Safety is No Accident
A weekly series of safety tips by Phil Boyer
Breakdown paddles can make or break any river trip. If you lose or break a paddle and don’t have a breakdown, you are either hiking out alone or hand-paddling the rest of the river. Both scenarios can be dangerous and time-consuming.
Jesse Coombs, Jackson Kayak team member and worldwide expedition paddler, states “There are a few items that are must haves when setting off in your creek boat. Unless your river is pretty easy road access, one of the most important items is a break down paddle. Today’s breakdown paddles perform almost as well as the one you don’t want to break, and when your only decent (or desired) choice is continuing down stream, your break down paddle can spell the difference between success and disaster.”
On most runs, one breakdown for every two paddlers works fine, but on difficult or multi-day runs, every paddler should have their own breakdown. When I am creek boating, I always to have my own spare. If I lose or break my paddle, I want to be able to replace it without taking someone else’s. Remember this: if you use a friend’s breakdown, it is only yours to borrow until your friend needs it.
A breakdown will add some weight to your boat, but it’s easy to store and is cheap insurance on any trip. Often paddlers will share the weight by splitting it up and each carrying half; however, I find it’s best to keep all the pieces together.
Make sure you securely fasten the breakdown in your boat. During swims, a loose breakdown can easily get ripped out of a boat. Tape the shaft and blades together and drill a hole in the blades so you can tie the paddle into the boat. Don’t tape the end of the shaft – it leaves a sticky adhesive which makes it difficult to put the breakdown together. Also, float bags help secure the breakdown in place so it does not bounce around while paddling or during swims.
Paddles get lost or broken – anytime, anywhere. Take care of each other out there by being properly equipped for every trip.
Safety is no accident.