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Rule 5
Plan For The Worst That Can Happen

R5 Kayak rescue 7-23-11 .jpg

"Risk assessment is a key safety element of every sea kayaking endeavor."
- Eric Soares

Why You Should Prepare for The Worst That Can Happen

Because when bad stuff happens out on the water and you're unprepared to deal with it, you're in trouble. When you make a practice of thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong, you have a far more realistic outlook, and that can keep you out of trouble to begin with.


Is all of this overkill? Maybe. But it's your life we're talking about, and how many times, if ever, have you heard about tragic incidents involving boaters who were “overly prepared”?

"I’ve never regretted being too vigilant, or safety conscious, or infatuated with checklists and meticulous planning, or cautious about my choice of paddling partners, but almost every single time I’ve made the mistake of being sloppy, lazy, or complacent about those things, it’s come back, in one way or another, to bite me in the ass".
- Moulton Avery

Knowledge and Experience

The safety hurdle faced by most casual recreational boaters is that they don’t have enough knowledge or experience to imagine the many things that can go wrong on even a modest outing. This places them at a huge disadvantage when trying to plan for the unexpected. What can these folks do to improve their odds?  The first step is to become aware of common paddling hazards and how to avoid them.

Think About What You'll Do If ...

  • Incapacitated by cold.

  • Blown out to sea by high wind.

  • Paddle breaks, blows away, or is lost in rough water.

  • Ankle leash breaks and boat blows away.

  • Waves dump water into cockpit and boat fills with water.

  • Capsize and can’t get back in boat.

  • Cell phone and/or VHF radio lost when boat blows away.

  • GPS unit breaks.

  • Lose prescription glasses– can’t see.

  • You get lost.

  • Hit a rock and smash hole in boat.

  • Dislocate shoulder.

  • Caught in thunderstorm.

  • Night falls - can’t see anything.

  • Paddle float blows away.

  • Become seasick and can’t remain upright.

  • Deep cut on finger.

  • Exhausted - can no longer paddle.

  • Lose cover to rear hatch.​

  • Fog rolls in - can’t see anything.

Checklists Are Your Friend

It’s easy to forget stuff at home, or in your car, or at the take-out. Consider having a checklist for each situation.

  • Leaving Home – a list of all the things you want to have with you at the put-in.

  • Launching – a list of all the things you want with you on the paddle.

  • Returning Home – a list of stuff that you don’t want to forget at the take-out.

Risk Assessment Matters:

You're standing on the shore looking out at a complex water environment like the ocean or a large, exposed body of water.  How do you determine how risky your proposed outing is?  Are the conditions well within your ability or way over your head? 


Sometimes it's easy to answer that question, but when your life depends on getting the answer right, it's nice to have something besides your fallible intuition and some guesswork to help you. 


That's where the Sea Conditions Rating System (SCRS) comes in. Developed by Eric Soares, co-founder of the Tsunami Rangers, the SCRS is a valuable tool for risk assessment.  It takes a little practice to learn to use it, but your effort will be rewarded by giving you a more accurate picture of the dynamic open-water environment. Learn All About The SCRS.

Rule 5 Case Histories with Lessons Learned

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