By Kimball Vaughn
Jan 18, 2018

Program Feature for LDS Youth: Paddle Sports

Make a splash with Canoeing, Kayaking, and stand up Paddleboarding

Long before people voyaged across the oceans in ships powered by sails and engines, they began to cross the water using paddle craft. Early in human history, what started off as swimming with something that floated turned into building rafts and using a device for paddling. Simple boats gradually became more refined and more efficient. For example, people in the north needed protection from the cold, so they created kayaks, which have covered decks and can be righted if capsized.

This article features the program module from Program Features for Troops, Teams and Crews Volume 1. (You can also read this article for more information on how to plan using the program resources.) For more ideas, you can also check out the.

Even the paddle itself has changed through the years. With the popularity of stand up paddleboards (SUPs), the basic paddle has been extended to allow more comfort and better performance. Today, there is a wide variety of watercraft. Which type of paddle craft your group chooses will likely be based on location, availability, and interest. Regardless, you will master the same skills as people from long ago. Whether you conquer whitewater or travel through the Boundary Waters with the Northern Tier National High Adventure Program, you will make a splash and have fun doing it.

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This month’s activities should:

  • Provide young men and women an understanding of basic paddle sport safety practices.
  • Teach young men and women the key components of a canoe, kayak, and/or stand up paddle board.
  • Let young men and women learn and practice proper paddling behavior.
  • Encourage young men and women to work as a team to plan an on-water outing.
  • Emphasize the use of outdoor ethics to help pro- tect the environment.
  • Foster a sense of communion with nature and God.
  • Build self-confidence by learning and demonstrating skills.

As a leadership team, you may want to discuss the following items when choosing paddle sports as your program feature during your planning meetings.

Troop Meeting Planning Form
Click above for fillable meeting planning form.
  • What is your unit’s current skill level?
  • Do we know a canoeing expert or a certified instructor?
  • What equipment will we need? Where will we get it?
  • What will we do for the main event?
  • Do we know anyone who is Safety Afloat trained?
  • What additional subtopics would fit well with this feature?
  • How will we get access to canoes, kayaks, and/or SUPs?
  • How can we involve parents?
  • To meet our needs, what should we change in the sample meeting plans?


Preopening Ideas on Program Resources

  • As youth arrive, show Internet videos of Olympic canoeing competitions.
  • Demonstrate commercial and/or homemade versions of containers for keeping supplies dry in canoes.


Opening Ideas on Program Resources


Safety Afloat

Paddling Basics

  • Provide an overview of how wind, weather, and waves affect paddlers.
  • Review hazards while paddling on rivers and in the ocean.
  • Describe basic on-water navigation rules.

Emergency and Rescues

  • Discuss the most common injuries that occur while paddling and how to treat them.

Transportation and Logistics


3 Categories

Safety Afloat and Equipment


  • Learn the purpose of a life jacket.
  • Learn the part of a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board.
  • Review the buddy system.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn how to select a life jacket.
  • Identify potential hazards while paddling.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Compare and contrast the different types of life jackets.
  • Make a list of first-aid supplies needed for a paddling trip.

Basic Skills


  • Learn proper sizing of canoe paddles.
  • Identify parts of a canoe paddle.
  • Learn proper hand positioning.
    • Blade angle and position
    • Shaft angle and position
    • Learn basic paddle strokes: forward stroke, backstroke, draw stroke, pry stroke.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn about different types of canoe paddles.
  • Learn additional paddle strokes: sweep (forward, reverse), rudder stroke.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Compare the effects of strokes when paddling solo vs. tandem.

Emergencies and Rescues


  • Review the parts of a canoe.
  • Learn the proper technique for entering and exiting a canoe. Learn the proper technique for loading a canoe.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn the proper technique for re-entry into a canoe in deep water.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn the proper technique for completing an assisted rescue.

Transportation and Logistics


  • Learn the basic knots used for transporting a canoe: (bowline and trucker’s hitch)
  • proper canoe-carrying techniques.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn other safety considerations required for an overnight paddling trip.
  • Learn how to properly load and unload paddlecraft on a vehicle & Learn what equipment               is needed for an overnight paddling trip.


  • Review the above skills.
  • Learn what equipment is needed for a high-adventure paddling trip.
  • Learn about the safety considerations required for a high-adventure paddling trip.


Getting Ready for the Main Event

  • Discuss what everyone needs to bring on the outing. (Refer to Information page.)
  • Menu Planning
  • Duty Roster Planning

Preparation for the meeting’s game or challenge


Library of Games and Challenges on Program Resources

  • Paddlecraft Parts
    Materials: for each patrol, cards labeled with a paddlecraft part, a large picture of the paddlecraft featured during the main event.
    Method: Depending on the type of paddlecraft used during the main event, prepare a large picture of a canoe, kayak, or paddle board, like the diagram on the Information page, but without the labels. Also prepare cards with the names of each part of the particular paddlecraft they will be using. The large picture for be hanging on a wall or on a table. On signal, one person takes a card and places it on the picture where he thinks it belongs, and tags off the next person.
    Scoring: The first patrol to correctly label all the parts wins.
  • Dress for Success
    Materials: Duffel bag for each team, full of proper paddling apparel (including life jackets, footwear, etc.) and apparel not suitable for a paddling outing (flip flops, cutoff jeans, cotton hoodies, etc.); four cards identifying the type of paddling (coldwater, spring/fall, summer) and the worst outfit.
    Method: A card is drawn, and each team has 60 seconds to find the best outfit for that type of paddling and have one member put it on. Have the group debrief as to what they chose and why.
    Scoring: A judge determines which group chose the best outfit.
    Note: A modification of this game puts all the equipment in one big pile at the far end of the room; each member races up to get one piece of clothing.
  • Mobile Boat
    Materials: One canoe and one dolly for each team, cones for the course
    Method: Fasten a canoe on a roller dolly. Position one team member at the bow and one at the stern, each holding on to an end line. A path is set up using cones. One or more pad- dlers in the canoe execute strokes that will move the boat through the course. Young men and women at the bow and stern move the canoe in the direc- tion of the strokes the paddler executes.
    Scoring: This is a timed race. Five-second penalties are given for hitting cones or going off track, or when the motion of the canoe does not match the motion of the paddlers.
    Note: This game also can be played with inflatable kayaks, but you should avoid fiber- glass boats. This is not a good exercise to do with stand up paddleboards.


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