From the archives: this article was first published in the Summer 2007 issue of Rapid MagazineSubscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.

After nearly 10 years and 38 issues of Rapid we’ve barely made a dent in the original list of story ideas we had for our very first issue. Not to mention the “Hey-you-guys-should-do-this” list of tips and techniques we get every day via email, at events and on the river. And this spring, at our Canadian Whitewater Instructor Conference, instructors came up with their own lists of things they should be sharing with beginner paddlers—there is more to being a paddler than just strokes and drills. So in the name of education and entertainment we present Rapid’s first, 101 Things Every Paddler Should Know.

WARNING: The 101 things described in this article may be hazardous to your health and the health of your relationships. The onus is on you to apply these things appropriately; they are best learned and practiced under the guidance of a qualified instructor.

101 things every paddler should know

1 Everybody swims

Now that we have that out of the way, here are 100 more things you should know.

2 Plastic bag booties

Found last minute at any grocery, liquor or general store, plastic bags tucked under dry suit gaskets are bone dry… at least until you step on a pebble.

3 Beer tastes better at the take-out

Especially if you didn’t swim and are drinking beer belonging to the swimmer in your group. Round out the meal with leftover ribs or falafel.

4 Throw a throw bag

Missing sucks. Throwing into the trees is embarrassing. And it’s your responsibility to your fellow paddlers. Practice throwing when you hang it to dry after every trip.

5 Stuff a throw bag

Because if you’re quick about it, you might get another chance to redeem yourself (and rescue the swimmer).

Three people on shore, one person throwing a throw rope to person in the water
It’s essential to take a swiftwater rescue course. | Photo: Yellowstone National Park // Flickr

6 Get naked, not busted

A well-practiced technique keeps park wardens at bay and saves waiting for a change room at the mall.

7 The last song on the radio will be in your head all day

Pay special attention to avoiding songs such as: Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go; anything by Culture Club; We Built This City; The Gambler; C Is For Cookie; Da Da Da; Rock Your Body by Justin Timberlake and Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar On Me.

8 Change a tire

Because AAA/CAA and roadside assistance is just that, “Roadside assistance.”

9 Boost your car with Mohawk paddles

Yes, it’s possible.

10 Website for local water levels


11 Duct tape an ankle

You tell your friends that 95 percent of paddling injuries happen on shore. P.S. There is no good way to peel it off.

12 Paddle slalom

Hint: Go down through the green gates and up through the red ones. The rest is just practice.

13 Read contour lines

“Dude, so like all these lines touch up ahead, should we scout?” The answer is yes!

14 Positive river signals only

How many times have you wondered if she is pointing to the nasty hole or the tongue? Once and for all, point away from danger and to where you want the paddler to go.

15 Front surf

16 Febreze

Although the stench of your wet paddling bag brings back fond memories for you, it doesn’t have the same effect on your family or flatmates. Try Febreze Fabric Refresher. Download grocery store coupons.

17 Don’t teach your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife to paddle

Unless of course, you don’t like sex or half your house.

18 J-stroke

19 Roll

20 River booty

The unofficial river rules has always been: Finder’s keepers. That said, bulletin boards are full of posts from very honest people on missions trying to return lost gear to the rightful owners. And, if you left a green Old Town Tripper wrapped around a rock on the Opeongo River in 2003, give us a call.

camping tent set up on a sandy spit with kayak moored nearby
It looks pretty in pictures, but camping in sand sucks. | Photo: Lesly Derksen/Unsplash

21 Camping in sand sucks

Oh, it looks pretty in the pictures and does have a sexy Bo-Derick-in-Ten appeal to it, but trust us, unless you want to spend the rest of your trip digging sand out of your zippers, dry bags, wannigan, spice kit, hair, tooth brush, et cetera, get your head out of the sand.

22 Duct tape on your helmet is stupid

And for God’s sake, write your name and telephone number on the inside of your PFD.

23 Sunscreen isn’t waterproof

The American Melanoma Foundation recommends reapplying even waterproof sunscreen after 80 minutes of exposure to water. Water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied every 40 minutes.

24 Z drag

25 Look at the camera and you will never get in a magazine (except this one)

And nobody wants to see your tongue.

26 Tip your instructor

Nothing says thank you for dragging my sorry ass to shore like a six-pack and a wad of cash.

27 River right

It is the right side of the river when you are looking downstream. FYI it is still river right when you are looking upstream.

28 Back ferry

Go to the National Film Board of Canada website,, order Bill Mason’s film, Path of the Paddle. You’ll see.

29 Bottle bans

In a long-standing effort to reduce the amount of trash campers think will burn in fire pits, many provincial and state park officials do not allow non-reusable cans or bottles within their boundaries. Thankfully, red wine is now available in Tetra Paks and Wiser’s Deluxe Canadian Whisky comes in plastic mickeys.

30 Light a one-match fire

What, do we look like Boy Scouts to you? Look it up.

31 It’s better to be the guide

Learn how to remove leeches. | Photo: iStock

32 Remove leeches

Burning with a cigarette; applying mosquito repellent, shampoo, or salt; or pulling at the leech can result in the leech regurgitating into the wound and causing infection much worse than the leech bite itself. Instead, simply slide your fingernail along your skin at the narrow (biting) end of the leech, forcing it to let go; then flick it to get the fat end to let go. You learn something new every day.

33 Long-term effects of Ibuprofen

Destruction of the kidneys and liver and the ability to paddle past the age of 35.

34 Ice cream headache

The temporary (although it feels like forever) stabbing pain in the forehead is the blood vessels in your face constricting to minimize heat loss—the body’s natural response to being recklessly dunked in freezing cold water. The pain usually subsides by the time you scream, “HOLY F*@#!” Brainfreeze, as it is often called, has no long-term effects.

35 Hydration

To stay properly hydrated on a hot day of paddling, the average person will need to replenish one litre of water per hour, so roughly six litres or more over the course of a day trip. Symptoms of being low on fluids include headaches, feeling your helmet is too tight or thinking you see hippos in the river—unless of course you’re paddling the Nile, in which case you might really be seeing hippos in the river.

36 Pee zips are worth $200

Refer to number 35.

37 Men paddle in the stern

Just kidding. Jeesh, give us a break.

38 About PFDs

You should retire a PFD if you notice: rips, tears or holes; damage to seams, buckles and straps; any signs of water logging, mildew, shrinking or hardening of buoyant materials; or poor fit and floating performance.

39 Snickers vs. power bar

Calories in a chocolate Power Bar: 236. Calories in a Snickers bar: 280. A chocolate Power Bar is low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol. It is also a good source of protein, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and copper, and a very good source of vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid and manganese. A Snickers bar contains nugget and tastes good.

40 CPR

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s new standard for CPR are 30 compression to two breaths. And how do they like it now? Hard and fast.

41 When to boof or pencil

42 Sea kayaking is fun

Man wearing hat, drysuit, gloves and PFD paddling blue touring kayak
Sea kayaking is fun. | Feature photo: Virginia Marshall

43 Hitchhiking

Not as illegal as you might think. You’ve heard that one before. Anyhoo, here are some tips: Look like a boater and boaters will pick you up; hiding your kayak in the ditch might help; taking off your river knife increases your odds; and so does not being dripping wet.

44 Gas money

Cough it up dirt bag. If the driver is kind enough to refuse your money, at $1.09 a lousy liter for gasoline you should be forking out for everything else, i.e.: lunch, park fees, chips, etc.

45 Whistle signals

One whistle blast means give me your attention or look at me; continuous whistling or three short blasts repeated means danger or emergency. Blowing it all the time for no real reason means you’re an annoying ass.

46 Get dressed before the rink

Try this peewee hockey trick. For cold weather paddling get your base layer on at home so you don’t have to get buck naked at sub-zero temperatures. And if you’re that paddler who stares down into your behemoth bag of gear and asks, “What are you wearing?” Get lost.

47 Get a Grand Canyon permit

The Grand Canyon National Park has recently changed its 12- to 25-day river permit policy from a wait-list system to a weighted lottery. If your group of up to 8 or 16 are lucky enough to be awarded the permit your credit card is immediately charged a $400 non-refundable deposit. The balance of $100 per person is due 90 days before you launch. Your dates may not be changed, deferred, or traded. If you wanted to go next year, you’ve already missed the lottery. Is all this paper work and waiting around worth it? Yup.

48 A real good shit-kicking

I mean a complete rag dolling in a chundery hole. Why? Because it’s happened to us.

49 Frozen gear

50 Rafts can’t stop

Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels
Rafts can’t stop. | Photo: Tom Fisk/Pexels

51 Plastic welding

52 Shaping foam

Like a blacksmith, the experience of a man with a bread knife and rasp is almost defunct thanks to thigh brace and hip pad innovation. If not for older boats and C-boaters this art would be lost.

53 Say waterfall in three different languages

Waterfall, le waterfall and el waterfallo.

54 Thread a throw belt

Through the friction plate once for water situations. Through the friction plate and back through for very high loads. Remove any twists in the webbing and then thread into the quick-release buckle. Ensure the bobble is free and clear.

55 Names of the staff at your local shop

And how they take their coffee.

56 Running on empty

My father tells me it is as easy to keep the top half of the tank full. I tell him that I can go 105 kilometres after my low fuel light comes on. Running On Empty is also a classic Jackson Browne road trip song.

57 Three chords

G, C and D.

58 Number of times your buddies swam last year


59 Number of times you swam last year

Unless more than your buddies, in which case don’t bring it up.

60 Micro hydro

…is not so micro. When we think of “micro” we think chartreuse-coloured VWs or four-inch ABS pipes hidden in the bush beside an otherwise free flowing river. But anyone fighting these proposed development projects knows that micro hydro is like saying giant shrimp, airline food or free love.

61 Low brace

62 Respect the river gods

63 The lemming theory

Lemmings do not follow one another over cliffs in mass acts of suicide. This urban myth was created by Walt Disney in the 1958 film, Wild Wilderness. The metaphor for the behavior of crowds of people who foolishly follow each other, regardless of the consequences, describes every river festival we’ve ever attended.

64 Love the locals

They’ll trailer you in and pull you out. These folks live here, we’re just guests.

65 Hand of God rescue

66 Pack your boat for a three-day trip

So you’ll go on one.

67 Recycle your boat

68 Freestyle is boring to watch

Kate, 15, just nailed her first roll. Dougie, 16, is working as a safety boater on the Ottawa River and an assistant guide for Black Feather Wilderness Adventure Company. | Photo: Scott MacGregor
The next generation. | Photo: Scott MacGregor

69 The next generation

Most of us started paddling in our 20s and 30s. Never before have there been so many kids paddling whitewater. Kid-sized rides and confident paddling parents are making the impossible possible for young paddlers, which is good for everything, except our egos.

70 If you look at the hole, you’re going in it

71 The take-out for Virginia Falls

72 Marriage is not all bad

Consider a gift registry at the following outdoor shops: EMS, MEC, LL Bean and Home Depot (because you always need tools).

73 Politics of power

As Hydro Quebec’s sole shareholder, the provincial government gets roughly one billion dollars a year in dividends from the damming of Quebec’s rivers. They also happen to sign off on environmental assessments.

74 Dogs Part 1: The bike shuttle

Deter a predatory dog by spraying it with your water bottle. Scream like a banshee. Throw empty bottle at dog. Pedal faster.

75 C2 is cool

76 Stash a spare key

Tell everyone where you hide it. FYI, expensive electronic remotes short circuit in wet PFD pockets.

77 Cell phone numbers of three reliable, last-minute paddling buddies

Preferably ones without jobs, partners or kids. But with sweet wheels.

78 Your next big trip

79 Never tilt upstream

Curious? Try it.

80 Plan a shuttle

The goal: boats, people, all necessary paddling gear to the top of the river run. Empty cars with keys, racks, ropes, dry clothes, nacho chips, salsa and Labatt 50 at take out. Simple. I’ve got $5 that says you forget one of them.

“I think we're going to make it!” | Photo: Scott MacGregor
“I think we’re going to make it!” | Photo: Scott MacGregor

81 Carry a spare paddle

You only have to walk out once.

82 Bag balm

Farmers know what I’m talking about. Designed to protect cow’s teets, there is nothing better than Bag Balm for treating cracked hands and feet. Smother it on before bed and cover hands and feet with socks. Carry a special pair of socks for this specific use. Moo.

83 Lube and tighten your roof racks

If you’re going to surpass the manufacturer’s recommended maximum load on your roof racks (and who doesn’t?) you need to be sure they are not going to come off. Tighten your factory racks if you have them. Give everything a twist and spray with lube as rubber compresses and the metal bits can seize.

84 Gretzky’s shuttle road driving tip #5

If you will hurt it (i.e. squirrel), don’t swerve; if it will hurt you (i.e. moose or logging truck), swerve.

85 Real raft guides carry pliers

Preferably on their belt (offset channel locks are the best) to deal with seized valves and belligerent cam buckles. They’re also great for lifting lids off Dutch ovens.

86 Don’t panic taking off a dry top

Locked in the closet as a kid? Relax, it’s not out to get you. And we promise not to whip down your shorts.

87 Replace a gasket

88 Sex Wax

Rub it on the grip hand of your paddle. Especially useful in cold water.

89 Clubhouse sandwich

Safest bet in questionable diners. Although I hate the way the toast rasps the top of my mouth.

90 Carry a sponge, Bob

If drain plugs are the personification of urination, a sponge is the shake.

91 Bags, not boxes

Rubbermaid is for soccer moms with their closet organizers and boxed lunches. There is no room for your storage bin in our shuttle…or is that your new open boat?

92 Cam buckles blow under big loads

Big water raft guides tie-in with webbing and knots.

93 Don’t believe guidebooks

Buy them. Read them. But don’t always believe them. We’ve done 10-day trips in four. Floated “unrunnable” sections and walked supposed class II. Guidebooks are wonderful things but have scared more people away from rivers than they have inspired. Choose your own adventure. You can’t run it (or walk it) if you don’t go and see it for yourself.

94 History of home river

You should just know.

a log drive on the Skootamatta River
Photo: Community Archives of Belleville and Hastings County

95 Carry a dress shirt and tie in your barrel

96 Class II is cool

In the race for more air and higher drops we may be bouncing or falling further away from the soul of whitewater.

97 Knots

Bowline. Half hitches. Prusik. And the very important trucker’s hitch.

98 Don’t feed the animals

…or doing anything else to them for that matter.

99 Disc golf

Turn pro for cash purses bigger than rodeo or just turn your old boats into disk golf holes for après river fun.

100 Old boats never die

How many do you have in your garage? There should be one day each year when we dust them off and go boating. Or how about a series of retro rodeos? Long live the New Wave Cruise Control!

101 How to make love in a canoe

If we told you, you’d miss out on half the fun.

This article on 101 things that every paddler should know was published in the Summer 2007 issue of Rapid magazine

This article was first published in the Summer 2007 issue of Rapid Magazine. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.


Sea kayaking is fun. | Feature photo: Virginia Marshall



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