Required Safety Meeting Video

(2.5 hours) You are required to watch this video before the 2023 Pre-Race Check-In as it includes crucial information you need to know for safely and successfully completing the 2023 race. The top of your race waiver that you turn in at Check-In includes a statement that you have watched the video (and read these dispatches). That’s how much we want you to watch the video!

Heads up – it’s pretty long. Get a snack and a beverage, sit back, and roll with it. Or watch it in batches if you like. Hit the "Settings Gear" icon below the video to change the speed. Pause and take notes if you need to. We highly recommend your ground crews watch the safety video. Click below, or here's a direct link to the video -

Race Safety Contact Numbers

Each racer receives a safety card printed on waterproof paper. Each racer should keep this card on their person during the race. The card will have printed the Safety Dispatch numbers to call in an emergency along with information on manually checking in/out of checkpoints if auto tracking fails, checkpoint cutoff times with the river mile, instructions on what to do if you quit the race and other safety information. Racers and ground crews are encouraged and reminded in dispatches to enter these numbers into their phones prior to the race in case they do need to use them.

You Know You Best

We want you to have the best race experience possible. And we want you to take care of yourself in preparation for this event and while you are out on the race course. This race will test you. For some of you, you will be tested in ways you’ve never been tested before and in ways you didn’t imagine. The race can be physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging. Race week is not your average 9-5 Monday through Friday. We trust that because you have chosen to register for this race you are up to its challenges.

Everyone has their own unique set of things they have to be aware of regarding their own health, and those are details you need to share with your ground crew. Do you have a medical condition that you need to monitor? Do you have medications you need to take with consistency? Do you have any medication or food allergies? Do you carry an EpiPen?

Talk it over. Tell your crew what they can help keep an eye out for when they see you at your stops. You’re going to be exhausted, and it’s sometimes harder to monitor yourself once you get deeper into the river miles. Give your crew the info they need so you can rely on them as you would within any other buddy system. That’s part of their purpose. Utilize your crews.

Prevention of Heat Related Illness

Prevention is key to avoiding heat related illness. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Stay protected from the sun - wear a hat, light weight and thin long sleeves, cover legs, use sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of liquids with sports drinks intermixed.
  • Dip your hat in the water, keep a wet handkerchief around your neck. Submerge yourself in water at a sandbar or checkpoint while wearing your PFD.
  • Eat salty snacks. Keep eating in general. Have your crew monitor your food and liquid intake at stops.
  • Staying with your crew at a ramp for a while? Rest in their air-conditioned car or at least in shade.

Watch out for heat-related illness and react:

  • Educate yourself and your crew on heat-related illness. Keep an eye out for light-headedness, muscle cramps, nausea, headache, confusion, weakness.
  • Assess yourself and your paddling partner throughout the day. Are you feeling ok? Can you make it to the next ramp? If unsure, wait and discuss with your crew.
  • Share food or liquids with other paddlers if you find a fellow racer runs out.
  • Keep your Safety Dispatch card in your boat. Flag down a safety boat or call Safety Dispatch if you need urgent liquids or food while on the water.
  • Call Safety Dispatch if you think a fellow racer is having trouble. Stay with them until help arrives.
  • Don’t tough it out. Heat-related illness can be difficult to reverse.
  • Recovering from heat-related illness can be a slow process. It could be what delays you from meeting a checkpoint deadline. It could mean the end of your race. Prevention is key.

Lean Forward

Some folks are pretty wobbly those first few steps out of their boat on a boat ramp. We have seen dozens of people stand up on the ramp for the first time in 8 hours and then fall backwards into the water. The ramp is sloped and your balance is off. If you stand straight up, you'll start to tip back. And your balancing muscles are exhausted and you will reach, well, a tipping point.

Lean forward those first few steps. Better to fall forward where you can catch yourself than to fall backwards. You'll hear us at the ramp as we're helping you say, "Lean Forward"… this is why.

Safety Boats

We have an awesome safety boat fleet with amazing captains and crews. Some of them have been with us for over 10 years! This race doesn't happen without them.

Their role is to be available on the water and assist you in a situation where you can't make the next ramp. They can pick you up.

Typically, we will have a safety boat at each Checkpoint and even at most of the Paddlestops. As the race moves downstream, these boats travel between Checkpoints, scouring the shore looking for any paddlers pulled over who might need assistance. You'll see a bunch of safety boats at Kaw Point before the start of the race. They all fly flags with the skull and cross paddles so they are easy to identify.

As the safety boats go downstream and pass you by they might offer you a Thumbs Up as means of asking from a distance, "Are you good?" They are looking for you to return the thumbs up to say, "Yep, all good"

If things are not good, we ask that you set your paddle down and wave your arms to signal that you'd like them to come closer. They will do so. You might need to get picked up and taken out of the race and to the next ramp. Or you might have run out of water. Or you might have some other minor problem. They can help.

They are instructed to check on any boat they see pulled over to the side of the river. Most of the time this is just a paddler resting or possibly relieving themselves up in the trees. But we don't know so we are obligated to check. Checking looks like this: Boat spotted. Steer towards it. Look for paddler near boat. If paddler spotted, give thumbs up. Positive response? Move on. No response? Stop and clarify. Arms waved? Stop and help.

We ask that if you pull over at night you keep your boat's navigation lights on so that we can see it and check on you. Obviously, if you pull over at night in need of help, you'd want to be as visible as possible.

What if you need help and there's no safety boat around? Get your required cell phone out and call the Safety Dispatch number. This will be given to you at the safety meeting on a waterproof card. Calling a safety boat should only be done if there's a situation for you or a fellow paddler that requires a safety boat to pick you up. An exception might be that you have an urgent need for water or food because you ran out and can't make it to your next ground crew resupply. Or that a broken rudder or similar repair is needed and the safety boat could help with a tool or other expertise. But mostly, a call to the safety boat hotline means a racer needs to be picked up due to not being able to finish.

Depending on the situation, the time from the call being answered to a safety boat arriving could be lengthy. Most often it's less than 30 minutes. But if there is fog or bad weather or it's night time, it could be longer. For this reason, we always require that paddlers carry with them gear needed for a safe wait on the river or a sandbar. Enough food and water, a Mylar emergency blanket, means for starting a fire, flashlight, etc. Check the required and recommended race gear for more info.

Remember too that we consider all of you out there to be safety boats for each other. If you see a paddler in distress, you are obligated and no doubt willing to help. Often paddlers helping paddlers are the best stories and the most rewarding. Maybe it's just to borrow a phone to tell ground crew a change of plans. Or an extra set of hands to adjust a rudder cable. But sometimes it has been a more serious situation where a paddler made the difference when a situation required it. So thanks in advance! And don't hesitate to ask for help.

The Reaper

The Reaper is one of our safety boats. But she has a specialized mission and that's to run at exactly the pace that a paddler would need to run to BARELY make the cutoff times at each checkpoint. So the Reaper is a visual on the water of where the cutoff line is at it approaches a checkpoint.

If the Reaper beats you to Waverly, you are out. If it beats you to any checkpoint, you are out. IF it passes you before a checkpoint but then you pass it back, you're fine. All that matters is that you beat her to the checkpoint. She'll be running the approximate MPH as indicated on the checkpoint chart above. And arrives precisely at the cutoff. Keep in mind - if the Reaper is flying the skull & crossbones flag, it’s “reaping”, if not, it may be on another safety boat mission.

So, if on day 1 you are paddling along and you hear something behind you, take a peek. It could be the Reaper. If it starts to pass you, the crew will probably say check in with you, making sure you realize what is slowly happening to you. Encouraging you to speed up… But if the Reaper gets too far ahead and you don't think you're gong to catch her, it's time to start accepting that this isn't your year… and that the next checkpoint will be your last.

We do give the Reaper a short break at each checkpoint. For example, it will arrive at Lexington at exactly 5:00 p.m., tie up, crew will exit, get some food, sit and eat, etc. As a paddler there, you might get lulled into a sense of security. The Reaper isn't moving, so I am safe and can rest. Wrong. Because when the crew gets back on their boat at 5:30 p.m., They are going to catch back up to the 9pm Waverly pace quickly and then settle back in to their slow crawl. Leaving you well behind with lots of hard work to pass them before Waverly.

The Reaper is pretty unmistakable with large, glowing eyes on the front of the boat and a sea monster painted on both sides. You'll know if the Reaper has passed you. Mostly because the crew will talk trash. So keep a good lead on the Reaper. You don't need that negativity in your life.

In a typical year, by day 2, the Reaper has reaped all her victims and so rather than leave her 20 miles behind the pack, we instead turn her into a traditional safety boat and station her among the paddlers somewhere. To avoid confusion, remember… when the flag is down, she's just a normal boat and you should have no fear if she passes you.

Stick with a Group

Stick with a group: Groups tend to move faster. And the miles go easier. If you latch on with a group of two or three boats you can keep everyone safer and get to St. Charles faster. AND your ground crews end up traveling together and looking out for each other.

Weather Systems and Tracking


Use your favorite radar app or site on your phone to stay in tune with upcoming weather. Have your ground crew also stay in tune with the weather so they can give you a call or text if they see a storm pop up in an area near you. Storms can pop up out of nowhere in the Midwest.

Don’t wait for a storm to hit before you get off the water. If you start seeing dark clouds and hear thunder in the distance, you need to be ready to react. Find a safe place. Out on open water with the threat of lightening is very dangerous. Ideally you are heading in to the nearest ramp/shelter if you can, and also plan to stay at that location until you know it’s safe to proceed down river. It’s your responsibility to be aware on the water, and that includes weather. If you need to pull into a location without your crew there, do you have enough clothing to stay warm? Dry clothes after the rain? Enough calories to be stopped a while? This is part of that ramp to ramp thinking. Be prepared ramp to ramp.


DO NOT paddle in fog. There are spots along the course that tend to fog up. It doesn't matter what fancy equipment you have or GPS you are relying on… fog is dangerous. Your GPS doesn't know if there's a barge, dredge, or recreational boat dead ahead. Fog can lead to absolute zero visibility. Paddling in fog can be life-threatening and is never worth any gain on competition you think you might get.

Keep in mind that are safety boats need visibility to run also. They will not be able to move in thick fog.

Budget time for fog. If you start seeing the little wisps of fog dancing on the water, it's time to look for a place to pull over. Take a food and drink break, check in with your ground crew and tell them where you are stopping, pull out your Mylar blanket and get some sleep.

Silver Carp

Silver carp are an invasive species of fish found in the Missouri River and many other waterways. The reason you need to be aware of them is because of what harm they can potentially cause you. Silver carp jump out of the water when startled, and one getting startled often leads to another one getting startled. Next thing you know, you could have a whole chain reaction of jumping fish. And that means one could come in contact with you.

Startling carp can be done as easily as disrupting slack water as you paddle through, splashing your paddle in the water, or banging something against the side of your boat. Carp can be quite large and heavy and have been known to injure people. Being hit in the head or shoulder is a real possibility. People have been injured from carp, and some have left the race due to those injuries.

Try to avoid being "carped". Avoid slack water, water near banks, and the water around and behind wing dikes. If you think about it, you're going to be out there racing and most of the time staying in the swifter channel water. So odds are that you won't interact with carp much. But there is always that possibility. So be aware.

Know When to Fold 'Em

Know your limit. Everyone in this race will be pushing through adversity, but there could come a point at which that push is not realistic or healthy. This is a decision you might have to make. And it’s easier to make this decision at a ramp and with your ground crew assisting you.

Don’t worry, you’re still a total badass.

If you leave the race – submit the DNF (did not finish) option in RaceOwl. We MUST know you are leaving the race. Otherwise, a process that involves phone calls to ramp volunteers, your ground crew, and potentially a safety boat being dispatched begins as we try to track you down. Don’t make us search the river for you and use up resources when you are in a car on your way back home.

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