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  • Paddling with NSPN

    Trip Participation

    Our volunteer trip initiators propose/offer a variety of NSPN trips each year under the Common Adventure Model. From Cape Cod to Casco Bay, be it a leisurely flat-water paddle to those with challenging conditions, from an afternoon outing to a multi-day camping excursion, we offer a wide range of trips for our members.

    Additionally, we provide a public forum for paid members to announce Show and Go trips that are often spontaneous and less structured. Come paddle with us!


    Common Adventure Trip Defined

    A Common Adventure trip is two or more individuals working cooperatively for common goals and sharing expenses and responsibilities as equitably as possible. There are no paid guides. Any instruction or advice provided by any member of the group is given freely in a spirit of cooperation. Members of the group do not hold one another or others liable for accidents.

    On a Common Adventure trip, everyone is expected to share in the responsibilities of the trip. The trip initiator (the person who posted the trip) simply gets the ball rolling. The rest of the group is expected to help plan for the success of the trip, from the arrival at the launch and beach briefing until the trip has ended and everyone is safely on his/her way home. The success or failure of a common adventure trip rests not in the hands of the trip initiator, or NSPN, but rather in the hands of everyone that participates in the trip.

    Common Adventure trip postings, in turn, provide a means of getting people together to participate in a paddling trip that might not have been possible if they had tried to do it alone. Any NSPN member is welcome to initiate a Common Adventure trip to be placed on the NSPN Calendar. These trips are available for all NSPN members that have sufficient experience required for the particular trip. The trip message board is also available to anyone wishing to post a more spontaneous trip.

    Key elements of a Common Adventure Trip

    • Common Adventure trips are not guided trips. There is not necessarily a designated “leader” or “guide” who makes all the decisions for the group. Rather, leadership can be fluid and group decisions can be made democratically.
    • Every member of a Common Adventure group has responsibilities and contributes to the trip, whether by helping with trip planning, buying food, loading vehicles or cleaning up after it’s over. No one goes for a free ride.
    • There are no guide fees. No group money goes to pay any one person among the group, nor does any money go to any outside individual or sponsoring institution or club. The cost of the trip (if any) is shared.
    • Common adventure groups strive for fairness, free and open discussion, and an equitable sharing of responsibilities.


    Organizing an NSPN Common Adventure Trip

    • Posting of Trip. The NSPN member who develops a trip idea will post on the NSPN trips forum. He or she may also post it to the NSPN calendar.
    • Trip Initiator. The person who posts the event is known in Common Adventure vernacular as the “trip initiator.” This individual is not necessarily the trip leader since leadership on a Common Adventure can be a fluid affair, involving participation from all members of the group.
    • Sign-ups. Once the trip is posted, people who are interested in the trip can sign-up by contacting the trip initiator by following the instructions on the posting. The trip initiator may help participants assess if the level of the trip is appropriate for their skill level. In addition, the trip initiator may limit the number of participants for a particular trip due to limited parking and the challenge of managing large groups on the water.
    • Pre-trip Planning. The next step in the process is pre-trip planning. This is a key part of organizing a Common Adventure trip. Up to this point, the trip has been the trip initiator’s idea. During the planning, it becomes a cooperative group project. Depending on the complexity of the trip, there may be more or less planning – most of which takes place via email. Since the trip is now in the group’s hands, decisions about the trip are made as a group. The group may decide to make some changes in the trip: where they go and what they plan to do. Some individuals may decide that after learning the details, the trip is not what they want to do and they can drop out. For those who decide to go on the trip, the planning phase gives them a chance to be properly prepared and to learn what clothing, equipment, etc. they need.
    • Liability Waiver.  NSPN requires participating members to sign the club’s Participation Agreement. This ensures that everyone is aware of the responsibilities and risks involved in activities on the water.
    • Float Plan  The trip initiator compiles a float plan with paddler’s name, phone, emergency contacts and other useful information.  Some templates and options for float plans are here.  Copies are retained by contacts on land, family members of paddlers or a harbormaster.  Copies might be a link to the online float plan, a paper copy, or a photo.
    • Beach Briefing.   The beach briefing takes place just prior to launch.  Individuals are expected to be ready at the beach with all gear on and boat fully prepped and loaded.  During the briefing, the group discusses the planned trip, route, weather, sea state and other factors of the day, such as boat traffic or other potential hazards. Introductions are made and paddling levels discussed, as well as any individual limitations such as for health reasons, or needing to get back to the launch at a particular time.  Gear is reviewed to ensure that each person has the appropriate gear and there are enough individuals with safety gear such as hypothermia kits, radios, or tow belts.  The briefing is critical as it ensures that all participants have the same understanding of the trip and goals for the day.  It is the time that each person should make the final decision of whether they should participate.
    • Trip Leadership. While on a Common Adventure trip, leadership can be a fluid process. If someone knows the area, he or she could assume a leadership role by helping the group find their way. If there’s an accident on the trip and someone has good first aid skills, he or she assumes leadership. If a kayaker capsizes, another person may take over. Major decisions are generally made democratically as a group, with weight given to those with specialized knowledge. Often it is the trip initiator that guides the democratic process. In this process, everyone is able to express his/her opinion and shed light on the decision. However, if one person leads the entire trip, this is consistent with the Common Adventure Model of all participants have agreed that is the best plan for the trip.  This person can also make route and safety decisions for the group.
    • Trip Safety. Because everyone’s opinion is important and because everyone is working for the common good of the group, trips are safer. Among their responsibilities, members of Common Adventure groups keep an eye out for one another. Because of the open, democratic environment, they are less apt to hold back when they see potential problems.
    • Learning on the Trip. Common Adventure trips strive to create an environment for experiential learning. While there are no designated teachers, those on the trip with more experience often share their knowledge and skills with others with less experience.
    • Report Incidents or Share Feedback. The club asks trip initiators to fill out NSPN’s online trip report. This helps the club improve future trips, and is required if any incidents occur that involved members’ safety or health.

    Any questions or concerns about the Common Adventure Model or participating on trips should be emailed to trips@nspn.org.

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