Solopaddeln: Besser alleine Wildwasser fahren als gar nicht?

Autor: Hendri Coetzee
12.03.2021
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 - Celliers Kruger, Chef von Vagabond Kayaks aus Südafrika, schickte uns diesen Aufsatz seines früheren Team-Fahrers Hendri Coetzee.

Dieser schildert darin seine Gedanken, ob es sinnvoller ist, allein aufs Wildwasser zu gehen oder besser auf die Tour zu verzichten, wenn man keine Gruppe um sich hat.

Um den Inhalt nicht durch die Übersetzung ins Deutsche möglicherweise unbewusst in seinen Kernaussagen zu verändern, haben wir uns entschlossen, den Originaltext in englischer Sprache zu veröffentlichen:  

What's life without a bit of controversy? A Golden Rule of paddling is "Never Paddle Alone", in fact it's stuck inside most kayaks that leave the factory.

Hendri Coetzee has submitted an article that presents the other side of the story.

   
  To paddle solo or not to paddle at all, that is the question.


If you need someone else to justify solo paddling for you, then you are probable not the type to be paddling alone anyway. The following thoughts are not intended to persuade anyone to do what they don't feel is right personally. I write this only as some kind of answer for the fuss that is made whenever someone "catches" me after a solo run on one of my home rivers.

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I got a beautiful new kayak a few weeks ago coincidentally called a Solo ( nice name, thanks Celliers) and inside were a list of safety instructions.

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Safety instruction number 10. "Never paddle alone. If you don't have friends, work on your social skills first" Paddling with a buddy is regarded as one of the golden rules of paddling. Personally I don't think it's the, be and end all of safety.

We have all heard that you should never paddle alone. Why? Camaraderie is one of the great things in kayaking but it certainly is not the only thing. Without a doubt I experience a much closer connection with nature when I am alone on a river, without talking and with no eyes on you, it offers you a rare chance to just be you. A much more practical reason for paddling alone is the problem of finding someone to paddle with, when you have the time and inclination, especially on short notice. If no one can be found, should you then not paddle?
     
No doubt solo paddling involves "more" risk but how much more? Is it really as terminal as kayaking folk law will have us believe? Saying people should not kayak solo makes as much sense as saying no one should paddle class 5. Class 4 is so much safer so lets all stick to it. I believe that on a scale of danger, running solo below your skill level is still a very acceptable risk.

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I am not talking about running class 5 solo, there can be no doubt that when working with such small margins of error, having another person there when the shit hits the fan, could be lifesaving. What I would like to propose however is that paddling you're local by yourself is not really all that more dangerous.
Its not a black and white issue, and you might have to change your angle of attack, so lets have a look at some of the factors that should be considered.

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Paddling alone is considered dangerous because:

1. There is no one there to throw you a bag, if you end up in a terminal hole.
Terminal holes are rare, if you are going to solo a river with one, and there is a chance of going near it, portage.

2. If you hit your head and go unconscious, you will die.
Unless its favorable conditions, very few kayakers are good enough to get to you quick enough to get you upright and too the bank in time to save you. Hitting your head that hard is rare and even if you are with another kayaker your chances of survival are slim. You are probable going to die, alone or not.

3. No one to pull you to the side after a swim.
If you're a good or a sufficiently desperate swimmer you should be able to get yourself to the side. In 11 years of kayaking I have never had a swim, were I have not been able to get myself to the bank. Not saying it cant happen, just that you would have to be extremely unlucky to have such a nasty on your local at precisely the time when you're a soloing

4. If you swim you will loose equipment.
Yes you probable will and may it be a lesson to you not to swim next time. Great lesson to hold onto your paddle. Swimming cost gear in most cases, luckily on your local, you have better chance of finding it later

5. If you get pinned you will have to sort it out yourself.
Its your local run, avoid possible pinning spots as if your life depended on it.

For me it comes down to the question. What is more dangerous? A paddler, paddling a class below his skill level solo or a class above with company? I propose it is the later. With both having there time and place.

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To sum up, solo paddling is more dangerous, but if done smartly only by a little and for the extra risk you take you can have the following advantages.

1. Go boating when you feel like it, at a moments notice.
2. You can follow your own rhythm.
3. A closer connection with nature.
4. Added focus and concentration, making your local more exiting again.
5. Get some extra exercise running or biking the shuttle

Concentrate, take a bit more care, analyze the risk and know your own skill level, but by all means paddle when you feel like it, alone or not. Ultimately where, with whom and how much risk you take is up to you. All I hope is that at least you will give the issue some though before you go repeating the mantra "never paddle alone".

By Hendri Coetzee

Bei einer Tour auf dem Kongo, bei der Hendri Coetzee die Führung übernommen hatte, verunglückte er auf tragische Weise tödlich.

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