Whether it’s a corp of seasoned, experience-hardened paddlers or an extended flotilla of friendly casual paddlers, group dynamics and practical protocol play a roll in every aspect of the group.
Typically leadership is left to the experienced kayaker most familiar with the area in which paddling will occur - the best qualified to make on-water judgement calls. The group’s leader should also oversee all land-based preparations; all aspects of a group trip.
Every kayaker should be aware of his/her kayaking skills and their own limitations. Likewise, a leader needs to be able to quickly assess each paddler's level of proficiency and to make decisions accordingly. The "weakest link" is usually the least skilled/experienced (through ability, gear or even confidence) to be able to handle all the situations the group may encounter on that particular trip.
Consider conducting a group pre-trip, hands-on capsize recovery session.
Several emergency signal devices (VHS, PLBs, even the unreliable cell phone) are all good group assets. Use hand signaling to communicate over distances. Also consider using the “buddy system” to pair up paddling partner to watch each other’s ‘back’.
First Aid: Kit inventories vary in content so consider augmenting individual kits with the group medical supplies. Know any member’s particular medications, medical/health issues (allergies?).
Repair: – Personal gear often dictates what each paddler should include in a kit. Consider at least basic kayak hardware (rudder cable, hull repair sealer, etc.)…and don’t forget the multi-tool and duct tape!
Survival: Every member should carry their own emergency survival kit. Group survival items include: 2-3 person shelters; water filter, fire starters, multiple day/night flares, etc.
Group dynamics feed off of each paddler's abilities, experience levels, overall awareness and even attitudes - all playing a vital role in the safety and overall success of the trip.
Be safe and have fun together out there.
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