Information: PADDLE SPORTS

Paddle Sports Information Troop Meetings Main Event

Related Advancement and Awards

Paddle1Sizing Your Life Jacket – On land, have a buddy stand behind you and firmly pull up both shoulder straps. If the shoulder straps pull up to ear level, the life jacket doesn’t fit snugly enough. Readjust the jacket or try a Paddle2smaller size or different style. In calm, shallow water, test the fit of a life jacket by relaxing your body and tilting your head back. It should keep your chin well above water. If it doesn’t, readjust for a snugger fit or try a life jacket with a higher buoyancy rating. Check the label to find the rating.

Types of Paddle Sports – Paddlecraft refers to any human-powered watercraft that is propelled and maneuvered by a handheld paddle. This program feature focuses on canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards.

  • CanoeCanoe – The basic canoe is one of the oldest water- craft designs known to humankind. Throughout history, canoes have been made with whatever materials were found locally. Most early canoes were carved out of logs or made from bark stretched over a wooden frame. As new materials were developed, it became popular to make canoes out of fabric and aluminum. These materials allowed canoes to be both lighter and stronger. Modern canoes can be made of synthetic materials like plastic, fiberglass, and Kevlar® with carbon fiber.
  • KayakKayak – Originally developed in the far north to enable native peoples to cross cold water safely, kayaks are designed to roll upright if they capsize. The original kayaks were created by stretching waterproof skins over a wooden frame. Today’s kayaks are made with just as many diverse materi- als as canoes are, but they are also designed for very specific purposes. Your group should decide whether it will choose recreational, touring, white- water, or sit-on-top kayaks.
  • PaddleboardStand Up Paddleboard – The fastest growing type of paddlecraft is the stand up paddleboard (SUP) in which a paddler stands atop a long, buoyant “surfboard” and uses a paddle with an extended shaft. Many of the paddle strokes are very similar to those used in canoeing, and SUPs have fins that allow tracking in a straight line. Modern-day stand up paddleboarding takes much of its terminology from the surfing culture. For example, the front and back of an SUP are called the nose and tail, rather than the boating terms “fore” and “aft.”

Paddle Sports Equipment – To participate safely in paddle sports, all participants need:

  • EquipmentLife jacket (also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD)
  • Canoe, kayak, or SUP
  • Paddle
  • Swimwear
  • Closed-toe shoes
  • Appropriate warm clothes
  • Sunscreen
  • Whistle or other signaling device
  • Water bottle and snacks

Also consider having:

  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses, preferably with a strap
  • Waterproof camera
  • Bilge pump and/or sponge (for kayaks and canoes only)

SafetyAfloatPaddlecraft Safety – For any BSA activity afloat, participants must understand and respect the Safety Afloat plan. For more detailed information about aquatics safety, see the Guide to Safe Scouting.

  1. Qualified Supervision – All paddle sports activities must be supervised by a mature and conscientious adult who understands and knowingly accepts responsibility for the well- being and safety of the youth and who is expe- rienced with the type of paddlecraft and activity under consideration. One adult supervisor is required for every 10 participants, with a mini- mum of two for any one group. All supervisors must complete Safety Afloat and Safe Swim Defense training, and at least one must be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  2. Personal Health Review – The supervisor should review the health histories of all partici- pants and adjust the activity to anticipate risks associated with individual health conditions.
  3. Swimming Ability – Every participant who intends to train for or paddle a solo kayak, canoe, or SUP at a Scouting function must be classified as a swimmer by completing the 100-yard BSA swimmer classification test. For activity afloat, those not classified as swimmers are limited to multiperson craft during outings or float trips on calm water with little likelihood of capsizing or falling overboard. They may ride as a buddy in a tandem paddlecraft with an adult swimmer skilled in that craft.
  4. Life Jackets – Properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets must be worn by all persons engaged in paddle sports. Type III life jackets are recommended for general recreational use.
  5. Buddy System – Scouts never go on the water alone. Every person must have a buddy, and every craft on the water must have a “buddy boat.”
  6. Skill Proficiency – All persons participating in activity afloat must be trained and practiced in craft-handling skills, safety, and emergency procedures. Anyone classified as a swimmer may engage in paddle sports training provided by a qualified instructor. For unit recreational activities in calm, confined waters, participants need to be able to control their paddlecraft adequately to return to shore. Units taking day or overnight trips on calm water should have the skills required for the BSA award or merit badge for their chosen paddlecraft (e.g. canoe, kayak, or SUP). Paddle sports activities on rivers or the ocean require training beyond that obtained from the basic BSA awards.
  7. Equipment – All equipment must be suited to the craft, the water conditions, and the individual. Equipment must be in good repair and meet all applicable standards. Appropriate rescue equipment must be available. Whitewater paddling requires the use of safety helmets. During treks, safety gear such as navigation aids, weather radios, individual signal devices, throw bags, first-aid kits, spare paddles, and spare clothing should be carried in the kayaks, canoes, SUPs, and/or other support craft.
  8. Discipline – Scouts must know and respect the rules, and always follow instructions from the adults supervising the activity afloat. Rules and safety procedures should be reviewed before each group launch.

Planning – Before Scouts go afloat, they develop a float plan detailing their route, time schedule, and contingency plans. The float plan considers all possible water and weather conditions and all applicable rules or regulations, and is shared with all who have an interest.

  • Float Plan – Complete the preparation by  writing a detailed itinerary, or float plan, noting put-in and pullout locations and
    waypoints, along with the approximate time the group should arrive at each. Travel time should be estimated generously.
  • Contingencies – Planning must identify possible emergencies and other circum- stances that could force a change of plans. Develop alternative plans for each situation. Identify local emergency resources such as EMS systems, sheriff’s depart- ments, or ranger stations. Check your pri- mary communication system, and identify backups, such as the nearest residence to a campsite. Cell phones and radios may lose coverage, run out of power, or suffer water damage.
  • Notification – File the float plan with parents, the local council office if traveling on running water, and local authorities if appropriate. Assign a member of the unit committee to alert authorities if prearranged check-ins are overdue. Make sure everyone is promptly notified when the trip is concluded.
  • Weather – Check the weather forecast just before setting out, and keep an alert weather eye. Anticipate changes and bring all craft ashore when rough weather threatens. Wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after the last incidence of thunder or lightning.

yellowfloatOther Safety Considerations  All groups need to check the paddling location for fixed hazards (rocks, current, bottom conditions, fishing hooks, trees, etc.) and mobile hazards (other people, other watercraft, weather conditions). Be sure to choose protected sites. All paddlers must wear life jackets at all times. Ideally, life jackets should be worn anytime Scouts are within 10 feet of the water. Closed-toe shoes will protect feet from blisters in the boat and foot injuries outside the boat. Be sure that adequate instructor-to-student ratios are maintained and that groups aren’t excessively separated.

Resources and References

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Paddle Sports Information Troop Meetings Main Event

For Adult and Youth Boy Scout Leaders