To participate in a group paddle, you need to be self-sufficient in operating your kayak in all types of weather conditions, and to be able to reenter your boat if you capsize. You also need to take classes to learn how to self-rescue, to roll, and to wet exit before you put yourself in a situation that would endanger you or others in the group. Always make an honest assessment of your capabilities and convey them to the group if you have any concerns about the outing before departing. Better yet – make that determination before showing up.
If you have any doubts about whether you can physically handle the distance of the paddle, it is best that you decline, or be certain that you can paddle back alone if you feel yourself tiring. Do not assume someone else will tow you back, just because you are paddling with a group. It is not the group’s responsibility to have to tow you because you over estimated your physical capabilities or you neglected to inquire about the distance of the paddle. Towing someone should be performed during emergency situations only, because it puts both individuals in harms way due to exhaustion.
In addition, it would be unfair to the other people in the group who are capable of paddling the entire distance, to cut the trip short in order to accompany you back in to the launch area, especially if you knew from the beginning that you were not physically capable of handling the entire length of the paddle. If you determine half way out on a lake that you are unable to paddle the remainder of the distance, it is up to you to have a backup plan, which you would need if you were paddling alone. For the same reason, you should also have a back-up plan worked out if you become separated from the group.
Trip Coordinators, Leaders and Guides
There is a difference between coordinating a paddle and paying someone to act as a guide. Coordinating a paddle may include providing maps, directions, camping information etc., or it may simply mean letting others know you are planning to paddle at a designated time and location, and if anyone wants to join you, they can. When someone acts as a coordinator, it usually implies that you will be paddling as a group, whether or not there is a designated leader who is making the calls.