Paddlecraft—including canoes, rafts, kayaks, utility boats, and rowing shells—are each used in a different manner. Some are used in flatwater, some in white water, others on the ocean. Bays, lakes, and harbors are perfect for flatwater paddling. California also has dozens of rivers for whitewater paddling.


Utility Boat

Utility Boat

Rowing Shells

Flatwater Paddling

Utility boats are usually used in harbors to travel between a moored boat and the shore. These boats must meet all safety requirements. If you paddle a utility boat at night, you must carry a flashlight and warn other boats of your presence so they can avoid a collision.

Sea kayaks and canoes may also be used on flatwater. You should know that it may be difficult for other boats to see and avoid these vessels.

Things you should know:



Paddlecraft have the right-of-way in all cases, except when they are crossing a designated shipping channel, in that case they must give the right-of-way to ships. But paddle boats are easier to maneuver than other types of boats. If you are in a paddle boat, be courteous and try not to get in the way of power and sailboats.


Whitewater Raft

Whitewater Raft

Whitewater Kayak

Whitewater Paddling

Whether you paddle a kayak, canoe, or raft on a river, you must know about river hydrology (the way the water moves) BEFORE you put in. It is important to know about currents, eddies, holes, and other river features in order to paddle safely. It's best to hire a professional guide, or take classes on river running and safety, before you take your own river trip. California has world-class rivers, but you can enjoy them safely only after instruction.

Whitewater Kayak

River Features

^ A rapid is a section of turbulent water. Rapids usually run through steep terrain, which increases the water's speed. Rapids can vary a lot in length and severity.

^ An eddy is a current that tends to flow upstream, usually found downstream of an obstruction in the main current. An eddy creates a calm spot in the river that paddlers can use to rest, regroup, scout and pull out of the main current.

^ The terms "hole," "reversal," "keeper," and "hydraulic" all describe the same river feature. This is where the river current pours over an obstruction or dam and the water reverses, causing a revolving current that can trap boats and people. You should avoid these "holes."

^ Whitewater rapids are classified by six degrees of difficulty:

Class I: Easy

Class II: Novice

Class III: Intermediate

Class IV: Advanced

Class V: Expert

Class VI: Extreme

See appendix Cfor a detailed description of the whitewater class system.

Basic River Running Tactics


Downstream V

Downstream V with large stationary waves indicates gaps between rocks.


10. Don't miss your take-out point. Head for shore, turn into current and forward ferry to shore. Boater in stern should be last out of the craft while bow person holds craft against the current.


Downstream V

Downstream V with large stationary waves indicates gaps between rocks.

pstream V

7. The point of the upstream V indicates rocks.

1. Before you go, know the level of difficulty of the river, and the landmarks of the take-out point.

2. Launch the craft into the current facing upstream. Stern person gets in first while bow person holds craft against the current. Before heading downstream, become familiar with the craft and how it handles, and "warm up" with some basic maneuvers in calm water.

6. Avoid waterfalls, low dams, and dangerous rapids. A flat horizon line in the river may indicate a waterfall or low dam. Portage all of these


3. Avoid fallen trees, brush, and bridge abutments. Even in slow water, these hazards can be deadly. When approaching obstructions, plan well in advance. Portage may be necessary (carrying boat around obstacle). Use a backstroke in large waves to crest the wave gently and avoid swamping.

4. Your craft may wrap" around an obstacle sideways. Know how to highside" to prevent wrap." To avoid being trapped, you can climb n top of the obstacle or your boat or abandon the boat and swim.

5. Capsized? Stay at the upstream end of the craft to avoid being caught between it and any obstruction. Keep your paddle if possible, but don't take chances saving equipment. If it improves your safety, leave the craft and swim to the nearest eddy.

pstream V

7. The point of the upstream V indicates rocks.

9. To avoid being swept into a rock or other hazards on a curve, position the craft sideways to the current. Paddle strongly through the curve close to the shore opposite the hazard.

AT Stt


and click on CA River Flows

These are general safety guidelines for whitewater paddling.

If you are a beginner, always go with a guide or experienced leader who is familiar with the river.

Before You Put In

^ Check weather and river conditions. Consult the radio, newspaper, Internet or local authorities.

^ Check that you boat with one or more partners to make your trip safer. For a whitewater run, you should have at least three boats in a party to be safe.

^ Check the boat or raft to make sure it is made well with strong materials.

^ Check the river course. Be familiar with the river's features before starting out, or hire a river guide who knows the run, its classification, and its special hazards.

^ Check to make sure everyone is wearing a properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Attach a whistle to each PFD.

^ Check to make sure you know how to "Eskimo roll," or escape for self-rescue, if you're using a kayak or closed-deck canoe.

^ Check to make sure you have a realistic view of your boating skills. Good river skills take time and practice to learn. Overconfi-dence or overestimating your ability can quickly get you into trouble.

^ Check your float plan. Be sure it lists the correct put-in and take-out locations. Give your float plan to a friend or relative, and let him or her know when you have returned.


At the Put-In

Check the equipment. Secure all ropes and other gear so they do not get in the way of paddling. Securing ropes and gear is also important so that they will not get tangled in brush or trees, or entangle a swimmer if the boat overturns.

Check to see if you have-throw bags.

and know how to use—safety gear such as

Check to see if you have a first aid kit, extra clothing, drinking water, and high-energy snacks.

Check to make sure everyone on the water knows basic verbal and hand signals. These commands include paddle commands, signals for hazards, emergencies, course direction, and for general communication. (See page 86.)

Check that all passengers know what to do if the boat capsizes or "flips." This means knowing swimmer's position, keeping to the upstream side of the boat, keeping track of people and gear, righting the boat and re-entering the boat.

Check to see that you have recommended equipment such as a repair kit, bailing device, river maps, a flashlight, a compass, a knife, and a pump.


Check Out Your Equipment:


♦ A Type III or V properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

♦ A properly fitted helmet.

♦ Booties, sandals with a heel strap, or shoes that will not come off easily.

♦ Nylon, synthetic or wool clothing because they do not hold water.

♦ A wet or dry suit for cold weather or water conditions.

♦ Sunglasses with a leash, sunscreen, and a signaling whistle. Do not apply sunscreen to your forehead where it can drip into your eyes, or to the back of your legs because it can cause you to slip out of the raft.

While Under Way

^ Check any section of the river you're unfamiliar with, or that you can't see from the boat. Go to the shore and scout rapids you are not familiar with. If the rapid is too much of a challenge, carry the boat (portage) around the obstacles.

^ Check the terrain along the river and river banks. Beware of and avoid strainers such as overhanging trees, log jams, brush piles, and other obstacles in moving currents.

^ Check to make sure you are aware of the effect of cold water, air temperature and wind on your body temperature. Hypothermia is a constant hazard on the river.


^ Pull over to the side of the river a safe distance upstream of the rapid or obstruction that you want to scout.

^ Keep your PFD and helmet on to protect yourself if you slip and fall into the river or onto rocks.

^ Carry a throw bag with you. You may need it if a group member falls into the water or you may need it to help other boaters.

^ Look at the rapid and mentally chart the best course. Remember where the eddies or safe parts of the river are in case you take an unexpected path through the rapid. Consider actions you would take if you stray from the best course.

^ Everyone in the group should be comfortable telling the others that they want to portage around a rapid that is beyond their skill level. The rest of the group should respect the individual's decision.

^ At especially difficult rapids, station rescuers downstream with boats and throw lines to prepare for unscheduled swims.

• Never boat alone. Make sure at least one experienced person is along.

• Drink plenty of water, not alcohol or other diuretics like caffeinated sodas or coffee that can make you urinate.

• Never wear baggy clothes, which tend to get caught on things.

• Never wear cotton, which holds water and makes you cold.

• Never tie yourself or others into the craft.

Returning to Shore

^ Check the surrounding area at put-in and take-out points so that you don't leave any equipment or other items behind. Carry out what you carried in. Leave the wilderness cleaner than you found it.

^ Check that you are extra careful when entering or exiting the water. Slippery rocks or underwater objects can often cause leg or ankle injuries.



Answer these questions by circling T for true or F for false.

1. Whitewater paddling is a basic skill that requires no previous experience or instruction T F

2. You should get out of your boat and scout unfamiliar rapids from the shore T F

3. A class V river is a good choice for beginners T F

4. Make sure to wear baggy clothes for whitewater paddling T F

5. River flows generally remain constant throughout the day T F

6. A strainer is a significant hazard on the river T F

7. Eddies are dangerous obstacles in a river, and you should avoid them T F

8. If you fall into a river, you should get into swimmer's position, floating on your back with your toes up and your feet pointed downstream T F

Turn to page 88 for correct answers.

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