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Paddling During a Pandemic

Updated: Apr 4

If you've tasted the flecks of white water on your tongue, you know better than anyone that you can only go so long before you need your next fix.

It's true what they say, paddling is an addiction. After taking my first hit during the spring of 2016 it seems I’ll do just about anything to ensure I have uninterrupted access to my product.


Not 20 minutes ago, I spoke to my boss asking for half day. At 8:30am this morning, USGS tells me Madison Wave is on the rise. It’s not a question. It’s not an option. I must go to feed my soul.


The skin tightens around my bones. The hairs on my neck begin to rise. I think about the prospect of sliding my boat down the banks of the Kennebec, ferrying across the river taking my first close look giddy with anticipation.

Then, my heart stops cold.

Am I being negligent rushing to paddle during a pandemic? Will anyone else be there?


Don’t tell anyone, I think to myself. Don’t post about it on social media. It will be our little secret.


I check. Someone has already alerted the community that Madison is calling us to her shore.

Back to USGS. She's rising too fast. She's going to blow out. The decision is made for us but the question still lingers.

"Am I being negligent by rushing to paddle during a pandemic?"

The life of a dirtbag is isolated in nature. The waters we seek are remote and infrequently traveled by humans. But we’re dirty, literally. We sleep outside for weeks on end. We share drinks, food, cars, boats, gear.


How must we adapt during this pandemic climate in order to still do the thing we love? The thing we need. The thing we crave more than sex.


It’s not just you, the individual, we need to worry about. It’s the entire paddling community. It’s everyone else. The people we interact with, the places we go, the things we touch and the impression we leave on the world around us.

Below please find tips to do our part while paddling during a pandemic.
  1. Stay in Your Zip Code It is not the time to be driving cross country for that epic piece of nar that’s been on your bucket list.

  2. Focus on Your Short Game Hit up the local short runs that allow for walking shuttle or your local play spots that requires no shuttle at all. If that's not an option there's always flatware practice and no time like the present to get after those attainments. You'll be setting new personal records during next years race season.

  3. Self Shuttle If it’s not your vehicle, you're not sitting inside. Sit in the bed if you must but otherwise, it's time to sweet talk your favorite shuttle bunnies.

  4. Sharing is Not Always Caring Gone are the days of socials with the Dr. Bring your own food and drinks made at home. As always, be mindful of the trash you carry in and out.

  5. Stay within Your Comfort Zone Now is not the time to be pushing the limits. The last thing anyone wants is a headline that reads "Whitewater kayaker violates stay at home order and puts additional strain on medical field by diverting attention of necessary resources to combat COVID-19."

  6. Obey the Rules Brookfield and other companies are blocking off access to some river put ins and take outs. Everyone loves a good Kennebec lap. However, this is when we need to think about the impression our actions leave on those around us. (Nod to Matt who pointed this out to me last night) To get respect, you need to give respect. Respect the rules and maybe when the lanes open up again Brookfield will give a us a few extra of those 3500 cfs releases we love so much. (HINT Brookfield)

  7. No Rubbers For the first time since condoms were invented rubbers are out (Only in the paddling sense. Please use protection). No group raft trips right now folks. Limit your on water toys to options that allow you to properly social distance. Kayaks, Canoes, Duckies, SUPs, inflatable unicorn... whatever.


What are you're thoughts? Are you still paddling? Is there anything else you would recommend to stay healthy and live an active lifestyle while doing your part to flatten the curve? Tell us about it in the comments.


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