The Importance of a Dock Line

The Importance of a Dock Line

When using a boat, it seems fairly obvious that a dock line would be a vital piece of equipment.  How else would you secure the boat to the dock when done for the afternoon?  Most of us don't consider, however, that the dock line is just as vital for those using man-powered vessels.

True, most man-powered vessels are small enough and light enough to be pulled up on shore.  That doesn't mean that you shouldn't have a dock line secured to your vessel, no matter what type of vessel it is.

Why?  Here are four vital (and sometimes hilarious) reasons why you should have a dock line on your kayak or SUP.

Headstands on SUPs

1.  Group Yoga

Although a dock line isn't actually used in the execution of SUP yoga, it's a useful thing to have on hand.  Why?  That dock line can be used to secure your SUP to another or even to a buoy or a dock.  This way, you don't have to worry about floating away while trying to master Shirshasana.

Woman Pulling Kayak Over Shallow Water

2.  Shallow Water

Most kayaks, SUPs, and even canoes sit high enough in the water to cross shallow waters, but even they can run aground.  When your SUP is loaded with gear, carrying it often isn't an option.  Having a dock line means you can remove your weight from the SUP, allowing it to ride higher in the water, and pull it through the shallow areas.  Personally, I've had to do this several times when going down rivers in the later summer when the water levels sometimes drop until only a few inches cover the rocky river bottom.

Canoe and Kayak Tied to Buoy

3.  When Shore Isn't An Option

There are times when you may not want to drag/carry your vessel up the shore.  Rocks, cliffs, and even crowds may make it impossible, or at least very difficult, to carry your SUP or kayak up the shore.  With a dock line secured to your SUP, you can easily tie it off to a buoy, tree, or even a rock to ensure it doesn't float away while you rest.

Girl Paddling Kayak

4. Towing

There are two situations when your dock line may need to serve as a quick-tow rope as well.  In my personal experience, these situations often revolve around children ... or husbands.

First, children.  While rowing long distances, they may tire sooner or may not be able to fight the current/wind as easily as you can.  Simply secure one end of the dock line to the back of your vessel and secure the other to the front of theirs.  This ensures they never fall too far behind, can take breaks when they need to, and will be able to stick with the group during windy days. 

Do not do this when venturing down rapids.  The rope can easily get caught on rocks/branches/debris and may end up putting both of you in a dangerous situation.  Never allow a child to traverse a rapids alone in their own vessel.

Second, husbands.  In particular, I'm thinking of my own who prefers to cruise along on his PWC while I stick to my kayak.  One summer day, I set out to investigate a bit of marshlands along the edge of the lake while he got his PWC.  After struggling for a bit (it's a two-stroke and takes a bit of love to start the first time), he got it running only to have it shut down on him about two hundred yards from shore.  I had to tow him back to the dock, which was easy with my dock line.

He learned a very important lesson that day - PWC work better if they have gas in their tank.

And me?  I don't think I've ever laughed that hard.

Dock Line Attached to SUP

Whether you prefer kayaks, canoes, or SUPs, consider purchasing a dock line like the one offered here at Stillwater Outdoors.  It pays to be prepared, especially when bringing husbands along.

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Snow, Ice, and Cold Water: Winter Water Safety Guide

Snow, Ice, and Cold Water: Winter Water Safety Guide

Summer is ending, fall is fast approaching, and temperatures are already starting to drop ... but don't think that means you have to pack your SUP away for good.  Winter brings unique opportunities to the sport.

As well as some serious dangers.  Never underestimate the cold.  If you plan ahead, prepare, and respect Mother Nature, there is no reason why you can't go and see a world very few have had the pleasure of witnessing ... a winter wonderland seen from the water.

Woman by lake, winter

1.  Know the Water Temperature

We all know that SUPing is swimming, and though few of us plan to end up in the water, it happens.  What most don't realize is that water doesn't have to be that cold to be dangerous.  50 degree (F) water is a lot colder and more deadly than 50 degree air.  Water temperatures between 70 and 60 degrees are considered dangerous.  Water temperatures below 60 degrees are considered very dangerous/immediately life-threatening.  At 60 and below, you may experience total loss of breathing control, inability to control gasping, and hyperventilation.  For more information on the dangers of cold water, check out the National Center for Cold Water Safety at www.coldwatersafety.org

If the water temperature is cold, it doesn't mean you can't SUP.  It does mean that you should take extra precautions to ensure that you can get out of the water quickly and safely if you do fall in.

2.  Watch the Weather

This is important any time you go out on an adventure as no one likes to be caught in torrential rains or unusually blistering heat.  In the winter, however, the danger ramps up.  That slight breeze that cooled you during the summer months now adds a wind-chill factor that could put already cold temperatures below freezing.  And, honestly, who wants to set out on their adventure during a blizzard?  Check the weather days in advance.  Keep checking it as your target date approaches.  And if there are any risks, don't go.  Try again at a later, safer, time.

blizzard by mountains

3.  Make a Float Plan

We mentioned this in our post about general water safety/SUP safety.  Make a detailed plan of your trip - where you will put in, where you will paddle, any potential "safe" areas where you may shore up in case of trouble, when you will leave, when you will return, who is going with you, what you will be wearing, and so on.  Seems like a lot, but getting stranded in the winter is far more dangerous than getting stranded in the summer.  Daylight temperatures in the winter months are cold enough, but when that sun goes down and the temperatures plummet, you don't want to be stranded outside.  Make a plan, give it to someone you trust, and stick to it.

And when choosing your route, consider this:  Can you swim to shore?  If not, you should probably choose a different route.  Hug shorelines and stick to shallows whenever possible to reduce the risk of drowning and/or hypothermia if you end up in the water.

4.  Never Paddle Alone

In the summer, it can be tempting to venture out on your own because there is less risk.  Conditions are ideal and dangers are minimal.  In the winter, however, having someone with may save your life.  The cold makes everything difficult and fine motor skills quickly disappear with gross motor skills following soon after.  Having someone there to help in case of an emergency is vital, so never go out alone.

campfire in snow

5.  Make an Emergency Kit

Whether you plan to be out for an hour or all day, it's a good idea to have a winter-specific emergency kit with you while paddling.  In it, include things you might need if you do end up stranded overnight in the cold.  Matches/a lighter, water, a blanket (to save space consider placing it in a bag that can be compressed and sealed to remove air), chemical heating packets for hands and feet, flashlight, etc.  If you do have to go to shore and can't make it back to your car before nightfall, you're going to need a way to stay warm.  Pack with that in mind.  Consider a safety beacon or flare as well, just in case.

6.  Leash and PDF

In the summer months, it is tempting to SUP without actually wearing your PDF.  On calm, warm water, there is less of a risk of drowning, especially for those who are strong swimmers.  In cold water, however, swimming skill isn't enough to save you.  Wear your PDF at all times.  If you fall into cold water, the shock of it may make it difficult or impossible to swim.  Always keep a leash attached as well.  When the water is cold and swimming is difficult, you don't want your SUP to get out of your reach.

7.  Dry Suit or Wet Suit?

Both can be used, though they work in very different ways and are more useful in different situations.  A wet suit works as you might think - it absorbs water and holds it against your body, allowing your body heat to warm it.  This warm water then becomes an insulating layer between you and the rest of the water.  A dry suit keeps you dry by repelling the water completely and uses the air trapped near your body to keep you warm.  In winter weather, particularly, a dry suit may prove more comfortable.  No matter which you use, keep in mind that layers both under and over can provide extra comfort and safety.  Also make sure that your clothing doesn't restrict your movements, both on the board and if you happen to fall in the water.

Wool Socks

8.  Consider Clothing Carefully

Cotton is a no-no.  Why?  It absorbs and holds water.  Instead, use layers that hold heat, not water, like fleece and/or wool.  Dress in layers as well.  Lightweight layers first, then warming layers (like fleece and wool) and waterproof/repellent layers last.  Hats are important, so make sure to have one.  While in the cold, it's important to keep your hands and feet warm as well, so invest in good gear.  Waterproof boots are nice, though they can be awkward in the water.  Wet suit booties are a great alternative, though they mean your feet will be wet the entire time.  Wear gloves that are waterproof and warm or consider neoprene (wet suit) options.

Two things to keep in mind when dressing for winter paddling:

Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature

Layer properly for adjusting temperatures throughout the day (so you can remove layers when sweating and add them again when it cools)

8.  Extra Gear to Consider

A dry bag is a great investment for any water enthusiast.  Consider one, or two, for your winter paddling adventure.  One can carry your emergency gear as well as your float plan while the second can be used to store any layers you shed or extra clothing you bring along.  This will ensure they remain dry and ready to be reused later.  A thermos of something hot to drink is always a great idea.  Bring two, one to drink on your way out to the paddle spot and one for after you are finished for the day.  That added heat after a day of cold-weather paddling will definitely be appreciated.  Also consider a change of clothing.  After you return to your car, changing out of anything wet will help raise your body temperature faster and will make the trip home far more comfortable.

mountain lake in winter

Winter offers just as much beauty and fun as summer, as long as you don't underestimate the dangers.  Here at Stillwater Outdoors, we want to encourage you to try something new, something adventurous, while remaining as safe as possible.  Preparation and prevention are key, so the next time you venture out, please take an extra moment to review this guide and, as always, stay safe.

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Whitewater SUPing: The Next Adventure

Whitewater SUPing: The Next Adventure

You've tried and subsequently fell in love with stand-up paddle boards ... but flat water just doesn't hold the same appeal it once did.  Sound familiar?  You're not alone.  Many who learn the sport on flat water find themselves wondering what's next?

Stillwater Outdoors has the answer or, rather, we know the answer.  Whitewater SUPing.  That's right.  It's no longer reserved for kayaks and rafts and is quickly becoming a nation-wide competitive event.

Now, we don't suggest that you dive into competition immediately.  Like any sport, there is a fair bit of learning and practice involved.  Where whitewater is concerned, this training stage is vital as it can, quite literally, save your life.  Here are a few other tips for those looking to try a new, exciting use of their SUP.

1.  Gear Up

If you already have an SUP, you should already have the basic gear needed for being on the water: PFD, whistle, paddle, leash, and SUP.  Whitewater SUPing requires a few additional pieces of equipment.  First of all, inspect your SUP.  There are many different types designed for many different uses.  For whitewater rafting, you want a stable, durable board (inflatable boards work well) that has considerable rake (an upturning of both the front and back) to ensure you remain on top of the waves instead of being pulled under them.  If you don't have much rake on your SUP, adjust your placement on the board by standing farther back to keep the nose of the board up while riding the rapids.

Whitewater Helmets

Consider buying a helmet, knee and elbow pads, and potentially a different PFD.  The ACA (American Canoe Association) recommends an inherently buoyant lifejacket for all whitewater rafting.  You may need a new leash as well (if you choose to use one).  For whitewater SUPing, the ACA recommends that you wear a leash at waist level, accessible with both hands, and it must have a quick release feature.  For more information on the basic equipment needed for different types of SUP uses, check out this video released by the ACA:

SUP Leashes and Lifejackets

2.  Consider Taking a Class

For those who have no whitewater experience, we highly recommend taking a class with a certified whitewater instructor.  The ACA offers a list of classes offered, including classes for those wishing to become certified as an instructor.  Check it out here:

American Canoe Association: Whitewater Classes

Whitewater Rafter Overboard

Whitewater SUPing is swimming.  You will fall off.  You will have to swim.  This is yet another reason why taking a class is important.  Swimming in a rapids isn't the same as swimming in a lake or even a calm, flat river.  There are unseen obstacles, plenty of places to get caught, and the water is volatile making it difficult to tell which way is up in some situations.  Take the time to become a better swimmer before attempting any serious rapids.  The more comfortable you are in the water, the less likely you will be to panic and the more likely you will be to walk away unscathed.

3.  Start Small

Once you feel comfortable understanding the proper way to handle and remain safe on whitewater rapids, the next step is to try it out.  We recommend starting small with a class I or class II rapids.  Though it may be easier, don't always practice on the same rapids.  Exposure to new situations, different currents, and new obstacles will help you grow as a paddler and will help you be better prepared to move up to the next class of rapids.

Couple in Canoe Going Down Rapids

4.  River Etiquette

Like almost everything in life, there are certain rules that should be followed while on the river.  Canoe & Kayak offers a wonderful blog post about river etiquette that outlines the basic rules of the river.  One of the most important?  Those upstream on the river have the right of way.  Just like when you cross the road, always look before entering the river to be sure you don't cut off another river user and create a potentially dangerous situation.  You can find Canoe & Kayak's complete list of river etiquette here:

Canoe & Kayak: River Rules

5.  Pick Your Rapids

Now that you have a better understanding of what you need to get started on your SUP whitewater adventure, you probably need to find the perfect location.  American Whitewater offers an interactive map that shows you the class of rapids, its current water level, and when the information was last updated.  While there, consider offering your support by becoming a member or by donating (money or time) to help preserve our river systems.

American Whitewater Map

Kayak in Rapids

This is just a basic outline of some of the factors to consider before starting whitewater SUPing.  It is a challenging, fun way to get more out of your SUP experience.  Just remember to be careful, plan ahead, and, as always, have fun.

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