Paddlers Patrol

The Paddlers’ Patrol

                                                 Making Illinois Safer for Paddlers

In 2010 the organizers of the DesPlaines Marathon were forced to put a last minute emergency call for safety boaters due to high water conditions.  During 2010 at least six   paddling events required the presence of Safety Boaters ie;  The Des Plaines and Chicago Shoreline Marathons, The Flatwater Classic, The Aurora Paddlesports Festival, Paddle in the Park, and the New Years Day Paddle.   Each event recruits separately, each event requires different skill sets and there are no training standards.  There are also a number of private paddling events which require some form of safety supervision put on by companies like REI and Gander Mountain

We continue to read of paddler deaths in Illinois.  Within he past few years we have had kayakers killed going over low head dams, at  least two deaths in Lake Michigan, and numerous accounts of dangerous risks being taken by highly inexperienced paddlers.

Nationally there are about 80 canoe and Kayak deaths each year.  Analysis by the American Canoe Association shows that there is a need to reach non-traditional paddlers such as fishermen and recreational kayakers who do not see themselves as paddlers and fail to practice even the most basic safety precautions.  The ACA states that a"Priority must be the development testing and delivery of new safety messages designed to inform all boaters of how to avoid capsize, and the need to wear a PFD."

There is a need for an organization which can speak to these needs

In order to begin to meet these needs, it is proposed that a "Paddlers’ Patrol be established.  The Patrol will be a volunteer-based service organization under the auspices of the Illinois Paddling Council and its member paddling clubs.  The Patrol will be self governing, and membership will initially be chosen from IPC member clubs.

Patrol Services

Event Services

The Paddlers’ Patrol will provide

Safety boaters on site and on the water to deter unsafe practices and extend aid to paddlers who experience difficulty;

General logistical support and consulting to event organizers in advance of the event;

Paddler safety education and information; 

Basic rescue training;

Informational tables and displays;

The contract with event sponsors will stipulate that 

Patrol members will be consulted on all safety  related decisions

All hazards on the water course will be removed or, not removable, clearly marked before the start of the event;

An on-shore area will be designated for safety related demonstrations and materials

            4.  The members of the Paddlers' Patrol will be  included under the liability insurance policy of  

                 the sponsoring organization.

General Water Safety Campaign

In addition, the Patrol will endeavor to instill an attitude of safety in all paddlers and and the general public.  The greatest violations of safety are usually the result of ignorance and lack of skill. To address this, the Safety Patrol will  provide publicity and outreach services to the general public concerning safety on the water. The Paddlers’ Patrol will 

a. Maintain a proactive media component to publicize paddlesport safety;

     b. Provide speakers for groups such as scouts, college clubs, public safety organizations, and  other groups requesting the service;

     c.  Staff informational tables and displays

Sponsoring Organization 

The Illinois Paddling Council (IPC) was organized in 1963 and is a not-for-profit (501 (c)(3)association of paddlers and paddling organizations in Illinois. The Illinois Paddling council is dedicated to promoting the safe enjoyment of all phases of canoeing and kayaking in Illinois, to assuring access to the state's waters and to protecting and preserving the natural resources within the state.  The Illinois Paddling Council strives to: Improve access to Illinois waterways, advocates for the conservation and restoration of Illinois rivers and lakes, provides information about paddlesport to paddlers and the general public, promotes paddling safety, paddler education, competition, and sanctions races in Illinois. 

Paddlers' Patrol Organization

A management team has been organized to facilitate the Patrol’s first year of operations. The team represents over 250 years of paddling experience.  This group will:

Ensure that the resources of the organizes are utilized as outlined to those individuals and organizations who provide resources and funding;

Select, train, and supervise the corps of paddlers who will serve as members of the patrol;

Assign and direct any additional services undertaken to further the purpose and goals of the organization

The Management Team is:

Jim Tibenski Geneva, ACA Level 4 Open Water Instructor, Former U.S. Canoe & Kayak Team Coach

Scott Fairty,Chicago, ACA Advanced Open Water Instructor
BCU Coach 4 Sea, BCU A4, BCU 5 Star Sea Leader, BCU Coach 3 Inland

Humberto Garcia, Chicago, ACA Open Water Instructor, Lead Instructor, Lincoln Park Boat Club

Bonnie Perry Chicago, ACA Open Water Instructor w/Rolling Endorsement, BCU Coach 3

Steve LaPorte, Carol Stream, ACA Level 3 open boat Instructor, Director of Training Prairie State Canoeists

Paul Klonowski, Gurnee, ACA Level 3 open boat Instructor,

Sarah Hartman, Rolling Meadows, ACA Level 2 Kayak Instructor

Merri Morral, Caledonia, business owner and partner in Morrall River Films and a veteran of numerous wilderness paddling expeditions. Frequent trip leader for Prairie State Canoeists

Steve Voss, McHenry, Director of Safety Boaters for New Years Day and Pumpkin Paddles

Andy Cocallas, Libertyville Director of Safety for Des Plaines Marathon

Patrol Member Qualifications

Members of the patrol must

be at least intermediate paddlers with strong rescue skills

be knowledgeable of the wide variety of paddling disciplines and of paddling safety

in order to remain in good standing patrol members, spend at least six hours per year in a patrol service project

 members will be chosen for specific set of skills as needed for a variety of situations. For example, for moving water events, safety paddlers will have mastered such boat control skills as ferrying, eddy turns, peal-outs, and rescues through class II whitewater. Kayak paddlers will also have mastered the roll. Additional requirements include self-rescue and assisted-rescue skills. Sources of these skill sets will be the training sessions sanctioned by national organizations such as the ACA and BCU,and by observed skills during paddling activities.  Other  desired skills include production and public presentation skills. 

Cost factors

The budget for the first year of operation will include logo jackets and ball caps, which will provide high visibility in the various on-water situations. Other costs are logo design and per diem, intended to reimburse members for out-of-pocket expenses up to $25.00 per day. The initial cost for 20 members of the Paddlers’ Patrol will be $3,500.00. 


Start-up Expenses

(20 Members)




Per Diem Reserve



Logo design and patches 

$ 200 

$ 200 

Logo fleece jacket



Logo Ballcaps 






Funding status as of this proposal

Illinois Paddling Council


Des Plaines Marathon



Need for funding from PSC


Total of funding needed