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What to expect at Your On-Water skills check

Updated: Apr 29

Or, Do I Really Have to Go in the Water?


Welcome to ONEC paddling. If you have kayaked or SUPed at a lake and

feel fairly comfortable, you may be wondering why we insist on doing an introductory skills check on the water for new members. The simple answer is, it's the Ottawa River .



Many of our members are surprised how fast the current is compared to

paddling on a lake. Wakes from other boats, volume of boat traffic, wind and

weather patterns all further contribute to our paddling challenges at ONEC. We have worked with Paddle Canada and certified paddling instructors to set up guidelines so

that you can make your experience on the river a safe and enjoyable one.


Every member needs to understand and prepare for the conditions in order to manage their own safety responsibly.


As a Paddling Association Member of Paddle Canada we have agreed to follow their risk management guidelines designed to ensure clubs provide their members tools and policies to help them manage their personal safety when paddling at the club. Following these practices is a group commitment required to maintain our Paddle Canada member status and insurance.


Read on to learn what you should expect and how to prepare for your on-

water session.


1. You WILL Get Wet!!!


If you feel apprehensive about tipping your boat or SUP by the docks at new member orientation, imagine how you would feel if you accidentally tip when you are out paddling with a buddy? Learning how it feels to get up close and personal with the water in a controlled environment with lots of support around you will make you more confident, relaxed, and able to get to safety (more below) should you ever tip out again.


Come prepared to go in the water. Wear a bathing suit and/or very light synthetic clothing that won’t weigh you down in the water or make you cold when wet. Water shoes are highly recommended, but a second pair of closed-toe shoes that will stay on when wet will work as well. Bare feet are discouraged on the docks for safety reasons.


Bring a change of clothes, shoes, and a towel!!


You will need your own properly fitted paddling PFD and a whistle for the season.

For information on a proper fit and more on PFD's and other paddling gear you will need, please see our Paddler’s Gear Guide blog here




2. You Will Get to Safety


What you do after you tip out will determine where you can go on the river during the season.


For kayaking, you have three options:


a. You swim with your boat to shore and get help (or get back in with a wet launch)


b. You get back in your boat in the water using an assisted rescue (the buddy rescue, taught in clinics or Basic Course)


c. You get back in the boat on your own (the more advanced self rescue, taught in Level 1

Course )


If you do:


a. Swimming to shore - you will be allowed to paddle within 50 metres of the shore on the Ontario side with a buddy. You can read more about our policies in our Member's Handbook here:

You may also paddle further afield if accompanied by someone with at least Level 1 certification under agreed favourable conditions (overall paddler skills, weather, route, etc).


b. The buddy rescue - you can go further afield with a buddy. Watch a video of this

technique here:


If you are a strong kayaker and wish to demonstrate this rescue at the orientation, you are welcome to do so. If you are unsure or having difficulty with it, we recommend taking a course or clinic like the ones offered at ONEC found here.


c. The self-rescue - you most likely have taken a course or clinic to learn it. If you have

received any type of kayak certification, please let us know. You may be exempt from

the on-water assessment. Contact us at paddling@onec.ca .



For SUP

You have to be able to fall safely off your board and either swim to shore or climb

back on it to get to safety.


The tricky thing is that you are more exposed to wind, current and falling off with a SUP, especially with choppy water or wakes. On top of that, getting back on can quickly become exhausting. We therefore have a recommended zone closer to the River House to start out with SUPs.


Once you feel more confident, you may stay within 50 metres of shore on the Ontario side. To go beyond 50 metres, you must be able to launch and paddle in windy and /or turbulent conditions and/or strong currents and demonstrate efficient paddling strokes as per Paddle Canada Basic SUP standards found here:




3. You Will Review how to Manage Your Craft

We’ll review recommended techniques for getting in /out of a kayak and on/off a SUP safely from the dock. We’ll talk about the boats we have and help you find one that’s right for you. We’ll show you how the club gear is organised and make sure you know what you need for your boat and how to transport and store everything. We’ll explain how you will be able to to reserve a boat once you successfully complete the on-water assessment.


For a complete guide to our kayaks, please see our Meet the Fleet blog here:




4. You Will Learn our Safety Policies and Procedures

If you did the dry land orientation, you will be familiar with our policies and procedures.

We’ll review them quickly and give you a big test at the end…. just kidding. Do review the Member's Handbook and we'll give you an opportunity to ask any questions and point out important items, such as where the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) and our paddler’s logbook are stored.


Read the documents (with Policy and Procedures Guide and

Orientation Slide Deck) in the Paddler's Resouce Section in the Member's Handbook:



5. We’ll Have Fun!

The whole point of getting out on the water is to have fun and enjoy it – and return

safely! By prioritising personal awareness and responsibility for safety with ONEC tools,

policies, and procedures in place, we hope to make paddling a great experience for all.


Happy Paddling!!

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