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Thread: "Spotting 101"

  1. #1
    GLFWDA Member GLFWDA Member Trail_Fanatic's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Muskegon and Oceana Counties
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    Default "Spotting 101"

    I received this in an email but it's too good not to share, and since the copy write says it's OK to do so . . .

    ************************************************** *********************

    Rules for Great Spotters & Great Drivers

    There are a lot of fine points to the art of spotting. Great
    spotting -- truly refined expertise in this area -- is something
    that takes a lot of time and experience to learn. This experience
    comes only from watching others and trying to apply what you have

    I would like to suggest a few things that all spotters should know
    that pave the way for a safer and more enjoyable trail experience
    for you and the driver.

    Drivers, too, should be as knowledgeable about the basic rules of
    spotting as the spotters are. Drivers have a different set of
    spotting rules to follow but the rules for drivers are just as
    important as the rules for spotters. When both sides follow the
    rules, the trail becomes a much smoother place.

    (Note to the would-be spotter: Reading this article does not make
    you a spotter. It is designed to help you understand the dynamics of
    spotting more fully. You will have a better experience when you are
    on the trails if you acknowledge the hierarchy and organization of a
    run and blend in with their procedures.)

    Suggested Rules for Spotters

    The first rule of ALL GREAT SPOTTERS is this...

    · A good spotter will always look for another person who is
    already spotting the driver and will then do nothing but wait to be
    asked for help.

    Virtually EVERYONE on a club run can, and should when needed, be a
    spotter; but only if they are all reminded of that rule. Following
    the Spotting Rule #1 will keep things a lot more organized than
    those unruly times when EVERYONE is yelling directions and confusing
    the poor driver.

    This could be rule #1, it is a toss-up. It is the only rule I see
    broken more than rule #1. It seems like we frequently forget or
    don't bother to ask the driver if he/she would LIKE to have a spot.
    There are many drivers who will know their rig well enough to be
    able to just know where the difficulties are. Then there are folks
    who just don't want to have a spotter. Rule #2 is…

    · A good spotter will always ask the driver if he/she would
    like to have a spot before he starts issuing signals.

    This is a golden rule. Never break it.

    A good spotter knows that there will always be others yelling
    directions from the trail side and he knows that there will always
    be a newer driver who finds that confusing. This being the case,
    rule # 3 of great spotting is...

    · Create a bond with the driver. Make sure the driver is
    locked on to you and only you.

    This is done by taking the time to walk up to the driver and have a
    short driver chat.... "Hey, I am going to spot you through this. I
    want you to focus on me and tune everyone else out, OK?"

    It is funny but scuba dive instructors do something very similar to
    this when bringing a student down under water for the first time.
    They use two fingers in the shape of a V and move them from their
    eyes toward yours while locking in your gaze to theirs. They have
    learned that doing so actually helps a new diver get through the
    initial anxiety of being under water and helps them to not
    reflexively hyperventilate.

    Creating a bond with the driver goes a long way to help him get
    through those times when there are a lot of people trying to spot.
    It helps him block out distractions and it places you as the point

    When we are four-wheeling there is a lot going on. There is engine
    noise, other vehicles moving around, and people talking.
    Additionally, the distance between the spotter and the driver in the
    middle of an obstacle make verbal signals not always the most
    effective way to communicate.

    With that in mind, rule #4 of great spotting is...

    · A great spotter will make sure that the driver understands
    and agrees to the hand signals.

    Here are a few examples of frequently used hand signals...
    · STOP: Use a closed fist for a stop.
    · TURN RIGHT OR LEFT: Point with the index finger (or thumb)
    to the left or the right when you want the driver to turn the wheel
    and, if he is not turning far enough we point and push the finger in
    that direction at the same time.

    · ADVANCE: Extend an open hand so that the palm is facing AWAY
    from the driver, we then fold the thumb in so that it is not
    confused as a directional signal, and, keeping the fingers together,
    we wave the fingers inward a repeating manner.

    · REVERSE: Using one or both open palms, FACING the driver, we
    make a pushing motion in a repeating manner. When doing reverse we
    may go to the back of the vehicle to help the driver back up safely.

    · COMBINATIONS: Use one hand for a directional signal and the
    other for motion. To get the driver to turn the wheels without
    moving simply hold up one closed fist and use the other hand to
    point. To signal movement keep the directional finger pointing but
    open the closed fist to signal the direction you want.

    Suggested Spotter Rules for Drivers

    Drivers can have a HUGE part in how organized or disorganized
    spotting is done around his vehicle. Oddly enough, drivers can do a
    lot to encourage great spotting. In fact, when a driver knows great
    spotting he can do certain things that can force a spotter to follow
    the rules without ever saying a word.

    Whether or not he will be spotted is up to the driver and the driver
    should be the one who decides if he wants a spot or not. The means
    that drivers rule #1 is...

    · Ask for a spot or specify that you do not want a spot.

    If you do NOT want a spot it is sometimes helpful to say it loud
    enough to be heard over all of the noise of the run (or, really, to
    make sure everyone hears you).

    Rule #1 is subject to your acknowledging the hierarchy of the group.
    This means that there may be times when you don't want a spot but
    someone in leadership in the group feels the need to keep things
    moving for the sake of time or other reasons. When that happens it
    is usually best to just go with the flow.

    The spotter may not instinctively know that if he stops moving you
    should stop moving. In fact, he may even ask you why you stopped
    moving. Here rule #2 comes in...

    · If spotter is not moving or directing you in some way then
    don't move. It should always be like this...if the spotter directs
    you, you move, if the spotter stops directing, you stop moving.

    In the event that your spotter does not practice Spotter Rule #3 –
    the rule about creating a bond -- then the driver can make it happen
    all by himself. Driver rule #3 is...

    · Lock on to your spotter and tune everyone else out.

    This accomplishes another effect. With the driver and the spotter
    visually locked together, observers (would be spotters) quickly
    learn that you are not listening to them; you are listening to the
    spotter. Once they catch on to this they will start yelling at the
    spotter and not at you.

    In Summary
    A lot of these spotting issues would not need to be brought up if
    more folks just focused on watching the spotter and learning from
    his or her techniques. Some times it would also help if we had less
    heckling and helpful onlookers. But part of our sport is the group
    enjoyment of the adventures of others. So we have to overcome that
    in order to prevent vehicle damage and unnecessary trail delays.
    Observing these rules is the first step.

    Fortunately, it is a lot easier to teach drivers how to pay
    attention to spotters and to teach spotters how to get drivers to
    focus on them than it is to teach every person on every trail-run to
    not try to help with spotting. It is just human nature to help out.
    Non-spotters, are you getting a message here?

    This being the case, our expectations of spotters and drivers needs
    to be set correctly. When both the driver AND the spotter are on the
    same page all the yelling in the world won't make a darn bit of

    "© Daniel R. Stra. The author allows for reproduction of this article, without modification, provided it is accompanied by this copyright notice

    ************************************************** *****

    Great stuff Jim.
    Thanks for the email!
    Pat Brower

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  2. #2


    That was pretty good.
    98 TJ 4.0/5spd, D30 w/Aussie, D44 welded, 3.5" RE Superflex, 1.25" body lift, rear corner crushers with sunken LED taillights, flat fendered front, OBA, sitting on 33s.

  3. #3


    excellent set of rules! I have been there when you have like 3 people trying to spot you through and it can get hectic.
    -DD SoFO

  4. #4


    Quote Originally Posted by Deathdealer View Post
    excellent set of rules! I have been there when you have like 3 people trying to spot you through and it can get hectic.
    If you would just listen to ME.
    Thanks to those that do all the hard work.

  5. #5
    GLFWDA Member GLFWDA Member T-way's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2004
    Just Below the Bridge


    Excellent article - thanks for posting it!!

    BUT.... if I may, I would like to add one more rule for the driver: TRUST YOUR SPOTTER. I have seen too many instances where the driver either didn't trust the spotter (and did something contrary to what the spotter was telling them to do), or just plain didn't follow the directions and ended up in trouble!!

    And also, if you prefer that someone other than the person offering to spot you be your spotter (because you have worked with them before, and trust them to get you through an obstacle safely), then don't hesitate to politely say so!!

    President - Troll Four Wheelers
    Vice President -
    I'm Still Out There - I Haven't Gone Away!!

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