Some River Signals

(a recommended set for GKC)

If you're a beginner or don't have much time, have a look through the basic section and remember the signals and the meaning given below. If you don't understand a signal, stay where you are until you're sure!

In all cases, before you give a signal you'll want to look directly at (or point at, if necessary) the intended recipient and ensure you have their attention. The signal should then be clearly given and held for a second. This is particularly important with paddle signals, since the paddle can wave about normally in use. Hand signals are often recommended for this reason and because they ensures you're in a stable position before signalling. Unfortunately it's very difficult to hand signal with pogies on.

The "comments" sections are additional information. If you're simply wanting to learn the signals you don't need to read them.


Basic Signals

Stop

Two arms vertical Horizontal paddle held up high
Two arms vertical Horizontal paddle held up high

Meaning: Stop! If you're already stationary, stay where you are. If you're moving, break out and stop immediately.

Comments: There is an alternative stop sign of a single vertical arm, but this is now widely used for one come down (below). Clearly, misinterpreting this as an instruction to come down instead of stop is potentially hazardous, so its use as a stop sign is best avoided. Another variant with both arms crossed above the head often indicates a worse hazard, looking a bit like skull and crossbones.

One Come Down

One arm vertical Vertical paddle held steady
One arm vertical Vertical paddle held steady

Meaning: One paddler set off down the rapid. Everyone else should wait for further signals.

Comments: Beware of the aforementioned confusable stop signal. You'll normally know when it's wrong, but if in doubt stop! If you want to make it particularly clear you're not giving an alternative stop signal, you could point your index finger to signify "1".

Go That Way

Point with hand
Point with hand

Meaning: They're pointing at a recommended line. NEVER point at a hazard.

Comments: You can also point with the paddle, but it's much less clear.


More Advanced/Obscure Signals

All Come Down

Vertical forearm pumping up and down
Vertical forearm pumping up and down

Meaning: Everybody set off down (sensibly spaced out).

Comments: Note this means all set off with proper spacing and caution, not begin a pile-on-top-of-one-another river race. Clearly that would be indicated by counting down three, two, one on fingers first and then giving the all come down signal.

Come Here

Patting self on head
Patting self on head

Meaning: Come to me.

Comments: If you're intending to give this signal from an eddy and then leave, and want them to aim for the eddy rather than following you, it's probably clearer to give the eddy out signal below and point at your own eddy.

Eddy Out

Circle finger above head, then point at an eddy
Circle finger above head then point at an eddy

Meaning: Break out in the eddy indicated.

Walk

Mime walking with fingers
Mime walking with fingers

Meaning: Get out and walk. This could indicate inspect or portage, but get out and have a look either way.

Comments: Small and difficult to see, so give a clear stop sign first. If they miss the walk bit then it doesn't matter.


Suggested Experimental Query Signal

Suggesting lines to one another and signalling opinions is something I've often seen informally, but usually without any agreed signal. This is an attempt to encourage it on an experimental basis. Note that the query should only be directed to a paddler below the drop or on the bank, so they cannot misinterpret the query as an instruction. As always, stay where you are if in doubt.

Point at the line you like the look of, touch chin thoughtfully
Point at the line you like the look of, touch chin thoughtfully

Possible Replies:

Thumbs up Thumbs down Hand covering eyes
Thumbs up Thumbs down Hand covering eyes

Meanings:

Yes, that looks ok. No, that looks stupid. Can't see or judge.

Meaning: The queryer is above a drop and the helper below. If the queryer would like an opinion of a particular line and believes the helper has a better view of it, they should give the signal clearly to the helper below. That helper can reply yes or no. If the helper cannot see or judge any better for some reason, they can reply with covered eyes as shown, or not reply at all.

Any comments? Email me.