NRS and American Whitewater have released a new responsibility code for paddlers. Called Paddle Wise, the program outlines what all paddlers should do to help be responsible for themselves, each other and the environment, especially with more people hitting the water due to the pandemic.
With the dual goals of safety and preservation, the initiative underscores the need for paddlers to protect the places they recreate in, limit their impact, stay safe and promote a positive image of the sport.
“From a safety perspective, the Paddle Wise initiative is an attempt to address the increasing number of accidents we’ve seen in Class I and II situations as more new participants take to rivers,” says Mark Singleton, executive director of American Whitewater. “Paddlesports have been a great way to get outside in nature during the pandemic, but sadly not every new participant is exposed to basic awareness and safety concepts.”
Many newcomers to the sport, adds Singelton, are unfamiliar with the ethics practiced by more experienced river users, with increased participation from the pandemic putting greater pressure on public lands and waters. Targeting both the industry and individual paddlers, the initiative stresses the need for paddlers to be proactive about teaching the importance of keeping rivers clean, healthy and accessible.
The campaign consists of printable flyers, and Instagram, Twitter and Facebook graphics to spread its basic tenets: Paddle Smart, Paddle Prepared, Paddle Inclusive; Paddle Safe; Paddle No Trace; Paddle Aware and Paddle Respectful. Each slogan also has short descriptions outlining tips and pointers to accomplish each goal. Paddlers are encouraged to share the stoke of responsible river running by using the hashtag #paddlewise on social media, spreading these values at put-ins and take-outs, and sharing them with river-related businesses and organizations.
“It encourages paddlers to share river responsibly, paddle safety and practice responsible river use wherever river users congregate,” says spokesperson Liz Rovira. “It was created so there was a responsibility code for river runners to be their best selves on the water and help protect, restore and maintain access to rivers.”
Paddle Wise Components:
Paddle Smart: Paddle within your ability • Keep your skills sharp • Communicate with your team on the river • Think for yourself • Don’t let bad decisions compound • Go big, but come home safe
Paddle Prepared: Plan ahead • Consult existing beta • Understand International Scale of River Difficulty and your chosen river’s rating * Carry proper equipment including medical kit, spare paddle and emergency food/layers
Paddle Inclusive: Share it • Everyone with the proper skillset is welcome • Find a mentor • Be a mentor • Acknowledge indigenous stewardship and land • Be a positive part of the community
Paddle Safe: Wear your PFD • Carry a throw rope, knife and other safety gear • Practice safe river running technique • Set safety where appropriate • Take a Swiftwater Rescue course • Practice whitewater rescue skills regularly
Paddle No Trace: Leave no trace • Always be a river steward • Use existing access areas, trails and campsites • Pack it in • Pack it out • Use restroom facilities or bring your own waste disposal • Be aware of and remove micro-trash
Paddle Aware: Check weather and flow conditions • Check for closures and river regulations • Know your ability and your group’s ability • Understand surrounding landscape and escape routes • Research existing hazards, portages and critical features
Paddle Respectful: Consider impacts to gateway communities • Consider impacts on other paddlers • Drive slowly • Park in designated areas • Respect closures • Be friendly and represent the whitewater community positively • Appreciate cultural resources but leave undisturbed
“Think of Paddle Wise as a trip talk for the digital age,” says Singleton. “It’s meant to be shared via social media in the hope that river runners can be welcoming and proactive in reducing paddling-related incidents and preserving the waterways we all love and enjoy.”