Paddlers use many pieces of equipment for safety and comfort. All whitewater
paddlers wear helmets, because of the frequent occurrence of rocks on rivers. Usually
rivers are cold, even in the summer, because they are moving water and the sun cannot
warm them; therefore, paddlers wear neoprene, often in the form of wetsuits, which don’t
keep them dry but insulate their bodies. Drysuits, on the other hand, do keep paddlers dry
but don’t insulate them, so paddlers have to wear layers underneath in the colder months.
Drysuits have gaskets on the wrists and neck that keep water out, and a waterproof zipper
on the chest so paddlers can get in and out of the suit.
Kayakers wear a “skirt”, which is a neoprene cover to keep water out of the boat. It
goes around their waist and tightly around the cockpit (hole for the paddler). Skirts have a
loop at the front that, when pulled, detaches the skirt from the cockpit and allows the
paddler to get out of the boat. Most paddlers carry a knife, because of the risk of getting
tangled in a rope or of not being able to reach the skirt loop. Knives rarely cause accidents;
a paddler is actually safer with a knife.
As mentioned above, many paddlers bring rope on paddling trips, because they can
use them in river rescues. If a paddler accidentally becomes a swimmer, the other paddlers
can throw him a rope and bring him to the riverbank. The man who developed the use of
the throw‐line rescue bag, Charlie Walbridge, is also the Safety Chairman of AW. He wrote
AW’s regulations for safety and methods of communication. He currently teaches swiftwater
rescue courses for paddlers and is authorized by the American Canoe Association to certify
instructors for commercial programs (charliewalbridge.com).
"Home." Charlie Walbridge Swiftwater Rescue/Whitewater Consulting. Charlie Walbridge,
Web. 24 Feb. 2015.