Understanding Shuttle Math and Other Paddling Tips

New year, new you! And you’re ready to take up bellyaking. Here’s how to have the best time on the water.

1) Shuttle Math is Easy.

It’s easy to assume you will get out of the river where you put in. We would love to have a circular river, but geology hasn’t created one yet. Most paddling trips meet at the takeout where you will  load your boats and gear into one vehicle and head to the put in. Below are a few tips to make sure your shuttle math adds up and you aren’t left cold and keyless at the end of a run.

Bellyak Van

2) Make sure you have all your paddling gear on at the takeout. 

It may be hot and uncomfortable, but putting all your gear on at the takeout (and having your more experienced friend check it) will ensure that you don’t leave a crucial piece behind. Bellyak? Gloves? Helmet? PFD? Add some non-cotton base layers and wetsuit/drysuit as conditions warrant.

3) Your car keys should be left WITH THE CAR

Don’t be the guy who doesn’t get dressed at the takeout and yet leaves their vehicle there for the shuttle, and then once he gets dressed at the put in leaves his keys in his pants at the put in. Even incredibly smart people make this mistake, but most only make it once. Pro Tip: have a secret hiding spot on your vehicle, or better yet, duct tape a spare key on your frame with black duct tape. It’s hard for to find and it won’t bounce off on bumpy roads (most takeouts are gravel roads) like a magnetic box will.


4) Dry Clothes at the TAKEOUT

See number 2. Get dressed at the takeout and leave your clothes in the takeout vehicle. If you violate this rule, you may violate rule 3, and then you are the guy getting someone’s car seat soaking wet or crouching in the truck bed and hoping for the best. Pro tip: pack dry clothes and sandals/shoes in a tote bag with a towel, and leave it in the takeout car. Even more pro tip: leave your dry clothes in your gear bag so you can neatly pack up your wet gear for the ride back to the top.

Happy Bellyakers

5) Anticipate your Future Self and Plan Accordingly

Shuttle vehicles are like time capsules that you can leave items in that your future self will thank you for. You may be hot and full of lunch when you meet for an afternoon paddle. But when you get done you’ll be hungry, and most likely cold. So pack a hoody – even in the summertime – and snacks to share if you want to ensure you get invited to go paddling again. A beanie and gloves stays in my post paddle bag. Pro Tip: leave a six pack (or appropriate number of beers based on group size) on ice in the takeout vehicle. No one has ever lost points for having cold beer at the takeout. Consume responsibly, and appropriate to your age.

Other Future Self Tips: rinse your gear in the river so it’s not a sandy mess next time you go paddling. Even more important if this is borrowed gear. When you get home, take it out of your vehicle to dry or else your car will smell like a hockey helmet.

Now that you are a pro at shuttle and making plans to quit work early to go paddle your favorite river, consider getting racks to carry your friends boats, or buy a used minivan (my favorite) or get a truck. All of your decisions from here on out should involve thinking of your friends and their gear, and how you can be a better paddling partner!

So pick your boat, and happy Paddling! Hope to meet you at a takeout near you!