River Leadership: Line Of Sight

First of all, everybody in you group needs to be in line of sight, so that you can see that they are OK and also to be able to pass signals. That doesn’t mean that you, as the leader have to be able to see everybody. For example when paddling around a bend, you may place a paddler in an eddy to the outside of the bend. If you are at the front, you won’t be able to see the last paddler, because of the bend. But the paddler in that eddy will be able to see you and the last person, keeping the whole group in line of sight. You can also pass any necessary signals though that paddler. If you can’t see from where you are, move. That may mean ferrying across to a different eddy, moving another paddler to a better position to pass signals, or getting out of your boat to signal back upstream.

Little can be seen from the bottom of the rapid. The photographer's elevated position is a good example of maintaining line of sight. Photo: Tom Robb

Little can be seen from the bottom of the rapid. The photographer’s elevated position is a good example of maintaining line of sight. Photo: Tom Robb

As a group member on the river you need to get in to the habit of looking out for those around you. As a leader, you are not only looking ahead, checking for dangers, but you should be looking behind you, checking that your group OK. The last but one person in the group also has the job of checking on the last paddler. The person at the back can see everyone else, but people need to look out for them as well!

The second meaning of “line of sight” is being able to see down a rapid. Never commit yourself to something that you can’t see. What is the rapid like? What is coming up after the rapid? Can you see the whole rapid? If you can’t see what is at the bottom of a drop, don’t run it blind. You may find that the “easy” looking ledge drop has a powerful stopper at the bottom, or a tree trunk caught up in it. Move to a position that you can see from and “if in doubt, out and scout.” Also you need to be able to see where you are going to, before you break in to the rapid. Do you have an eddy to catch to get out of the flow? Is there a second one in case you miss it? It happens…

Next: Avoidance…

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