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Olympic Peninsula Paddlers
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General Kayak Safety Information

All OPP club members NEED to read this page and comply with these requirements!

The following is a general statement of OPP policy/philosophy regarding sea kayaking trips and safety. We also have suggested some specific skills important for paddling in certain areas (such as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, exposed coast, etc.).

Our intent is not to dictate a set of rules or to tell anyone how or where they should paddle. The purpose is to inform and remind all OPP members of the way OPP paddle trips function and of what we consider to be a relatively safe way to sea kayak, based on a considerable amount of past experience. This is open to review and revision; if anyone has better ideas, please make them known by contacting the OPP board.

We do not discuss group dynamics here. Decisions regarding teamwork, group control, formations, signals, etc. must be tailored to each trip and will be made by group consensus or by the paddle trip Point of Contact (POC). Our goal is to function as safely as possible. However, be advised that risk cannot be entirely eliminated when paddling a kayak.


  • Personal Responsibility: On any OPP paddle trip, each and every participant is responsible for their own safety. Use your own judgment. Never blindly follow anyone into a situation you are unsure about or skill level does not match paddle environment.

  • Be prepared to take care of yourself: This does not mean that the other members of the group won’t assist anyone who needs it, but such assistance should never be taken for granted, especially in difficult conditions. Be aware that, despite all good intentions, there is always a real possibility of being separated from the group. Therefore, strive to maintain close group contact during the paddle trip.

  • Be sure your skills are adequate for any given paddle trip: There is nothing wrong with bailing out of the paddle trip at the put-in if you are not sure this trip is for you. Everyone has done it!

  • It is up to each and every participant to know the paddle trip agenda: How to use a map or chart, carry a compass, and consult with the trip POC, if you are not familiar with the area. Approach the paddle trip as if you were The POC planning it, then compare your planning notes with those of the POC, using the exercise as a learning opportunity. Learning how to be self-reliant is a good thing, and every paddle trip becomes a learning opportunity.

  • A Paddle POC is the trip organizer, not a tour guide: Commercial outfitters get paid to be responsible for their customers’ safety. OPP is a club, not an outfitter, and does cooperative, not guided, paddle trips. POCs are no more responsible for the safety of others than anyone else in the group. Everyone has to paddle their own craft; a POC can’t do it for them.

  • Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for the trip: Check to be sure your kayak and other equipment is fully functional and in good repair (Refer to the OPP Safety Equipment List.) All our paddle trips are in cold water; always be prepared for immersion. Always wear/carry a helmet. You never know when you will need to launch or land in surf conditions and/or paddle in ocean rock gardens.

  • POCs are not responsible for evaluating participants’ kayaking abilities: However, for your safety and the safety of the group, POCs retain the right to have anyone who is not adequately prepared to withdraw from the paddle trip. Participants should evaluate their own skills. Be realistic. The life you save may be your own.

Remember: You participate in OPP paddle trips at your own risk and are completely responsible for your own safety.


We will have experienced paddlers on our trips, but they will not be responsible for telling you what is or is not safe for you to do. We watch out for one another and assist one another, but all individuals are responsible for managing their own safety. This responsibility includes assessing your gear, skill level, and physical conditioning relative to conditions and location, as well as, making decisions about what you will or will not do. Participants acknowledge that kayaking on the open ocean or bay is inherently dangerous and can lead to physical injury including death, as well as, property damage. Participants, on their behalf and on behalf of their heirs and assignees, agree to hold the POCs and other participants blameless in the event of such injury, property damage, or death. Please join us if you want to mildly stretch your capabilities, but please stay home if you would be wildly stretching them.