Safety Corner

Honest Self-Assessment

Submitted by Scott Ogren

I get it, you make plans to float a river. You rig your gear; you wake up early and head to the river. You want to go boating! It’s what we all do. It’s in that moment when we get to the river that each one of us needs to be honest with ourselves and give ourselves a self-assessment.
This is the time of year when we all get excited to run rivers that are only runnable during the high water season. Some people have run these rivers many times and others are just learning to boat and/or float a new river. If you have never boated the section of river you are at the put in for, make it known this is your first time so the more experienced people can coach you and help set you up for success. Or, maybe it’s not your day and they suggest you not float that day. Either way, ask for advice and listen.

As I talked with a few people and contemplated this myself, I came up with a list of questions that I seem to always ask myself before every river trip, even if I ask them quietly to myself.

  • Do I have the skill for this?
  • Is the water level a good level for my boat and my skills?
  • How is my boat loaded?
  • Who am I with and can they help me if something goes wrong for me?
  • Is there someone in this group I should be watching out for?
  • Is there someone in this group who I should be learning from?
  • Am I listening to everyone around me who has done this before and taking the best advice I can get and figuring out how to best implement it for me?

To answer those questions honestly, I believe we need to let go of our ego and be honest with ourselves and listen to those around us. We need to not be afraid of asking questions that we think might damage another person’s ego and ask it anyway.

It’s okay to float a section of river you haven’t floated before and it’s even better to stretch yourself to learn and grow. When you are in that situation, it’s also best to make those around you know you are new and learning and want to learn from them. Not telling those around you that you are new to boating and/or a particular section of river can be dangerous.

The river is a great equalizer. The river doesn’t care about you, your boat, your skill level, or your ego. The river will always do what the river does, and this is flow downstream. Relentlessly. We all come to the river for her beauty and grace. We also need to hold her power and strength in high regard and give it great respect.