A lot of the focus for NACK is on safety. This surprises no one.
You’ve likely been on outreach events with NACK like the Belmont Lake State Park Pumpkin Tow, Babylon Kayaking for a Cause, or Captree Dockside Festival, among others. If you haven’t…well, step on up and join the fun! Aside from socializing, running technique demos, and having fun, you’ll often find us conveying the importance of paddling safety, and a lot of focus on PFD use.
PFDs and overall basic safety are certainly key, and are an approachable subject for people strolling through our booths and events, but as a NACK member and as a paddler there are far more important safety-related aspects of NACK membership that are often unsaid, so I’d like to take a moment to say them!
Paddling with NACK we find encouragement to improve skills without pressure to over-extend out of the comfort zone. We are monitoring and aware of each other’s daily limitations be they technical, physical, medical, or mental. We all have on and off days, and often don’t know which they are until we are on the water or in the soup. Our members consistently have proven themselves as sensitive to the sometimes subtle signs of cold, fatigue, fear, anxiety, pain, hunger, and a myriad other things that we encounter while out paddling. We rally behind anyone needing an adjustment to the day—whatever the particular change may be—and there is no negative judgement for it. I find that consistent behavior to lend confidence to each of us, empowering us to make appropriate decisions, and make the most (and safest) of any given day. Sometimes it means we push harder cuz everyone is ‘on’ that day, and other times we draw things back as needed.
Some of that trust comes from our efforts at skill building during peer practices, and pool sessions. Much of it comes from days out paddling.
Not every NACK’er is a frequent paddler, and if you only come out now and then, you may not recognize this benefit to the group, but if that is the case, take a look around you on your next NACK paddle and watch those near you. I think you’ll find that we are all carefully watching each other, and making us all stronger for it.
It was a slow year for official NACK paddles, although many of were on the water frequently. I hope to see more of you out on the bays, harbors, rivers, Sound, and ocean soon!