're doing a great job, and I can play also.

And speaking of reading posts, you'll note that I repeatedly recommend this person have a friend with them for assistance.

Not responsible
Of course, it’s “doable”. Lot’s of things are “doable”. “Doable” doesn’t mean “safe” or “easy”.

It’s not responsible to suggest it to a rank beginner who you don’t know anything about.

I Am Asking

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 5:10 PM EST –

how is what I am posting different, better or worse, than some of the outfitters who actually rent kayaks to thousands of folks without knowing anything about them except their credit card and willingess to sign a waiver?

Just want know where I stand with the some of the BCU/ACA big boys in the business.



I keep forgetting! Only you are allowed an opinion here!


– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 5:23 PM EST –

"how is what I am posting different, better or worse, than some of the outfitters who actually rent kayaks to thousands of folks without knowing anything about them except their credit card and willingess to sign a waiver?"

Why isn't your aspiration to be better than these guys?

None of the BCU/ACA people I know do what you describe.

it is do-able…it was the only way years ago…very few people ran WW or did expeditions (published) and very few people rolled at all…this along with symposiums are relatively new to the boating scene. I learned to roll back in those days and continue to practice many things alone…

However…today , with all the people rolling and doing more high profile water related things…the learning is extreemly fast…to go from a complete newby to an intermediate paddler…

Most of the people that are in their late 40’s or early 50’s or 60’s that have been paddling since their High school (or earlier) days, learned by themselves and by trial and error (some began in Scouts, some didn’t)

I wish there had been the system for learning many of the paddling things years ago…trial and error takes a long time…and in big water (WW or Great Lake or Ocean) it’s very dangerous and thresholds can be passed suddenly and forever.

I would sugest finding a good instructor, or a mentor that wants to introduce new people to the sport.

it will take way less time, be safer and be more enjoyable.

Best Wishes



Sanity from fadedred!

Mea Culpa!

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 7:44 PM EST –

Hey, I brought up the ACA/BCU thingie since both of those outfits have staff fully into that. I figure these folks fully appreciate the value of lessons that someone like me does not. Yet, they are also willing to rent kayaks to newbies (not talking about a led trip either) to run down class I (and mild class II). Either they are being knowingly reckless, as I am being cluesless, or they believe as do I that the danger for mostly class I flow (outside of a flood or run-off) is not seen beyond what is acceptable in most ohter athletic endeavors where some minute percentages of people get hurt and/or die.

No. I don't aspire to be "better" than any of those guys. My aspirations for being on the water really doesn't involve other folks per se, i.e. whether they are there are not doesn't matter to me.

Well, if nothing else, Carney's got his range of input. :)


Personal rights

– Last Updated: Jun-26-07 8:03 PM EST –

It is certainly your right to paddle the way you want! Keep posting!

One could have a very long discussion about whether certain outfitters are "reckless" or not. (I don't really want to go down that road in this thread!)

This is my point: I do believe we don't have enough information about the OP (or -other- beginners who might be reading) to make the "paddle alone" suggestion (without lots of caveats).

instruction for whitewater
I suggest getting coaching before you do whitewater alone. I don’t doubt that you can learn alone, but it increases the risk and increases the time required. An example: When I was just learning whitewater, a friend and I (in a tandem canoe) took a trip guided by an instructor. He was a bit ahead of us and we were trying to catch up when we, unawares, crossed an eddy line and found ourselves going at right angles to the river. We plowed unwillingly into a nice sandy beach, never in any danger, but completely ignorant of the cause of our little problem. So of course we started arguing about whose fault it was, and we could have argued for a long time without learning anything, except the instructor realized we were clueless, came back to us, and explained that we had crossed an eddy line and the eddy had spun us. The thing is, I knew about eddies – I had read about them in books, and if there had been a rock with an eddy right behind it, like in the drawings, I could have identified the eddy and the moves required. But I didn’t know yet that eddies can continue well downstream of the obstruction that forms them. That kind of small fact, obvious once you know it, makes a lot of difference to your safety and pleasure. I would have learned that fact eventually, no doubt, but it was easier with immediate feedback from a coach after a mistake. And of course repeating the mistake would have risked damage to body or boat if the next eddy had been less benign.

Having said that, I have only a little specific help to offer on where to get instruction.

If you’re in the northern part of eastern PA, you’re near the parts of the Delaware River that have class II rapids. There are outfitters on those parts, hence probably instructors. If that doesn’t work out, there’s a guy in Yonkers, New York, named Lee Reiser who leads two Delaware trips a year. You can find him on the nyckayaker mailing list (join the list at You can also post on nyckayaker looking for more general PA info; you’re slightly outside our territory, but there are still probably people on the list who can help you out.

I’m sure there are people who will coach you, for love or money. If they aren’t in your club, maybe you can network through your club to find them. Or google. Or confine your paddling to near-shore flatwater this year, then suck it up and follow your club’s highly structured program next year. Gotta be a way to paddle. Don’t give up easy!

– Mark

skipping thru the drivel
above…I am a canoeist, but paddle ww weekly with a group including about 8 kayakers, several with “bombproof” rolls. Just my observation, but if you have a good wet exit, go paddle, preferably with someone else, but solo if needed. The roll doesn’t seem to work well in shallow water which is what most of the ww I paddle is. Helmets and elbows bouncing off boulders seem to make a wet exit very inviting. Big water is another story but you say you’re going to stick with the smaller stuff. Of course you’re going to have to find a “shuttle buddy.” Eastern Pa. might be a little out of reach, but post on and see if anyone gets back to you. Honestly, what you’re club sounds like is unlike anybody I’ve ever seen in the whitewater world.

Pnet…BT Hmm!
It never ceases to amaze me how someone can come to an “ADVICE” forum, only to end up with dozens of hateful snippy posts. And, the bad stuff usually is not related to the orginal question. This poster came on Pnet with a legit query and had to wade through fueding and fussing. WTH?

Then, he/she took someones advice and took the question to Boatertalk and holy cow!, He/she was treated with respect and given sound advice, both for and against, but civil.

The very few of you (you know who you are)should be ashamed of your behavior. It is no wonder we have lost the voices of some wonderful paddlers over time. They are probably still lurking out there, but who would want to have an opinion here?? Too Risky!

So, Carney2, good luck with your pursuit. Remember that your paddling is personal. Think before you do. Realize that things can happen. Be as prepared as possible. And always listen to the little voice in your head. (if there is more then one voice, be concernd:-)

Good Luck,