When asked what they enjoy most about the sport, many paddlers say it is the inherent freedom. Some stretch the definition of liberty to include the freedom to be naked. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always sit well with bystanders—or with the law.
Take, for a graphic example, Corran Addison’s off-river mishap at the ‘93 World Freestyle Championships on Tennesee’s Ocoee River.
“I’m getting changed—not too discretely but, hell, it is just an ass isn’t it?—and some ranger sees me and flips his lid,” recalls Addison. “He comes over and is giving me shit an’ so I say ‘What’s the problem? See something you like and it bothers you?’”
TIPS FOR STAYING COVERED
While most paddlers will admit there have been times when they were not too discrete about changing at the put-in or take-out, the fact that Addison ended up in jail suggests you might want to handle things a bit differently. Instead of thinking up excuses for when you’re caught with your pants down, stay covered with these tips.
MISDIRECTION: Although frequently practiced by paddlers and magicians with equal alacrity, disaster can be just a stumble away. I discovered this painful truth while trying to change at the back of the rafting bus. A combination of sudden braking and my pants firmly around my ankles ensured that I didn’t get any tips that day and my guests couldn’t look at me with- out giggling (in my defense, the water was really, really cold). The problem with misdirection: too many variables.
TOWEL TECHNIQUE: The standard waist wrap offers adequate coverage but can be cumbersome and prone to malfunction. Having a friend hold the towel allows for greater ease of movement but also requires a great deal more trust. Be mindful when changing beside your car, as objects in mirrors appear smaller than actual size.
PONCHO PROTECTION: The poncho is a useful tool, but can also make you look like one. Design and cut are crucial for this hands-free, flash-free method of changing. Rain ponchos are easy to find but can rub the wrong way. Cotton or fleece is more comfortable. A tenty garment made from these materials is actually called a muumuu.
BATHROBE BUSINESS: Hugely under-utilized, the common bathrobe (complimentary at nice hotels) is comfortable on the skin, allows you to change with ease and is great for lounging après paddle.
Remember, just because you are comfortable airing things out doesn’t mean others want to be subjected to it. Stay out of jail, help keep river access open and maintain good boater- public relations—when changing to and from your river gear, do your part by covering yours.
Dan Caldwell now prefers the towel technique for stealthy clothing swaps.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.