Loma Prieta Paddlers (LPP) is a whitewater kayaking club, based in the South Bay and beyond.  If you are new to kayaking, new to the area or are just  looking for a group of fellow paddlers; check us out.

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River Signals

It's amazing how loud a river can be when your on one side and somebody else is on the other trying to talk to you.  Every paddler should learn the basic paddle and whistle signals.

Whistle Signals

Every paddler should carry a whistle for emergency communication. Here are the basic whistle signals. 

  • One blast: Attention, possible emergency
  • Three blasts: Help, Emergency!

Are You Okay?

To ask if someone is okay take one arm and point to the person you are asking about.  At the same time pat the top of your head with the other hand.  This is asking the question, "Are you OK?".  If the person being asked is okay they should respond by patting the top of their head with their hand; this means, "I'm OK".  Any other response, waving their arms, or a no response as taken to mean that the person is not okay.

Paddle Signals

Paddle signals are the way to communicate across distances when sound cannot travel.  If you don't have a paddle just use your arms.

  • Stop: Hold paddle horizontally above your head or hold arms horizontally out to your sides.  This means do no proceed.  Paddlers should remain in an eddy or get to the nearest eddy.  Do not proceed downstream until signaled to do so.
  • Proceed straight ahead: Hold the paddle vertically or raise one arm straight up above your head.  This indicates to proceed straight down through the center of the rapid.
  • Proceed this way: Take your paddle or your arm and point 45 degrees to the left or the right.  Always point the direction you want to have the  paddlers go, the clear and safe path.  Do NOT point to an obstruction.
  • Warning/Emergency: Wave your paddle or arms above your head.  There is an emergency ahead.  Response depends on the situation.

Here's are a couple of  good summaries of the most commonly used paddle signals, complete with pictures.

Additional Hand Signals

Here's a list of additional hand signals

Stop Hand up, palm toward receiver in halt position-- alternating with pointing toward best stopping place: Stop where indicated.

Group Modes of Operation

Are You Ready?
With a questioning look, sender holds thumb up and points at receiver with index finger.

We’re Ready
With fingers folded, hold thumb straight up: We’re in good shape. Also, we’re ready to go.

One Minute
Single, vertical forefinger: Wait one minute; or get ready to go very soon.

We’re Going to Take Pictures
Hold hands as though holding camera--with one index finger moving: We’re going to go downstream and get into picture-taking position.

Speed Up
Working fist in circular motion like locomotive wheel: Speed up. It’s important that we make time.

Increase Spacing
Facing receiver--hand up, fingers inclined toward receiver, moving in pushing-back motions: Increased spacing, move back.

Above Rapids & Drops
Directing through a Rapid
A paddle held with blade up or an arm held straight up means go down the center. If the paddle or arm is angled 45° one way or the other, go down the side indicated.

Note: Always point in the direction you want someone to go, never in the direction you don’t want them to go. Turn paddle blade flat to receiver for maximum visibility.

With index and middle fingers forming a V, point to eyes then twist and point out: Look

Eddy Out
With upraised finger make circles in a level plane: Eddy out.

Open, flat hand, palm up, moving in up and down, carrying motion above shoulder.

Flat, horizontal hand at brow, sometimes with slight forward and back motion: Scout. Usually combined with a stop signal and an indication of which bank on which to stop.

River Emergencies
One hand pinches throat while the other hand points to victim: Oxygen supply endangered--begin entrapment rescue! One of the most urgent of all emergencies.

Boat Damaged
Form a circle with both thumbs and forefingers, hold hands in front of chest: Our boat is damaged.

Both palms clasped to forehead: A boat is wrapped.

Person Overboard
With profile to receiver, make swimming motions in the air: Person overboard. Between every two or three air strokes, point toward swimmer with whole arm.

Starting with forearm horizontal and pointing to one side with fingers flat and extended, swing forearm up and over 180°: A boat flipped.

We need . . .
First Aid Kit
Cross forearms with one forearm vertical, the other horizontal: We need the first aid kit.

Keeping hands a few inches apart, move them up and down as though operating a pump: We need a pump.

River Etiquette
May We Pass
With both palms toward receiver, move one upwards past the other, as in one boat passing another. Note: Before asking to pass, have your entire group together and be ready to pass quickly.

You’re Welcome to Pass
Beginning with open hand in front of chest, swing your whole arm in broad welcoming gesture in the direction group will pass.

Camaraderie & Other Stuff
Straight forefinger pointing into open mouth: We’re hungry. We want to stop for lunch, or dinner.

Head tilted over onto hands, palms together, in sleeping gesture: We want to stop and make camp, or rest.

We’re Cold
Wrap your arms around yourself, making shivering motions, rubbing yourself as though to generate heat: We’re cold.

Oar or Paddle Overboard
Move hands together and apart horizontally, over and over, as though sliding hands along shaft of paddle or oar. Alternately point toward lost item.

From PaddlerMagazine Online