We meet a lot of paddlers who tell us they know how to do a rescue because they did one last year at a symposium. But if they haven’t practiced since then, we know that their rescue skills will be inefficient at best, and possibly not effective or even safe.

That’s why every class at the Gales begins with a conversation between the coaches and all the participants where we ask, “How do you get back in your boat?” In other words, what is your go-to rescue if you are out of your boat. We also ask, “When is the last time you did a rescue?”

Neither answer tells us any of the following things: Will they be able to get back into their boat themselves? Will they be able to help someone else get back into their boat in the conditions expected that day? Is their self- or assisted rescue safe, effective and efficient?

Rather, the first one tells us what to expect each person to try first, should they capsize and come out of their boat. The second gives us some sense of how fresh or rusty their rescue skills are. If they haven’t done a rescue recently, we know we can’t count on them to help themselves or others in the group.

That’s also why we begin with rescues when we get on the water. We need to know that everyone is comfortable capsizing in the conditions we have that day. We need to know that they can safely¬†help one another get back into their boats in the conditions we have that day. (Often, some instruction on contemporary techniques is required.)

And they need to know what will happen, and what they can and should do, if they or anyone else comes out of their boat. Because if you’re worried about capsizing, it’s hard to learn or have fun.

—Sharon

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