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Canoe Capsize Practice

Always wear your life jacket to be ready for an occasional dunking when you go canoeing. Look forward to a few capsizes during your canoeing trips. This is great refreshing fun.

The more you practice the capsize drill the better you'll be prepared for when it happens unexpectedly. Beginners should choose a piece of calm, sheltered water.

For a realistic capsize drill you and your friends should be fully clothed. Wear a jogging suit for extra weight and as protection against bruising, with waterproof clothing on top, cagoule and pants, like you would for canoeing.

Practice swimming in these clothes before you do any capsize training, perhaps as part of a man-over-board exercise. You'll find it an interesting challenge to climb back into a canoe in heavy waterlogged clothes.

Splash Down

Messing around in boats is huge fun, splashing each other and enjoying a swim. Suddenly the boat tips over and you all get wet. Your soaked clothes slow down your movements and feel very different (quite good usually). Get used to wearing clothes in the water and learn to handle it.

When your boat capsizes, don't panic. It can be flipped back over. Over-turned boats float. First, make sure that all friends are safe and happy before attempting to retrieve equipment. Stay with your boat unless you judge that doing so will be dangerous.

Getting out after Capsize

In calm waters, angle your way up to shore instead of pushing straight for it. Stay behind the boat, and hold onto it for flotation. If you can stay with the canoe you can guide it into quiet water. Stay at the upstream end of the canoe so that if the canoe becomes pinned, you don't. If possible hold on to your paddle, you'll need it later.

Don't try to swim in rapids. Float in your life jacket on your back, with your feet downstream. Repeat the capsize drill until you're fairly exhausted so you get a good idea what an emergency would feel like. Stay near the beach so you can take quick breaks.

Test Your Balance

Canoeing and kayaking is all about balance. Pratice this often. Position a canoe so it is not too close to anything solid. When you fall in you want to do so safely.

Part 1

Dressed only in light clothing stand on the sides of the canoe and wobble around a bit to get a feel of the boat's stability. If you manage to keep your balance lean over to one side until you fall in.

Part 2

While the others are having a go, change into a dry jogging suit with a hoodie top. When your turn comes repeat the balancing act. Put the hood up. The dry jogging suit should make this as easy as before. Lean over until you fall in. Duck under to get the suit completely wet. You'll notice that the jogging suit soaks up a lot of water and slows down your movements. It is also heavy when you come out of the water.

Part 3

At your next turn try the balancing the boat in the wet jogging suit. You will find this a lot more challenging in the heavy wet clothes. Repeat with an additional waterproof layer. From now on always wear the jogging suit for this training and teach others to do likewise. It is a great water safety skill that could save your life.

How far can you lean over?

Try out how stable your canoe is. Lean over slowly. See how far you can go and bring the boat upright again. Next time lean over a bit further. Carefully get a feel how far you can go before you capsize.

This is an exciting game. The anticipation of falling into the water at any moment can be quite a teasing thrill, especially while your clothes are still dry. See how long you can balance at the brink of falling in. Suddenly the water comes over the edge, the boat capsizes, and you fall in.

Now that your clothes are wet, empty the boat, and try again. See what difference the weight of the wet clothes makes on how soon you fall back into the water.

Balancing Act

A fun variation of this game is to play it with a friend. Put on all your canoeing clothes for added realism.

Lean out to both sides and see who can last the longest. When one lets go, you both fall in as the boat capsized towards whoever held on the longest.

Now that your clothes are wet and the water adds more weight, do it again. You may find that you won't be able to hold out as long.