Paddling Alone

I am new at this. I have joined my local paddling club, but have few “connections” yet. I want to get out there, but have been advised to not go alone. I will be in a calm lake or a gentle river with, at most Class I water. Whaddya think, can I do this alone for a while?


– Last Updated: May-30-07 3:31 PM EST –

John Dowd says in his book something like "don't paddle alone, but if you do don't tell anyone"...

I do paddle alone fairly often but not on anything even close to Class I, being a sea kayaker. I usually paddle small lakes or a slow river where I don't need a shuttle (one-person shuttle is a hassle). Big water is far enough away that I can usually find a group to paddle with.

Should you do this, especially as a beginner? Only you can answer this. I'd try to steer you towards making some contacts with the club, but every situation is different. Water temperature and how you dress has a lot to do with the risk. How familiar are you with this?

paddling alone
I do it because i can’t always find a paddle partner. Let someone know where you are going and take a phone or vhf radio. Vaughn Fulton

Just do it. Take it easy at first,
stay close to shore. As said above, let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to be back. Wear you PFD. Dress appropriately for the weather and water temps.

New at what?

– Last Updated: May-30-07 3:49 PM EST –

Paddling or contemplating paddling alone? Where do you live? What kind of boat do you have? What kind of clothing do you wear? Do you have any self rescue skills? What's the water temp? Is the water frequented by other people? ETC...

A little bit more info and a profile will help folks possibly guide you in the right direction. I paddle solo a lot. It doesn't mean what's right for me is right for someone else. Paddling with others is fun and as far as safety, sure it's safer, but life isn't perfect and the time off to go paddling we get isn't either. Only you can make the decision and only you can tell you when you feel comfortable.

That being said, if I waited for folks approval on paddling alone, I'd probabaly still be sittin' on the pier. No matter who you're paddling with or not, always file a float plan with someone reliable.

Even being relatively new (1 year)
I find it difficult to find someone else that can keep up. My 20 year old nephew went out with me a couple of weeks ago, and whined the whole time that it was too much work. He wanted to go out in the canoe with me the next time, instead of two solo kayaks. I’m not falling for that one unless I know I want to do all of the paddling.

I’ve took a neighbor out once and it was the same thing without the whining. He said he wanted a workout, but I practically floated the whole time so he could keep up. He just kept quit paddling! He works out so I don’t know what was going on there.

Anyway, the point is, especially when you’re new, you may have trouble finding someone that matches. One of you is going to have trouble and the other bored. One of you may want to paddle only, and the other may want to fish and paddle off and on.

I paddle alone 90% of the time, unless my kids go with me in the canoe (I’m still “paddling” alone then too ;-). But I’m usually in a slow river that ranges from inches to 5’ in most cases, very infrequently 5-10’. Easy bank to reach/get out, warm water/weather. If that’s not your case, then consider the conditions, but otherwise, be careful, have fun.

Good info. I will primarily be paddling in a high traffic (but low horsepower [limited to max. 20 HP engines]) state operated lake in eastern PA in good (warm and sunny) weather. The lake is fairly narrow, so “close to shore” should not be a consideration. Later in the summer however, I plan to put my Blackwater 10.5 into some lakes in Maine which are relatively void of people and where cell phone reception is nonexistent.

A thought
"I’ve took a neighbor out once and it was the same thing without the whining. He said he wanted a workout, but I practically floated the whole time so he could keep up. He just kept quit paddling! He works out so I don’t know what was going on there."

Paddling technique will get you farther than strength. I’m not an expert paddler and don’t have huge muscles or anything, but I can paddle a lot of miles without getting too tired out. I met Jon Turk (the explorer) at a symposium over the weekend and his arms are smaller than mine…

gentle lake or class I river, go ahead. Just wear a pfd, especially now when the water is still a tad bit chilly.

I don’t think you’re “risking” your life significantly in the above context.


If you don’t paddle alone
You probably won’t paddle. I paddle alone 75% of the time. I started out staying within swimming distance of shore. Calm days only. Now I do 6-7 mile open water crossings in 2-3’ seas. Alone. But I have the proper equipment and skills to do it, you need to make those assessments for yourself as you progress. Good luck and most importantly HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE!

If you can handle the consequences
go for it. I started out paddling alone and still do. I paddle for me, when and where I want and haven’t got time to wait or call looking for a partner.


However there can be disasterous consequences, be prepared. However by asking us the question I don’t think you are prepared.

get in a pool
or stay close to shore, and try the following things: 1) capsize on purpose, and then try to get back in your boat some place where you can’t touch the bottom. Some people think it will be easy ahead of time and then find it is not. It’s something you will want to find out for yourself. 2) Learn and practice some basic rescues. DVDs and books are a good source if you can’t find instruction. Popular rescues are: 1) scramble (getting back into your boat without any help from your paddle, a paddle float, etc.); 2) paddle float outrigger; 3) reenter and roll using a paddle float; etc. For the creme de là creme, learn to roll! :slight_smile: That’s always a good party trick. But a PFD, dressing for the water tempurature, and staying close to shore should get you pretty far. Enjoy!

Lots Of Advise
I’ve heard and read from several sources not to paddle alone. As the responders to this thread show that advise is largly ignored. I am yet another of those that choose to ignore it and regularly paddle alone. As with most everything else paddle related some common sense should be used to help with your personal decision.

As for me if I waited each time to coordinate time, place, lenght of the event, well I’d still be waiting to get out on the water.

Happy Paddling,


Well, lets consult the BCU Handbook
"Less than three

on the sea

there shall never be!"

But an inland lake I think is quite fine.

And, as implied more than once above, if we wait to find others with schedules that match ours, we may never get any experience on the water.

We used to teach rule number one is never go out alone. Rule number two is because you are going to go out alone, know the following things…blah blah blah, as stated in the above posts.

Use your head and your good sense. Paddle responsibly. Be more conservative when paddling solo. Hve fun and enjoy it at your own perspective.


Problem was, he never even broke a sweat
He was just lazing through it. I understand what you’re saying about technique, and if he was paddling, we would have got somewhere. He would take two or three lazy strokes and set the paddle down! He wasn’t breathing heavy, didn’t look tired, just enjoying the day. I’m all for that sometimes, but he said he wanted a workout.

The whole point was I prefer soloing. My own pace, no one to push me or trail behind me. No one to get irritated if I fish the same spot too long or to irritate me if they’re doing the same.

Now that’s the spirit.
Favorite song “I did it…my way”

always file a float plan
with someone, a 20 second call just to let someone know where/when/ and when expected back might be frugal

I have mostly chained myself to work the past two years but am moving to a condo on the water in about two weeks - so paddling alone will constitute about 90% of my paddling.

Its on a large river and I will be about 13 miles upstream from the Long Island Sound, but still exercise caution and good boating sense by practicing rolling before and after each paddle, re-entry and rolls, and cowboy re-entries to make sure I don’t make the front page - or worse - the obituaries.

That being said, I also watch for other boat traffic, cross the main channel at right angles, let folks know where i am going, etc etc. You can’t be too careful when paddling alone, as even one mistake can be your last without good skills or backup.

As to staying close to shore advice, its good advice and besides, most of the good stuff to see and do is close to shore anyway!

Enjoy your solitude and then take those practiced skills to your next group paddle!


good honest post

paddling alone
Go ahead and go paddling by yourself. I do it quite often and I find it very peaceful. I just follow a couple of rules, I always tell someone where Im going, always wear my life jacket, and I stay close to shore so I can see more. Paddling for me is very spiritual and I find my peace on the water. I love being with others but there are days when I just need to get on the water by myself. I dont go on big water though and stay away from class 1. Have fun!