BBOP Frequently asked questions

WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?


Always wear quick drying synthetics such as what you wear for running, yoga or Pilates. No cotton. Your
clothing should be stretchy and comfortable, preferably not loose baggy layers. On the rare but possible
occasion there is a capsize (huli) consider clothing that will not impede a brief swim and return to the
canoe. (See more in “will I get wet?”). Dress in layers so you can adjust for comfort during practice.
Bring a water bottle or other type of hydration system. Bring a towel and change of clothes for after
practice (you may want one to protect your car seat!)
In Summer wear a cap or visor, sunglasses and sunscreen, Paddling gloves (optional, sailing or biking
gloves work well), lightweight water shoes or waterproof sandals.
In Winter wear warm fleece or neoprene leggings, warm layers on top (wool or fleece work well), warm
hat, neoprene booties and gloves. Bring a wind/rain jacket (in case it's needed).




HOW LONG ARE PRACTICES?


See our website for current weekly schedule. Practices include time on the water plus organizing crews and equipment before and after practice. We say “practice start” at 5:30pm means we aim to be on the water at that time. Please arrive 15 minutes BEFORE practice start time to get equipment together and organize seat assignments. Rec crews will be on the water an hour, competitive crews up to 90 minutes as the season progresses. After paddling it takes another 15 minutes or so to get canoes and equipment put away. COVID update: all crews are practicing together, co-ed, all skill levels




DO I NEED ANY EQUIPMENT?


Always bring some hydration, either a water bottle or CamelBak style hydration system. The club has paddles and life jackets in a variety of styles and sizes, although most members buy their own once they determine the best style for them.




I’VE NEVER PADDLED BEFORE, WILL I GET COACHING?


Definitely! Our coaches work hard with paddlers of all experience levels on technique and fitness.




CAN I TRY OUTRIGGER OUT BEFORE JOINING THE CLUB?


Yes! You can come to practice 3 times for free. Generally we prefer that new paddlers begin in the Recreation Crew so we can assess skill level. If you have more experience and prefer to practice with the competitive crew please email membership and they will connect you with the coach to discuss your situation.




DO MEN AND WOMEN PRACTICE SEPARATELY? OR ARE THERE MIXED PRACTICES?


Our Rec Crew is co-ed but the competitive crews have separate men’s and women’s crews. Covid note: separate crew practices have been postponed. All practices are mixed for now.




WHAT IF I CAN'T MAKE ALL THE PRACTICES?


That’s OK. In Rec you may attend as many or as few practices as you’d like. Paddlers do tend to enjoy themselves more when they invest more time practicing their technique and timing with the team. If you are race training with a competitive crew the coach will probably ask you to attend all practices leading up to the race. Regular attendance may be a factor in selecting who will race and/or seat assignments within the canoe. Some competitive crew members attend practices for the more intensive workout and do not necessarily seek to race however. Practice attendance does not affect dues. Covid note: separate crew practices have been postponed. All practices are mixed for now.




WHAT IF I CAN'T SWIM?


Safety is critical and swimming skills can definitely come into play. On occasion a canoe may capsize (huli) and everyone will end up in the water at any time of the year. The water in Bellingham Bay is cold most of the year, so getting back into the canoe quickly is essential to preserve body temperature. BBOP requires that each paddler bring a PFD onboard and at least keep one under their seat or wear it. Most paddlers do wear them as a prudent measure and anyone with uncertain swimming skills should absolutely wear theirs. Not all members are highly skilled swimmers, however you must be comfortable enough in the water to assist in righting the canoe in the event of a huli and be able to climb back into the boat (other paddlers can help you). Improving general fitness and increasing the length of time that you can tread water is another option.




WILL I GET WET?


Yes! This is a water sport. Everyone gets splashed a little as paddlers around them bring their paddle across the canoe to switch sides (and your own paddle). You may be asked to help launch or bring in the canoe on the boat ramp which will require wading in the water to your ankles or thighs. This is why appropriate clothing and footwear is important. The club will show you what to do in the event of an accidental capsize (“huli” in Hawaiian) when everyone ends up in the water. There is a step-by-step process of righting the canoe that every club uses. It will keep everyone safe and get you quickly back in the canoe. In the event of a huli, paddlers will return to shore after the canoe is righted so everyone can dry off. You would not be expected to continue with practice (only in a race). Huli instruction will take place first on land, and eventually on water.




IS IT SAFE?


BBOP takes safety seriously. Our coaches and safety officers have decades of paddling experience in extreme conditions on Bellingham and all over the world. We require all paddlers to wear good-fitting PFD’s (life jackets, Personal Flotation Devices) and we have our own to lend if members don’t have one. Board, coaches and steerers meet regularly to review club safety protocols. We carry liability insurance for every member provided by Paddlesport Risk Management, LLC.




ARE THERE FACILITIES ON SITE?


There are two clean porta-potties in the boat yard. We have a locking shed for our gear, so you can keep a small amount of personal items (keys etc) there during practice. There is NOT a place to refill water bottles on site. Hand wash stations are hand sanitizer only – no hot water. There are hoses available if you need cold, non-potable water to rinse off gear, etc. There are rinse stations with an enzyme gear cleaning solution for your neoprene booties, gloves etc. Covid-update: Please keep most personal items in your vehicle. See covid protocols for more info.




I’M NEW! WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN I ARRIVE FOR PRACTICE?


BBOP practices from the Community Boating Center, a small-boat recreation center in Fairhaven. You can park in the gravel just outside of the fenced boatyard. We store our canoes in the boatyard and have a large locked shed inside where we keep our smaller gear such as club paddles and PFDs. The boatyard is a busy place with sailing clinics, kayak owners, SUP lessons, etc. Lots of people moving their equipment around, plus fishing boats pulling onto the same boat ramp we use. BBOP takes up a lot of room with our big long canoes and large membership so help us be respectful of sharing the space! When you arrive you’ll see us milling around the canoes chatting. The coach will identify new paddlers and make sure you have proper equipment (paddles, PFD’s). Coach will then set line ups (announce who will sit in which seat number in each canoe) and then ask everyone to get the canoes to the water. This can be a little chaotic and will take a little time to know where to stand! OC-6’s are heavy and awkward to move because of the outrigger attached to the side of it. They must be lifted off their racks by about 6 people simultaneously and set onto a sturdy 2-wheeled cart which 1 person will swing underneath. A steerer or other experienced person will lead the lift process, calling ”1,2,3, lift!”, etc. The group can then begin rolling the canoe to the boat ramp. Once it is floating, everyone lifts the boat off the cart and one person removes the cart and stores it. Then everyone can climb into the boat in sequence, beginning with the person assigned to seat 1. The reverse process happens when you pull off the water after practice. The launching protocol can be found here.




WHAT SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT PADDLING BASICS?


Coaches will go over everything but here are some starting points. There are 6 paddlers in each OC6. The steerer sits in the back (seat 6) and usually acts as coach in the canoe. Coaching will include general direction such as when to start and stop paddling, such as “watch your timing”. Seat 1 (front of the boat) is the stroker and sets the pace. Each seat paddles on alternate sides of the canoe - seats 1, 3 and 5 start on the left, 2 and 4 start on the right (seat 6 paddles on any side as needed to steer the canoe). About every 14 strokes the person in seat 3 (who is counting strokes) calls “hut” then everyone takes one more stroke and calls “hoe” in response while switching to the opposite side. Each seat has a specific role in moving the canoe which you will learn more about.




WILL I GET TO RACE?


BBOP has three adult paddling crews. Those with a base level of paddling experience and who are interested in racing will practice with the competitive men’s and women’s crews. These practices are geared towards race training. The Head Coach will determine race line ups in those divisions. BBOP races primarily against other clubs in the PNWORCA league of which it is a member. Paddlers in the Rec crew do not race (unless they also paddle in the competitive crews). Covid update: Races may be postponed. See Head coach or website for the latest.