Simple things that can make your day on the river so much better …
… stay hydrated, motivated, and wear suncream
A dehydrated, hungry person can make bad decisions. It’s easy to just keep on paddling without a care to how hungry or thirsty you might be. Eating well and keeping those energy levels topped up by carrying some food or snacks with you on the water. I like to keep an energy bar in my buoyancy aid, so it’s easy to eat in the eddy rather than getting out of my boat to get to my drybag.
Don’t overlook your time in the sun either. Put suncream on before you paddle, but also take a break occasionally to top up as the day progresses. I like to keep a zinc stick or mini bottle of suncream with me when the sun is shining so that I can reapply throughout the day.
… use sand to get a grip
Using suncream is important, but it can make our hands and paddles greasy and we don’t want to lose our grip mid rapid! Once you’ve applied your suncream grab a handful of sand or grit from the river and rub it around the palm of your hands and they will be back to normal in no time. If my paddle still feels slippery I sometimes do the same with my paddle shaft too.
… check your deck
The answer is … every time you put your deck on! Your spraydeck keeps you safe. Take an extra moment to check all around your deck before you push off. Squeeze the rand/bungee right into the cockpit rim to give the best seal and to help make sure it won’t come off if it gets loaded with water.
… keep your throwbag close
If you were called into action, how fast would you be able to get to your rope? I like to keep my bag right in front of me so that once I’ve popped my deck it’s the first thing I grab. Make a habit of taking your throwbag with you whenever you get out of your boat, and keep it with you while you scramble around the bank. If you are the last to decide to run the rapid, you can set safety while you scout.
… check your gear regularly
Even if it means taking time off from boating … check your gear once in a while to keep it in working order, you will thank yourself later. Unloved, unwashed knives and karabiners seize up and boat fittings rattle loose. Check that your knife is rust free and opens easily, a drop of WD40 will help it last much longer than if it stays wet in your PFD all the time. And take a few minutes now and then to give your boat a little tune up and to make sure that everything in your boat is as it should be and that all the bolts are tight.
… be smart with airbags
Airbags will make your boat easier to rescue, less likely to get pinned and will help reduce damage when it is floating downstream as it will be floating higher in the water and carrying less momentum. Most creek boats have room in front of the footrest for a pair of smaller bow airbags. Topping these up with air can be a challenge if you put the pipe behind the footrest so consider routing it down the side of your footrest adjustment bar with either a bit of bungee or zip ties.
… love carving foam
Make sure that you stick some foam onto your footrest in the front of your boat. Virtually all boats will either come with some foam glued in or will supply it so you can custom fit it to your boat. This footblock will serve as a shock absorber if you hit a rock, and, if you cut them to tightly fit the space in your boat, they will help to ensure that your feet can’t go behind the footrest.
… never leave your keys
This one is pretty simple, if I have my phone I can call for help and if I have my keys I can drive my vehicle. Don’t keep those things in your boat, which you might be separated from. Get a decent waterproof pouch and keep them on you, either tied into your cag or buoyancy aid, in a zipped pocket, or around your neck underneath your cag.
… be ready with your sling
Your sling/tape is one of the bits of kit that you might need to get out in a hurry. Keep it neatly coiled and ready with a karabiner already attached. You can deploy a coiled tape very quickly should you wish to throw the end to someone to either grab or clip. The Palm Safety Tape has a velcro tab to help keep it coiled and is a useful five-metre length.
… pack extra karabiners
If you are carrying kit in drybags in your boat, attach them with the same type of karabiners that you carry in your PFD. If you attach your bags with small karabiners that you wouldn’t want to use in a rescue then they will be no use to you should you come to need them in an emergency, so why not use full size, rated karabiners?
… always wear ear plugs (except when driving shuttle)
The longer you paddle the more likely it is you will suffer from ‘surfers ear’, but we can reduce the risk of developing long-term hearing loss by using ear plugs. Ear plugs come in all shapes and sizes and it is easy to have them custom made too, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something that is comfy and won’t fall out if you go underwater.
Happy boating! – Chris