Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When is the Paddle is too Big for the Paddler

There has been a lot of discussion in our club over the last season about how to deal with paddlers who show up for paddles that are at the very limit of their abilities and endurance. There have been a few times where the conditions have taken unpredictable turns for the worse and turned a paddle that was a stretch for one or more paddlers into paddles that were more than they could safely handle. There have also been a few paddles where paddlers that were slow showed up where the majority of the group were fast.
It is one of the perennial problems with open club paddles. Sometimes the people who show up to paddle are not the people best suited to the trip as planned. Sometimes you get people along for whom the trip is at the upper edge of their skills or endurance. It is not always fun or fair, but it is up to the trip coordinators to either tell the inappropriate people to stay on the beach, change the plan, or deal with any issues as the arise.
Personally, I think the least good solution is telling people to stay on the beach. I know of many paddles that I should have sat out in my first few seasons. If had not been allowed to participate, I would not have grown as a paddler or I would have found a club that was more friendly. There are clear trip levels posted that are designed to help paddlers make wise choices. When a paddler starts showing up for a lot of inappropriate paddles, it is appropriate for someone in a leadership position to gently help them see that they are making poor choices. That approach should be the exception and not the rule and should only be handled by club leadership.
If paddlers want to do particular paddles and be able to set the tone and level of the paddle precisely, they should coordinate paddles outside of the club framework. Then they can have control over who knows about the trip and who gets to participate. If a paddle is coordinated through the club framework, it is a club paddle and the coordinators should be prepared to deal with any and all paddlers.

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