Going for a Swim?

Myth: Swimming is for beginners. It is embarrassing to swim. Once you are a good paddler, you do not swim anymore.
Fact: Everybody swims. Everybody has swum in their past, and will swim again at some point. Do not be embarrassed; be alert. 
It is a common misconception that swimming is a sign of a weak paddler. Not only is that not true, but it is a dangerous thought. Swimmin
g is a fact of kayaking. Although true that swimming becomes less common as you gain experience and skill, I have seen many amazing paddlers pull their skirt. A boat is a boundary between you and the river. Without it, you are vulnerable to currents, rocks, and other such dangers. A river does not differentiate between the good paddlers and the bad. That is why, no matter
 who you are paddling with- be it Eric Jackson or your best friend who you just taught to roll- always be alert for a rescue.
New River Academy started off this semester in Chile practicing rescuing swimmers. We had fun with it. The water was freezing and we complained in good humor. There was lots of splashing and dramatic swims. However, underneath the sense of fun, was a deep understanding of one's responsibility to their team on a river. When a friend or teammate swims, they have to depend on their team to rescue them and their gear. It is near impossible to do it alone from the water. In fact, I have never seen it done! This requires members of a team to really trust one another to have the ability to, well, efficiently rescue. 
I recommend, before paddling with a new group of people, or after being off the water for a few months, running through some of these drills. Practice towing people, emptying boats in the water, paddling with two paddles, etc. Take out your throw rope and toss it around! Make it into a game of touch football or something. But keep your rescue skills in tip top shape!
Knowing that everyone I paddle with at New River Academy has the ability to rescue me no problem makes paddling with them all the more enjoyable. Trust your team and trust yourself! As cheesy as it sounds, practice does make perfect!

-Tracy d'Arbeloff