Whilst considering the differences between my paddling buddies and my boozy weekend buddies, it occurred to me that my experiences as a disabled paddler are probably not particularly representative. For example, I look for friends with the ability to carry both my weighty kayak and my weighty self to and from the river. I have therefore decided to supplement my own advice with the opinions and experiences of other paddlers. The added advantage is that, should you need to blame anyone for any negative consequences incurred as a result of following this advice, you can blame them rather than blaming me.
1. Make Friends With People Who Can Drive And Own A Decent Car
You laugh now, but this tip has a serious note. Many of you identified that you will paddle with “whoever has a car and is driving to the water”. A fine philosophy most of the time but you won’t be laughing when you try to drive to the Alps in something resembling that yellow hunk of junk from the Inbetweeners. Obviously that’s not to say that you should avoid making friends with people who own small yellow cars. Some of the nicest paddlers have fine yellow paddle wagons. Simply give some thought to this before officially declaring yourself a paddling player, if not for the transport reason then for one of the next three reasons.
2. Make Friends With People You Like And Trust
Please don’t let it get lost. Paddling with people you like is a recipe for an amazing time, whether its on the river, at the bar, or in the hot tub, and you may not realise the importance of paddling with people you trust until you come to really depend upon that trust. This cropped up time and time again in my research: Paddlers trusting a line that someone else has described; Paddlers pinned underwater and trusting that their buddies will save their life; Paddlers getting nailed and trusting that their mates have enough duct tape to fix their face.
You may of course go through your whole kayaking career without ever needing to trust your paddling buddies, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if you need it.
3. Make Friends With People Who Respect Your Choices
One of the people who contributed to this article shared their story of being repeatedly ridiculed for deciding not to run something. Within 3 years of learning to paddle, this person had nearly drowned once and had lost two of their friends on the river. There is a fine line in the paddling world between encouraging someone to test themselves and making them feel uncomfortable, but it is such an important line to get right. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable on the river, try and remember that you paddle for fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
Fortunately, the vast majority of responses were from paddlers who spoke of the respect and patience shown by their kayaking buddies. The good guys are out there, you just have to find them.
4. Take It As It Comes
Finally, although it is important to consider who to paddle with, sometimes the right thing to do is to take it as it comes. As one of the contributors to this article explained, “exploration doesn’t just come in the form of going to places that you’ve not been before, but also in the form of meeting people that you’ve not met before.”
Who knows, you might get to paddle with some pretty inspirational people along the way.