Paddling etiquette?

What is proper paddling etiquette when paddling with someone (each in your own boat) you never paddled with before? Most people don’t paddle the same pace so if one paddler is faster should they slow down or the other paddler speed up? Is this something paddlers discuss before going out on the water? I realize if your paddling with a friend or someone you paddled with before you would know what to expect. Just curious what the code is for proper paddling etiquette


IMO … as with anything …
I feel the person who has the better skills should selflessly work with the other person to help them along, challenge them, know when to listen, find ways to better oneself within and do it in a safe, compassionate manner.

I also feel that if the ‘teacher’ has the better equipment, he should offer it to the ‘learner’ if sizing is appropriate.

my take
Personally, I would not outpace another paddler. If they decided to outpace me without talking about it first, I would probably figure we are not a great “fit” for regular paddles together.

Why go through the hassle of coordinating with another person if you are going to paddle alone anyway? I’d just skip the coordination part and just go on my own to start with.

To be practical…
Would you like to cultivate a longer term paddling partner? If yes then you need to talk about this kind of thing beforehand. Even if the other person could physically paddle faster, it might be uncomfortable for them to do so over any distance. So while they might keep up for one or two paddles, they might start being “too busy” to paddle with you after that.

If both people have the goal of spending part of or all their time in a particular paddle pushing their limits re speed, then confirm that and go for it. That’s a training run. Otherwise, the faster or more experienced paddler should probably figure on accomodating the other paddler.

A number of people in our club have turned slow paddles into good opportunities to work on their turning strokes and rolls.

No etiquette please
I’ll take a big serving of seamanship, an equal helping of fun, common sense for an appetizer, and the Golden Rule to wash it all down, but please no etiquette when I’m out on the water!

(If you check out the etymology of the word etiquette it originated with labels or cards on which were written instructions on how to behave properly at court. Isn’t that what some states are trying to make you stick on your kayak, or have I got this mixed up with another thread?)

If they are faster
Try to draft them!

Don’t know if there’s a code
But…if you’re there in the first place with someone who wants to paddle with you, then chances are you are not a lone paddler anyway.

My advice is “always be nice.” It can’t hurt, and can do lots of good. Be nice, be courteous, try to keep pace with the person if he or she is slower. If he or she is faster, ask for pointers or else ask them to slow down to your pace.

Use your sense of humor. Try to find common ground. Talk to the other paddler.

Or purposely take a leisurely nature-paddle together and see how the “fit” between you two works out.

If one paddler is better and the two paddlers hit it off, consider a mentor-mentee relationship, which can be fun and interesting for both paddlers.

In any case, I think it is never acceptable to be rude. Common courtesy goes a long, long way. The paddler with you now may not be your next long-time paddling partner, but he or she may introduce you to someone who will be. And paddlers travel in small circles, so word gets around.

Years ago, when I was a newbie to paddling, a friend and I were once, shall I say, “made to feel less than adequate” by a more experienced paddler in a sleeker boat. Said paddler showed up to paddle with us, then tried to ignore us when “they” saw we were in rec boats. We kept our senses of humor and remained cheerful and kind to the other paddler. Finally, said paddler chilled enough to not be so upset that we weren’t keeping up with “the usual” fast pace.

I swore I would never behave that way towards any new paddler. If need be, after we paddle together, I try to be helpful and direct others to a more appropriate paddler or group, if we are not a good fit. Or, we may get together again for a more lesiurely lily-dipping paddle, or we may have a skills practice session, or a rescues session. Everyone needs to learn, and we can also learn by teaching others.

By the way, I still see that paddler from time to time. All is well between us, esp. now that I am a much more experienced paddler, and can keep up the pace, lol. Honestly, I don’t think that person purposely tried to put us down. I do think that person felt somewhat exasperated to be out with two slow newbies in rec boats, as “they” could be paddling much faster with someone else.

Always remember, at one time, each one of us was a beginner, too.

say what?
If your “friends” are leaving you behind, the best advice I could give you would be to find new friends.

Stay together
If it doesn’t work out then don’t paddle with them again.

In my experience If we are in a large group, then some of the faster paddlers might take off while the slower ones lag behind, but every so often the whole group reforms to keep the “game plan” organized.

On the other hand if we are just with another boat or two or three, we hang right together regardless of which boat(s) are the fastest.

Keep in mind that it is no fun for the slowest paddler to be left behind.

It could be you or it could be me!



I don’t know how you can get into paddling with someone you’ve never paddled before WITHOUT talking about it first.

So, the topic should naturally come up on how you two might enjoy the trip. That would normally lead to how fast you each paddle, how long is your “usual” water/lunch break, or how well you can handle difficult conditions had it arise, etc…

So, if you find yourself in the boat next to someone who is faster or slower than you, AND FEELING AWKWARD, your last resort would be “go right ahead since you’re faster”, or “see you a bit later”, respectively.

I feel that just out of
common courtesy the stronger paddler should adjust to the slower paddler. Why paddle with some else if your not going to enjoy the company.

If I ever paddle with the group where you are the slowest I will need a supercharger.

You are right in that most of the times that I paddle in groups sections break off some slower some faster but join up every now and again. If it is just two people then they just need to talk to each other and establish a pace that works.

Happy Paddling,


Exactly Don. Meeting other people
is half the fun.

makes sence to stay together
Thank you for your responses.

Abc wrote

“I don’t know how you can get into paddling with someone you’ve never paddled before WITHOUT talking about it first.”

I will be paddling around the country for Multiple Sclerosis and some people have already expressed an interest in paddling with me when I get in their area. No doubt there will be more impromptu paddling opportunities and not always from paddlers. It will most likely be people connected with Multiple Sclerosis and they might not be regular paddlers.

My fully loaded Kruger sea wind canoe is not as fast as light unloaded kayaks so that factors into the equation.

I agree if people are paddling for recreation (not training) it makes sense to stick together otherwise might as well paddle alone


So, with more details
You are a visitor paddling for a good cause, and they are essentially joining your paddle. Seems to me that you set the pace. It’s what I’d expect.

we have a friend
who’s a real speed demon. Just can’t help it. Lots of spare energy to burn. So to slow him down we’ve had to develope a few strategies. Like

“Hey Herb, where are we? Why don’t you pull out your GPS and tell us.”

He loves it. Can’t help it. Works everytime. Puts down the paddle and pulls out the GPS. And we just paddle on by.

(Hope Herb doesn’t read these things!)

if this is a problem …
… might I suggest you are paddling with the wrong type of people; people that are going to eventually take the pleasure out of your paddling?

re:say what
Although (simply because I like to paddle early mornings…and most of my fellow paddlers work days)I paddle solo quite often, the regional ADK wednesday evening paddles have adopted an A B C paddle setup where the fast folks do their thing and the intermediates do theres and the lillydippers do theirs.

Cycling, our club broke into to seperate groups of A and B riders.

Be real honest…I enjoy the B group more…slower pace, get to see something besides the wheel of the person in front of you, get to share the day and experience…

I can do the speedy gonzalas thing on my own.

Life isn’t the destination…it’s the journey.

same as
For me it is like backpacking. The slowest sets the pace.

Don’t forget this part
Generally the slowest paddler sets the pace of the group. If the group of large enought, split up with a plan to catch up now and then at predertmined intervals or locations.

But also remember that when the times the group stops for the slowest to catch up, the faster paddlers are getting a rest period. When the slower paddler catches up, just don’t take off immediately. Let the slower paddler have a rest as well. It’s likely the slower paddler is using ineficient techniques and needs the rest more than the faster paddlers. I find that if I hang back for the first few hours and do some gentle coaching, by the end of a multi-day trip, they are able to maintian the pace. Otherwise, hook up a towline between the fastest and slowest. Been there and done that when time is critical for a safe crossing.