It's amazing how loud a river can be when your on
one side and somebody else is on the other trying to talk to you.
Every paddler should learn the basic paddle and whistle
Every paddler should carry a
whistle for emergency communication. Here are the basic whistle
- One blast:
Attention, possible emergency
- Three blasts:
Are You Okay?
To ask if someone is okay take one arm and
point to the person you are asking about. At the same time pat
the top of your head with the other hand. This is asking the
question, "Are you OK?". If the person being asked is okay they
should respond by patting the top of their head with their hand; this
means, "I'm OK". Any other response, waving their arms, or a no
response as taken to mean that the person is not okay.
Paddle signals are the way to
communicate across distances when sound cannot travel. If you
don't have a paddle just use your arms.
- Stop: Hold paddle
horizontally above your head or hold arms horizontally out to your
sides. This means do no proceed. Paddlers should remain in
an eddy or get to the nearest eddy. Do not proceed downstream
until signaled to do so.
- Proceed straight ahead:
Hold the paddle vertically or raise one arm straight up above your
head. This indicates to proceed straight down through the center
of the rapid.
- Proceed this way: Take
your paddle or your arm and point 45 degrees to the left or the right.
Always point the direction you want to have the paddlers
go, the clear and safe path. Do NOT point to an obstruction.
- Warning/Emergency: Wave your paddle or arms above your head. There is an emergency ahead. Response depends on the situation.
are a couple of good summaries of the most commonly used
paddle signals, complete with pictures.
Additional Hand Signals
Here's a list of additional hand signals
Stop Hand up, palm toward receiver in halt position-- alternating with
pointing toward best stopping place: Stop where indicated.
Group Modes of Operation
Are You Ready?
With a questioning look, sender holds thumb up and points at receiver
with index finger.
With fingers folded, hold thumb straight up: We’re in good
shape. Also, we’re ready to go.
Single, vertical forefinger: Wait one minute; or get ready to go very
We’re Going to Take Pictures
hands as though holding camera--with one index finger moving:
going to go downstream and get into picture-taking position.
Working fist in circular motion like locomotive wheel: Speed up.
It’s important that we make time.
Facing receiver--hand up, fingers inclined toward receiver, moving in
pushing-back motions: Increased spacing, move back.
Above Rapids & Drops
Directing through a Rapid
paddle held with blade up or an arm held straight up means go down the
center. If the paddle or arm is angled 45° one way or the
down the side indicated.
Always point in the direction you want someone to go, never in the
direction you don’t want them to go. Turn paddle blade flat
for maximum visibility.
With index and middle fingers forming a V, point to eyes then twist and
point out: Look
With upraised finger make circles in a level plane: Eddy out.
Open, flat hand, palm up, moving in up and down, carrying motion above
horizontal hand at brow, sometimes with slight forward and back motion:
Scout. Usually combined with a stop signal and an indication of which
bank on which to stop.
hand pinches throat while the other hand points to victim: Oxygen
supply endangered--begin entrapment rescue! One of the most urgent of
Form a circle with both thumbs and forefingers, hold hands in front of
chest: Our boat is damaged.
Both palms clasped to forehead: A boat is wrapped.
profile to receiver, make swimming motions in the air: Person
overboard. Between every two or three air strokes, point toward swimmer
with whole arm.
with forearm horizontal and pointing to one side with fingers flat and
extended, swing forearm up and over 180°: A boat flipped.
We need . . .
First Aid Kit
Cross forearms with one forearm vertical, the other horizontal: We need
the first aid kit.
Keeping hands a few inches apart, move them up and down as though
operating a pump: We need a pump.
May We Pass
both palms toward receiver, move one upwards past the other, as in one
boat passing another. Note: Before asking to pass, have your entire
group together and be ready to pass quickly.
You’re Welcome to Pass
Beginning with open hand in front of chest, swing your whole arm in
broad welcoming gesture in the direction group will pass.
Camaraderie & Other Stuff
Straight forefinger pointing into open mouth: We’re hungry.
We want to stop for lunch, or dinner.
Head tilted over onto hands, palms together, in sleeping gesture: We
want to stop and make camp, or rest.
Wrap your arms around yourself, making shivering motions, rubbing
yourself as though to generate heat: We’re cold.
Oar or Paddle Overboard
hands together and apart horizontally, over and over, as though sliding
hands along shaft of paddle or oar. Alternately point toward lost item.