Apr 26 2012
A couple of years back, when I was photographing creek boaters running a steep drop on The River, I helped a swimming kayaker who was struggling to reach shore with his boat before both plunged over a 25‑foot falls. The tale had a happy ending, but later, as I walked downriver along the portage trail, keeping pace with the unfortunate paddler’s group, I soon reached the conclusion that “Phil” wasn’t exactly a welcome presence. (NB I never learned the swimmer’s name, but Philoctetes — Phil, for short — seemed a good choice under the circumstances.) Not only had his companions left him on his own above the falls, entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers (me, as it happened), but they ostentatiously shunned him during breaks. And later they dropped him without so much as a goodbye, leaving him to make his way to the take‑out alone.
Of course, I wasn’t privy to the whole story, but from my spectator’s seat, it seemed a mighty shabby affair. It was also an invitation to tragedy.
Was Phil’s experience unique? I don’t think so. Tensions often arise among groups of paddlers. Not that it isn’t a good idea to paddle with a group. It is. A very good idea, indeed. Difficult water — and that includes big lakes and tidal reaches, as well as fast rivers — isn’t a healthy place for lone paddlers. Yes, solo boaters frequently tackle steep drops or make long open‑water crossings and live to tell the tale. But going it alone can’t be recommended to anyone who wants to stay around to see his grandkids grow up. Which is why most recreational boaters who aren’t under the watchful eye of an outfitter or instructor choose to paddle in the company of friends… Read more…
Questions? Comments? Just click here!