Teaching kayaking, I always emphasize that the last move in any rapid is looking over your shoulder at the person behind you. Complacency, poor safety hazard and risk assessments, media/social media, and the quick learning curve and inexperience of newer paddlers all play into risk being higher on rivers although the hazards remain the same.
For those that don’t know hazards are constant in a situation (e.g. a sieve, siphon, a hole, water temperature, etc.) and risk is the chance, high or low, that someone will be harmed by a hazard. So risk varies person to person. Kayakers, especially less experienced kayakers, get caught up in the fact that if I made it down X river, then I can make it down Y river, but the hazards are different, even though skill level is the same, the risk is higher because you don’t know Y river like you do X river. The same can be said in different situations (water level, boat used, the people you’re paddling with and their abilities in kayaking and in rescue).
So conclusion: be safe, be smart, preventative measures are always an easier and more effective way of risk management, look out for yourself, look out for those around you (and paddle in appropriate sized groups for the run you’re on), constantly work on your communication and rescue skills, paddle for yourself instead of a facebook profile picture, LOVE the sport, LOVE the people in it. SYOTR.
Words: Jack Orr