by Raychel Moldover
Editors note: This article was first published in the September 2001 issue of American Whitewater
A beginner died this year while paddling solo. There was the usual outcry of, "Never boat alone!" "Never boat alone!" An expert died while paddling with friends, but where was the outcry of, "Never boat with friends!?!"
I think people need to realize the dangers of boating with other people.

I mean, have you ever run a blind drop based on your friend's instructions and then, realized that your dyslexic guide said RIGHT when he meant LEFT?
Have you ever realized too late that when Joe said "a little left angle" what he MEANT was that you need to be driving hard left at top speed?
Have you ever been worked in a hole along with your buddy?
Along with your buddy's boat?
Have you ever approached a horizon line and found that the last micro eddy was full of boats?
Have you ever jockeyed with your friends for the lead?
On a run that you didn't know?
Have you ever had your friend paddle over a ledge and land on top of you?
Ever been pitoned in the ribs? Whacked in the elbow?
I'll tell you what's dangerous. Have you been to Skookumchuck lately?
Did someone ever talk you into running something you were unsure about? "Hey man, don't worry, it's not as bad as it looks. You don't want to do that portage, man, trust me."
Ever get yourself in trouble while chasing a swimmer or gear?
Try to rescue someone from a hole and end up in it?
Ever run a drop because someone is below with a rope... and then find out he can't throw it very well?
Ever had a boat dropped on your head?
While you were standing on a cliff?
Ended up paddling in the dark because someone was slow or late?
Been T "rescued" while you were trying to roll?
Have you ever taken that sketchy left side line instead of the tried and true right side line because the camera angle was better?
Ever flashed a little rail grab or wave wheel for that Kodak moment? (Followed by a thrashing in the hole below)
Have you ever, ah, ahem.. Done something stupid in an effort to impress a member of the opposite sex?

Now you see, that never happens to me when I'm solo boating!
Have you ever seen someone taken on a run that was above their skill level?
"Um, sure, yeah, Joey can handle this run. I'm sure he'll be, just, uh, fine. Anyway, dibs on his boat..."
"Sure, my girlfriend can handle it.."
Wounded ego? Embarrassed? Teased mercilessly? Never happens when solo boating!
Ever been so busy chatting with a friend as you drifted along that you failed to notice what was coming up?
Been so worried about the newbie that you forgot to pay attention to your own line?

Oh sure, now theoretically none of this ever happens. You only take advice from people you know and trust. Even when you're traveling. But honestly, when I think back on the times that I have gotten into trouble.
I was trying to show off and look nonchalant.
I figured that with TWO expert boaters below me, this was a good day to run this waterfall. Next thing I knew, I was standing on shore and there were two expert boaters swimming in the cave.
I once broke a guy's finger as we were trying to rescue a boat on a continuous and busy little river.
I knew the guys would get impatient if I got out to scout.
I ran the line I had been told to run... but the guy didn't mention the piton rock that gets exposed at lower water.
I was going to portage, but someone told me, "oh, this rapid is not so bad at this water level; not so pushy." And I believed him.
I was worried about the newbie and forgot to pay attention to my own line!
I had the guy ready with a rope. Er, anyone can make a ten foot toss, right?

Ironically, the guys that call me crazy for solo boating are usually the same ones that would never invite me along. (They don't like the fact that I do things differently.) People tend to be hypocritical about risk. I know a guy who broke his back while ski jumping. Now as a paraplegic, he paddles class V. It's very impressive. But when he questions my judgment for solo boating, I don't think he has a leg to stand on.

On a serious note, "never solo boat" is an important rule for beginners who are unaware of the risks. But for an expert boater it is a personal choice. Hopefully when you choose to take any risk, you consider your family and friends. As long as a boater is aware of the consequences, I try to respect anyone's choice whether they choose to stay on class II, or drop hundred footers.

Risks aside, it's usually more fun to boat with other people and there are some rapids I won't run without setting safety. Feel free to give me a ring. But before you call someone crazy for solo boating, take a look at yourself, and remember that boating with other people is dangerous!