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It’s only natural in kayaking to get a taste of the water and want more. There’s no experience better (in my opinion) than a day on the river. Paddling has not only shown me places that I could never even dream of experiencing, it’s also challenged myself and my beliefs and given me life long friends that I have put so much trust into as well. If it weren’t for these amazing people willing to help me out, to teach me and guide me, I would not be the paddler I am today.

When we think we’re ready to step it up on a river sometimes nothing can stop us. It’s these river friends that keep us in check (if we listen) and help to shape that learning curve we so desperately seek. Though we rely a lot on them to help us out, there are things we absolutely must do to help ourselves, help the group, and ensure we’re gaining a proper skill set. I don’t know about you but I always like to show my appreciation to my groups for taking me down new runs and helping me step it up. The most basic (and most appreciated) form of showing thanks is to be prepared before getting onto a new run. This makes the group’s lives easier, it makes the river day less stressful, and you’re more likely to be invited on more new runs.

In order to help get you to this point Boyd Ruppelt and I came up with some tips for you that will help you be more prepared to step it up and makes the lives of your river buds much easier in the process.

Be honest with yourself AND the group. The group you’re going with already knows that you want to step it up, so in order for them to be prepared you need to be honest with where you’re at skill-wise. For instance, we once had a guy ask us to take him down the Tellico. He said that he’s kayaked before and had a roll. Actually, he didn’t. He swam 5 times before the second ledge and we make him get out.

Have the proper gear for the run and know how to use it. Don’t show up to a class V run with only a rope. Bring you pin kit, rescue vest, and break-down paddle if you have one. Plan for an overnighter if it’s a long day: have a head lamp and a snack at the least.

Look for ways to add value to the group. You’re not just a guest with tour guides, you’re a part of the team. Find a way to fill the gaps in the group’s dynamic/ needs. Think about what you can offer. Is it shuttle? Safety? Can you handle carrying extra gear in your boat? Anything you can do to contribute will make life easier on everyone.

Go with the flow. Make decisions based on the group’s pace and needs. If you’re looking at a big rapid and your group says “not this time” then take their advice. I have been on runs where the group has a slower pace and has wanted to show me all the magical secrets of the river and I have been on new runs where we’ve paddled a river that usually takes 3 hours in only one. Being respectful of the time and pace of your group will ensure you get invited again, which means you get to continue to learn and grow as a paddler.

Finally, BRING BEER! It can either be a celebration, or a peace offering