New Rules of the River: Paddle Wise Responsibility Code
By Eugene Buchanan3 Min. Read
Hitting the water this summer? Be responsible on the river.
That’s the message being driven home by American Whitewater and NRS, which together recently joined forces to release a new responsibility code for river runners called Paddle Wise (#paddlewise).
The initiative outlines the do’s and don’ts for people who head out paddling, with the dual goals of safety and preservation.
“From a safety perspective, the Paddle Wise initiative is an attempt to address the increasing number of accidents we’ve seen in Class I and II situations as more new participants take to rivers,” says Mark Singleton, executive director of American Whitewater. “Paddlesports have been a great way to get outside in nature during the pandemic, but sadly not every new participant is exposed to basic awareness and safety concepts.”
Paddle Wise also underscores the need for paddlers to protect the places they recreate in, limit their impact, and promote a positive image of the sport. Many newcomers to the sport, adds Singleton, are unfamiliar with the ethics practiced by more experienced river users, with increased participation from the pandemic putting greater pressure on public lands and waters. Targeting both the industry and individual paddlers, the initiative stresses the need for paddlers to be proactive about teaching the importance of keeping rivers clean, healthy and accessible.
“It encourages paddlers to share river responsibly, paddle safety and practice responsible river use wherever river users congregate,” says spokesperson Liz Rovira. “It was created so there was a responsibility code for river runners to be their best selves on the water and help protect, restore and maintain access to rivers.”
Below are the seven tenets of #paddlewise developed by American Whitewater and NRS, including key tips and pointers to keep in mind the next time you hit the river:
7 Tenets of the Responsibility Code for Paddlers
1) Paddle Smart
Paddle within your ability
Keep your skills sharp
Communicate with your team on the river
Think for yourself
Don’t let bad decisions compound
Go big, but come home safe
2) Paddle Prepared
Consult existing beta
Understand International Scale of River Difficulty and your chosen river’s rating
Carry proper equipment including medical kit, spare paddle and emergency food/layers
Use restroom facilities or bring your own waste disposal
Be aware of and remove micro-trash
6) Paddle Aware
Check weather and flow conditions
Check for closures and river regulations
Know your ability and your group’s ability
Understand surrounding landscape and escape routes
Research existing hazards, portages and critical features
7) Paddle Respectful
Consider impacts to gateway communities
Consider impacts on other paddlers
Park in designated areas
Be friendly and represent the whitewater community positively
Appreciate cultural resources but leave undisturbed
Paddlers are encouraged to share the stoke of responsible river running by using the hashtag #paddlewise on social media, spreading these values at put-ins and take-outs, and sharing them with river-related businesses and organizations.
“Think of Paddle Wise as a trip talk for the digital age,” says Singleton. “It’s meant to be shared via social media in the hope that river runners can be welcoming and proactive in reducing paddling-related incidents and preserving the waterways we all love and enjoy.”
Photos: Paddling the Snake River through Hells Canyon – James Kaiser, #paddlewise graphic – paddlwise.org; Flip drills during OARS whitewater guide school – Jess Wallstrom; Rogue River kayaker – Adam Edwards; Cultural artifacts on the San Juan – Andrew Miller