VETERANS and DISABILITIES:
Q: Who is Team River Runner for?
A: Our goal is to provide active duty servicemembers, veterans and disabled members of the community with an opportunity to find health, healing, and new challenges through whitewater boating and other paddling sports. Non-veterans with a desire to participate or help in that endeavor are welcome!
Q: What kind of injuries or disabilities does TRR work with?
A: There is a wide range of physical and emotional impairments that are compatible with enjoyment of kayaking. The mobility that a small boat offers on water is unlike the restraints that gravity imposes on land. Many find a new freedom of movement and adventure.
TRR has experience working with individuals diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, Amputation, Spinal Cord Injuries, Sight Impairment, Other disabling wounds. The process of fitting a boat and adapting instruction to each paddler is one of experimentation. The most important attribute is a willingness to try different options in a safe and supportive environment and have fun at it.
Q: Does TRR supply boats and equipment? Is there any cost?
A: There is no cost and no exchange of money. TRR supplies boats and equipment without charge based on available TRR fleet and loaners from volunteers. Often, generous volunteers will bring extra personal boats and equipment for participants to try. As paddlers advance their skills and become TRR regulars, there is an expectation that they will acquire their own equipment to free up TRR equipment for new participants. Discounts are available from TRR partnered boat and equipment suppliers.
Q: What kind of paperwork will I need to complete and will I be asked details about my disability?
A: For both paddlers and volunteers, there is an information form, an insurance liability release and a media release required to be completed on the first session before participation. See Documents page – Forms
The information form asks the standard contact data (name, address, phone, email) as well as any applicable allergy or disability/injury diagnosis. Diagnosis is used for 1) Determining how best to fit gear to the injury and if there are any potential safety issues for yourself or others. 2) Aggregated reporting (names not used) so that TRR National can qualify for specific grants that are offered for the various injury types we work with. For example, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation offers grant money based on the number of SCI (spinal cord injuries) that TRR has worked with in a given year.
Q: I don’t know if TRR is for me. Can I just stop by and observe?
A: Sure, everyone is welcome to observe our pool sessions provided they are not disruptive to the program.
Q: Can I bring a family member or friend?
A: We encourage participants to bring a close friend or family member as “stick-to-it” is enhanced if the fun is shared with someone close.
Q: Why does TRR use whitewater kayaks?
A: This was the founding direction of the Team River Runner organization as well as the instructional specialty of our local group. Some TRR groups specialize in canoeing, recreational kayaking, sea-kayaking or ocean surfing. TRR has found that small whitewater-style kayaks are easily stacked on vehicles, fit well in a confined indoor pool and take the least space to store. The safety, balance and paddling skills learned in a small whitewater kayak are easily transferred to other boat types. There may be some cases where an inflatable kayak or a canoe is better suited to an injury or preference and we try to offer those options when available.
Q: What kind of kayak lessons do you teach?
A: We follow the ACA (American Canoe Association) progression for whitewater kayak and adapt the instruction and methods to injuries and disabilities. The Documents page of our website has a link for Lesson Levels which breaks down the progression into short segments on safety, equipment, paddle strokes, etc. A participant may complete one or multiple levels in a two-hour pool session. See Documents page – Instructional Documents – Lesson Levels – Pool
Q: What would I learn at my first session?
A: The first in-water pool session for every new participant starts with a Water-Comfort Check where a participant lays face-down in water, holds breath for at least 15 seconds and then rolls over face-up with feet raised. We then progress to proper fitting of helmet, PFD, paddle and boat. Instruction, demonstration and practice is done on how to safely exit an overturned kayak (aka: wet-exit). We try to finish each session with a short race or game of kayak-polo.
Q: What should I bring with me to a TRR Session?
A: To maximize your comfort and experience at a Team River Runner session, the below items should be brought with you. Please indicate to the group leader your disability or comfort issues so that we are aware and might adapt the boat, equipment or instructional methods. Everyone learns at different speeds and we want you to stick with it!
Indoor Pool Sessions:
- Swimsuit or shorts
- Fleece, neoprene or synthetic top (sometimes pool gets cool).
- Nose Clips (recommended for comfort)
- Change of clothes (locker and changing rooms available).
River/Outdoor Trips and Sessions:
- Swimsuit / wetsuit (seasonal: for water temperature)
- Paddling jacket or windbreaker (no cotton) *
- Nose Clips (recommended for comfort if decked kayak)
- Water shoes/booties – Bare feet not allowed on outdoor events
- Change of clothes
- Water bottle(s) filled
- Snack or lunch packed in waterproof container/zip-locks
- Sunglasses (optional) but secure with croakies
- Personal items / medication (inform group leader).
* TRR has paddle jackets, wetsuits and other donated river clothing available. Ask trip leader about availability.
Q: Do you teach the Eskimo Roll?
A: Sure do! Some flexibility and coordination is needed and we will give everyone a chance that wants to try. For class II whitewater kayaking, the eskimo roll is good to know but not essential if paddlers learn self-rescue techniques.
Q: Is instruction individualized?
A: Many lessons are one-on-one with instructors and we often try to pair two instructors with a participant depending on disability and available volunteer staff.
Q: Do I have to attend a pool session in order to go on a kayaking trip?
A: For insurance and safety purposes, everyone must meet the Essential Eligibility Criteria for Paddlers, meaning that a paddler must demonstrate ability to perform minimal safety tasks before attending a flat-water kayaking trip and more advanced skills are required for attendance of a whitewater kayak trip. These skills are best learned and demonstrated in a pool or on calm, warm, flat water and in a progression. Our regular pool sessions are designed to make that progression.
Q: Is swimming allowed at a TRR pool session?
A: As a general rule, no. TRR sessions may start with participants doing warm-up exercises in the water but when boats are occupying the same space, swimming is kept to a minimum. A properly fitted helmet is required and a life-vest (PFD) is preferred to be worn by everyone in the pool – whether in or out of the boat.
Q: Who is responsible for safety?
A: At the most basic level, each individual shares a degree of risk. Personal responsibility and group safety is taught and stressed at all levels.
Q: Who is in charge?
A: The highest level of authority at a pool session is the Aquatic Director and/or Lifeguard regarding facility safety regulations. Within the TRR group, the senior Staff-Volunteer who is coordinating the event is the leader for TRR team participants.
On a TRR river trip or function, the Staff-Volunteer coordinator of that trip has authority on participation as well as setting on-river safety standards. TRR has a Safety Protocol that we follow for trips. A link to this protocol is on the Documents page.
See Volunteer page
Q: Do I have to be a veteran or have kayaking experience to participate or volunteer with TRR?
A: No. Veterans are valued as volunteers as they often relate well to other healing vets. ACA certified instructors and experienced paddlers are valued as teachers and assistants. But the most important attribute of any participant is that they have a sense of adventure and a desire to experiment and help others.
Q: What kind of commitment do you ask of volunteers?
A: There are basically two levels of volunteers: Paddler-Volunteers are experienced paddlers who occasionally offer support with river trips or pool sessions. Paddler-Volunteers are valued for the additional support they provide on river trips. However, ability to take on an active role with consistency of attendance is most important to building a functional team. Staff-Volunteers are those that are willing to commit to attendance at sessions and take an active role. Our typical pool session is 2-3 hours and is currently planned for twice monthly however, some roles may involve making phone calls or coordination between sessions as time can be afforded.
Q: What kind of jobs do volunteers do?
A: Examples of Staff-Volunteers are: Greeters (those who welcome vets showing up and get them signed in with waivers and paperwork), In-Water Teaching Assistants/Instructors, Boat and Gear Wranglers (help carry boats/equipment to-and-from the pool or river and with storage), Photographers (yes, we need pictures of what we do), Pool-side Helpers (help with getting paddlers safely in/out of the water and Outreach Coordinator (someone who will make visits to places where veterans may frequent, put up posters, make phone calls, etc), Volunteer Coordinator (someone who helps recruit new volunteers as well as keep in touch with current.
Please consider becoming a Staff-Volunteer!
Team River Runner envisions a national network which creates innovative paddling programs designed to assist with the recovery of those injured while serving our country. Through paddle sports, TRR volunteers and partners provide local communities unique opportunities for the active, safe and positive support of healing service members and their families.
Quality: TRR is a credible and accountable organization that provides the highest quality of training and leadership in our paddling programs. We are committed to promote and offer healthy, safety-conscious activities for our participants.
Inclusiveness: TRR welcomes and encourages the participation of healing active duty and veteran service members and their families in programs designed to serve as many participants as possible. We are non-political and nondiscriminatory and we are dedicated to support the emotional and physical well-being of our participants.
Fun: TRR provides a positive experience through energetic involvement in a challenging outdoor activity. We believe that paddling provides fun and fulfillment and enables diverse individuals to enjoy the exceptional camaraderie of the paddle sport community.
Volunteerism: TRR is a volunteer-based organization which derives its energy, ideas, and talents from persons with a commitment to serve others. Volunteers participate in the design, creation and delivery of our paddling programs for the maximum benefit of TRR participants.
Natural Resources: TRR practices environmental responsibility. As outdoor enthusiasts, we respect all natural resources and incorporate sound conservation practices into our programs.