Paddling Etiquette

Dabulamanzi time trials are amongst the busiest in the country. It is therefore important to show respect for other paddlers at all times. Time trials at Emmarentia pose many different situations to which many of us are not normally accustomed to, from paddling elsewhere in the country. The Dabulamanzi Canoe Club has put in place guidelines for you to follow while paddling at Emmarentia, please review these here.

Piers Cruickshanks has outlined etiquette and rules at an international level, his comments highlight the need for us to show respect to other paddlers, especially during time trials.

Many myths and false beliefs have been postulated over the years. There are also such things as good manners, etiquette and sportsmanship to consider. The purpose of this article is to dispel some of the myths and to give some guidance as to what is broadly recognised as acceptable and what defines a paddler as… well, a “bit of a toss”.

There are only two rules in the ICF Canoe Marathon competition rules which pertain to bunch racing. They are as follows:

1. Group Racing and overtaking

When a canoe or kayak is overtaking another canoe or kayak, it is the duty of the overtaking craft to keep clear of other competitors at all times. When a canoe or kayak is racing in a group of competitors it is the duty of all the competitors in the group to keep clear of other competitors at all times. This rule applies to any manoeuvring within the group.

What this rule implies is that there should never be any ‘squeezing’ of a boat off the first wave. The truth is that there will always be squeezing as boats jostle for position around the strongest boat, before buoys, etc. The start of any World Marathon Championship race is testament to the fact that it is generally accepted that once a boat is clearly ahead of another, they have right of way. This does lead to a second problem which is that my idea of ‘well ahead’ may be different from someone else’s. The second rule does give some guidance in this regard:

2. Collision or Damage

Any competitor who is considered by a course umpire or race official to have been responsible for a collision, or who damages the canoe or kayak or paddle of another competitor or unnecessarily deviates from their course may be disqualified.

This implies several things: that if a paddler ‘refuses’ to give way when another boat is overtaking or ‘squeezing’ them once well ahead, that paddler is in the wrong as they are causing a collision. However, if a paddler squeezes another unnecessarily aggressively, they are ‘responsible for a collision’. Again, this leaves the rules quite open to interpretation. It comes down to a case of showing respect for other people and their equipment. If you intentionally paddle into another paddler’s boat or paddle, you’re…well, you’re a bit of a toss! This rule also suggests that paddlers should maintain their line when heading towards the finish line.

Basically, it seems to come down to this: there are few rules. If you cut the guy off unnecessarily hard on the buoy, you’re a “bit of a toss.” If you come racing up the inside of a buoy, ram into another paddler’s boat and use his boat to turn yours, you’re a “bit of a toss”. With the price of some of the boats on the water these days, it makes sense to give each other a bit of room. One thing is for certain and that is this: boats or paddles colliding is never conducive to forward momentum.

So next time you start getting uptight about “cockpit rules”, or you start shouting the odds at the junior who never used to beat you, or you start swearing at the guy who’s “squeezing”, first ask yourself the question…

“Am I being a bit of a toss?”