Skill sets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are crafted from common sense, others from a thorough understanding of how things work and even still others are created through years and years of being outside and getting things gone. Below are several skills that are rarely consciously practised but hold their own unique place amongst being safer and more efficient on the river.
Some people are naturally more talented than others in this department. For myself I am a relatively quiet spoken person and making myself heard above the roar of a flowing river can be at times relatively difficult for me. I had to consciously try and speak up and be heard on the river when I was younger and as strange as it may sound to some, learning how to “speak up” on the river was something that took me a while to figure out
The most important piece of safety equipment is a good decision making, the second piece is your throw bag, this essential piece of safety equipment is however limited directly by your throwing ability. I highly recommend getting out and playing a good game of catch as much as you possibly can, investing in a dog that likes to play fetch or finding some sort of game that entails throwing to play when you are not kayaking.
Getting out of your kayak in hard places
Rarely is the river bank cemented and obstacle and hazard free. There will come a time in your kayaking career where your friends safety rests firmly on your ability to hop out of your kayak in a challenging spot and navigate your way around the river, whether this is to scout, set safety, exit the river or conduct a rescue.
(HQ edit: Just carrying your boat, getting used to manhandling it and hauling it around will really help when it comes to portaging or even loading on to that mega bus roof rack)
Getting out of your kayak is only part of the job. The next step is to get back in, at some point in your kayaking career you will come across a seal launch that is both essential, crucial and potentially dangerous if you get it wrong. Take every opportunity you get to work on this entry into the river! Bonus fact - it also enables you to keep your feet dry and is infinitely more fun than the conventional entry.
Holding your breath
River dunkings. It happens to the best of us. You can however prolong and increase your ability to be dunked by simply working on holding your breath. I personally highly recommended reading this book, downloading this app and committing a small portion of your time each week to working on your breath holds.
I find it strange that so many people participate in a watersport but are scared of spending prolonged periods of time underwater or can only hold their breath for 30 seconds at a time.
(HQ edit: Probably better to get some real training with this. Maybe try it at home, but not in the water. )
Hand of god
In my humble opinion, the T-rescue is a bumbling, in-efficient and useless rescue skill. Especially when compared to it’s bigger, better big brother, the Hand Of God. Instead of trying to accurately convey to someone that you are close by and you can be off assistance while they are underwater and you are on top of it. Simply grab them and flip them upright. This is known as a Hand of God, and it has prevented many a situation from escalating when I have been on the river. If in doubt, act!
Walking on slippery rocks
Don’t feel too disappointed when the rivers are dry. Instead take the opportunity to go hiking / canyoning and work on the skills associated with moving around quickly outdoors. Some people even choose working on these skills as their outdoor sport of choice.
Stay safe out there and work on the small things as well!
See you on the water,
Living life on the river?
Lifeshorts 2.0 - Made from plastic bottles. Brens go to shorts.