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Imagine, it’s the best day of kayaking you’ve ever had and then all of a sudden, a rock grabs your paddle from your hands. How do you prepare for a moment like this? There’s a few different ways you can.

Whether it’s with hand paddles or bare hand, the easiest and safest way to start is to go to some flatwater (lake, pool etc.) and work on your hand rolls. Once you have that down, start working on your strokes and turning using your edges. As you start to dial in the basics, it’s time to slowly start progressing in the river. Start on class 2 or 3 and work your way up as you start feeling more and more comfortable.

The other starts the same way with getting your hand roll, however, it’s a little harder and less safe. This includes jumping right into class 3-4 or whatever you feel comfortable with a paddle but really pushing your limits without one. You quickly learn that you’re very unstable and your edges catch on everything. With that being said you learn to watch your edges and use them to keep yourself up as well as navigate waves and holes. As you keep hand paddling, you realize that you’re getting better and it’s getting easier. That’s when I’d recommend either not using hand paddles on the same sections if you were using them, or progressing into harder runs.

Whichever route you choose to go, after a little bit of time you’ll be more prepared in any unfortunate event that results in losing/breaking your paddle. Or on the alternative do what I did and if you hurt your shoulder and are scared to use a paddle, simply finish out the season with hand paddles! I hope this helps and stay safe!

-Connor Gagliano