Solo paddler etiquette?

Tie downs on racks…
Nope! Nobody ties down boats on my vehicle except me.

Don’t want any help there…

My wife helps ges the belly straps and bow/stern lines in place, and snugs em down; she’s pretty good at that.

But I always check every tie down point, and make any necessary adjustments to tension, knots, etc. before the vehicle hits the road.


just helping out
I always offer a hand, no matter who it is, just being social with a fellow paddler. Recently, I watched an elderly couple, easily in their 80s pull into a parking lot as I was leaving. They had a couple of solo canoes on top of an SUV. He worked the cradle tie downs, she worked the bow and stern ties, along with paddle assembly. They have done this many times before, perfect timing. As they began to carry one I jogged over to offer Help. He said " sure, grab my end" but not hers? So I took his handle and he bursts out laughing and says to me, " 12lbs carbon fiber, kinda pricey but worth it." I returned his laugh as I watched these two scrawny folks head to the water, hoping that might be me someday. Best part of the story, when they got into the water, he went left, she went right.

Good post, pirate,

But just asking, “Got it?” really is good enough for most of us women, I would bet. It’s not exactly the same as having a strange guy pop up behind you at night on a deserted street. Context matters.

I occasionally get asked if I need help when carting or trailering. With the portage cart, more than one person is actually a hindrance, but for carrying the sea kayak to or from vehicle or trailer, the offer to help is appreciated even if not accepted. I used to routinely shoulder-carry my kayak, which weighs more than half what I did/do. After an injury last year, I avoid it if possible.

I, too, assume a solo paddler does not need help, but that assumption is subject to change if I see signs of struggling,

Another LOL
Also, some boats are lighter than others, and it can be apparent by the ease with which someone picks it up. Male OR female.

stay away!
It is the nature of a solo paddler to not seek help. A solo paddler who struggles will soon sell his solo boat or boats, figure an easier way to carry/load or paddle tandem.

Never offer to help a solo paddler!

We need to know our limitations and take appropriate action.

Solo paddlers are characteristically sensitive. A person who paddles a boat solo is not always a ‘solo paddler’… and may have just one solo boat in his garage and definitely none in his living room.


Seems to be a universal understanding that we have. We may help each other “Load,” but tie down is done by the owner.

Ask if struggling
If I see someone is not dealing with it well or if they appear it will be a struggle - yes I profile them - then I will offer my help.

I never accept help from others because they end up trying to load my canoe on my truck/car like it’s an anvil tossing competition! I have my method and do it without smashing the canoe off everything near my vehicle.

The last time I landed and someone offered to help…they said “if you grab your bags, I’ll drag your canoe over these sharp ass rocks for you.” Ok, I’m paraphrasing a little, but that is what he intended to do. I very politely let them know that I like to load/unload my gear by myself.

I do appreciate them asking. I do not get offended when I offer and they say “no thanks”, but some seem to be offended that I say “no thanks”.

true. and here’s another one:
Have you ever been offered help from someone you thought, upon sight, would cause more effort than they were trying to save? I know I have. I sort of felt bad saying “no, i’ve got it” until I remembered that this was my usual reply.

And oftentimes I’m asked once I have the boat on my shoulders. By then it’s easier to finish the task, unless it’s a really long carry.

I didn’t read the above replies
but I almost always ask if I can help no matter if it is a solo paddler or a mixed tandem.

There are exceptions here and there when there is a good reason not to help

Jack L

You must be old like me
I thought I was the only one left in the world that still did what my parents taught me.

Jack L

Are you sure you and your wife are not me and my wife’s twins !

Jack L


– Last Updated: Jul-30-15 1:35 PM EST –

a big part of me becoming a solo paddler (aside from preference in most things to be self sufficient) is the desire to have lone time and to be able to come and do on my schedule and timing.

I remember how difficult and vexing it was sometimes to go out on group paddles because some can't seem to get their gear together), never mind having to deal with the group dynamics and the subtle (and not so) egomaniacs who feel they know how to do everything better than the way you would do it, including loading and unloading.

I get more paddling, surfing, fishing and camping done when I go it alone. I get more introspection and reflection time that I need and seek after a week full of constant interactions that comprise my work.

For me, no better than a solo surf session or fishing trip at dawn. Usually only me, my gear, the ocean and hint of a rising sun. I am out on the water before the din of the day begins to pick up as the majority of humanity begins to stir from a night's sleep. Yeah, that is the way I like it.



– Last Updated: Jul-31-15 2:57 PM EST –

In the past I've always offered to help or accept help if offered. As I've gotten older and the same canoes have gotten heavier I ask for help. Especially so since I developed bone spurs in my shoulder - not a good idea to lift weight over my head. Physical therapy helped for awhile. Going to get the spurs removed after this canoeing season.

NOTE: My Mad River Freedom Solo weighed 58 lbs when I bought it 11 years ago. I swear it weighs at least 70 lbs now.

I too refuse help in tying down my canoes. If someone else ties my canoe down before I can politely refuse their assistance I will quietly and carefully check it and often re-tie it. Only takes a few seconds and I see no need to possibly embarrass someone trying to help me.

Ditto on damage…
This is part of the reason I nearly always refuse…I don’t want someone else screwing around with my boat and potentially doing damage to it (the car is a secondary concern).


– Last Updated: Jul-30-15 4:06 PM EST –

I should add that probably some of my sensitivity is do to the way that some men have asked in the past. "All set with that?" is fine, but "Can you get that all right by yourself, sweetie?" is not.

One time, about ten years ago, shortly after I painted my canoe camouflage with detailed stencils (this is Maine, it was actually desirable), I had it on the top of my car when I ran an errand. As I walked into the store, a man caught up to me and asked, "Hey miss, when your husband or boyfriend or whoever bought that canoe, did it come with that paint pattern or did he do it himself?"............

That incident probably made me a bit permanently sensitive to gender assumptions and my canoe...

Ah, the Neanderthal factor.
Not much you can do about that but grin and shrug it off.

That can be generational and regional as well. Archie Bunker still lives on.

Solo paddler guy here
who frequently gets asked if I need help putting my boat up. The old rec kayak is a 60# chore, but the new Royalex canoe is a 33# treat. Maybe they ask when they see my grey beard and grandfatherly appearance. I’m always appreciative, but as an independent old cuss I’m used to doing things my way. Doing such in just a particular order I don’t forget a detail like tie downs. It has a certain pay-off. If I get yakking with a stranger, before you know I will have gotten sidetracked and forget something.

Don’t conduct kamakazee rushes on
any animal, either feeding(ala moose) or swimming(bear, moose…etc). Give them friendly space and they’ll stay there all afternoon into the evening…

My technique
I prefer to sneak up behind them and then enthusiastically lift the bow of their boat and start walking forward.

What is great about this technique is that it catches the paddler unaware and they usually perform an acrobatic toppling maneuver before hitting the pavement.

Sometimes, I ask if they need help - but that is boring.