The Club deems flatwater skills fundamental to all other paddling disciplines. It is where you build an effective stroke, learn to handle the boat safely and understand rules of the water.
Trips are graded according to the PaddleNSW Sea/Open Water grading system. Flatwater trips are likely to be graded SO1 or SO2. Check the Paddler Competencies guide to see that you have appropriate skills for the grade of the paddle.
SO1: Sheltered flat water with minimal currents, easy entry and exits and less than 500m from safe landing sites.
As a competent SO1 flatwater paddler you will be able to set up your boat, correctly fit your life jacket, which is worn at all times, fit the spray deck when appropriate, launch and exit the craft into deep water, demonstrate active paddling posture to propel, turn and stop the boat in emergencies. Under supervision, you will have completed a wet exit and taken the craft to the bank, emptied it and returned to the group. You will be aware of hazards to paddlers and you will never paddle alone.
In this first stage it is recommended that you remain within closed and sheltered waters like the Cooks River, Wolli Creek, Lane Cove River above Figtree Bridge or the Nepean River flatwater sections where you are never far from the shore.
Flatwater skills sessions advertised on the Club Calendar will be conducted in a range of locations. You could develop nearly all of the competencies except the deep-water rescue/swimming exercises at the clubhouse venue as the water conditions are not favourable to swimming. Paddler Competencies can be “ticked off” as you achieve them during different sessions, and a trip leader will be able to advise if a particular trip is appropriate for your level of experience and the skills. However it is up to you to build evidence of your skill and experience. Use a logbook to record the type of event, the conditions on the day, things you have achieved. This is a sample logbook – however, you you should try the Paddle Log App. It is available for Android or Apple.
As a flatwater paddler you will need to be familiar with information in the following resources:
- RCC Paddler Competencies
- PADDLERS HANDBOOK
- Paddle NSW Sea and Open Water Grading
- AC Safety Guidelines
- Paddling Safely on Sydney Harbour
- Waterways Guide Steer Clear Zones
- Instructional Videos for basic paddling skills
- Paddler Log Book
SO2: Unsheltered Inland open waters, estuaries and lakes, or sheltered coastline. Small waves / surf <0.5m, currents <2km/h, <1km crossings or from safe landing sites.
As a competent SO2 flatwater paddler you will be able to handle water that can be affected by the wind and waves, tides, water traffic, wakes from motorboats, and be prepared to make 20 km trips with the group, and be able to average at least 5km/h for about an hour. Myall Lakes or Tallowa Dam are popular Open Water (SO2) trips. Pittwater and Parramatta River are two waterways requiring S02 skills in the Sydney region.
All of the previous paddling skills in SO1 need to be stronger and in addition you must be able to recover from and perform a deep-water rescue and have practiced assisted rescues as both rescuer and rescuee. You must be aware of and adhere to group rules that ensure a successful trip as each member of the group has a responsibility to the group as a whole. Plan and prepare for your day. Review your physical condition and ask “am I up to this?” Wear sun and weather smart clothes and prepare to take extra clothes for a change in conditions, food and drink, equipment and craft and decide who at home should know of your trip plans. Overnight trips will add a further complexity to planning and the additional weight may have an affect on the way your craft handles.
Many of the river and openwater trips advertised on the calendar can vary in difficulty, and as a new paddler to this environment you would need to check with the trip leader to discuss whether they believe you are ready. You may need to refer to your logbook. Some of the trips will be advertised as suitable to novice openwater paddlers and training will be conducted during the trip. Unexpected changes in weather can alter plans before or during the trip and participants would need to respect decisions made by the leader for the safety of the group, even if it means you end up staying on shore.