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There was a time in my life when I loved competition. Back in college it was on the soccer and baseball fields that my competitive fire was stoked with daily workouts and games. Well folks, those times are no more. I enjoy being a part of the competition just not as a competitor. This serves me well as an athletic trainer in my non-paddling alter-life. In a sense a large part of my Job is to watch athletic competitions and wait for people to get hurt. When an athlete has the misfortune of getting hurt it is my job fix them.

What does that have to do with paddling?  Up here in Maine we have a few paddling competitions. They range from the relatively mild class II St. George River race. To the wild, class V Smalls To The Wall steep creek race. Add to that the Maine Whitewater Championships on the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers put on by my friends at Send It Me. Whitewater and we get lots of opportunities to get out there and get involved.  All these annual competitions are an amazing gathering of great paddlers and friends. So to be a non-competitive member of the fun I decided to become a safety boater.

Safety boating is a great way to help out your local paddling community and support events. It is also perfect for getting in some rescue practice that will benefit you on your own non-competitive white water adventures. Plus, there is a certain joy that comes from fishing competitors out of the drink. And the swimmers are always very appreciative. Sometimes they are even appreciative enough to purchase frosty beverages after the competition in thanks to their rescuers. Another perk is that the event organizers will usually supply safety boaters with some swag. I personally have started collecting event t-shirts from all the competitions I help out with.

Becoming a safety boater is quite simple. First step is to take a swift-water rescue course and practice, practice, practice. Rescue and recovery skills tend to be perishable so I would like to emphasize the practice part. If you have like minded paddling friends then it is always a good idea to get out and run through possible rescue scenarios on different river features. The second step is to contact the organizers of your local paddling events and see what they already have in place for safety and discuss where you may be needed. The third step is to gear up and get out there.

The following is a list of safety gear that I bring to the events that I safety boat for: Rescue pfd, helmet, throw rope, pin kit, first aid/trauma kit, portable hypothermia shelter, extra warm clothes, two way radios, thermos of hot beverage, a repair kit for damaged boats and a written up emergency plan in case an evacuation is needed. For steep creek competitions I add climbing rope and a harness. Fortunately my Large Karma has ample room for all this safety gear and then some.

Safety boating is a win-win for all involved. As a safety boater you are helping your fellow paddlers as well as developing and practicing some skills that are unmatched in value for your own boating. Get geared up and get safe and have fun.