Getting Flippy With It!

It’s inevitable. If you are an avid rafter you will flip. On every outing there is a possibility of flipping. Whether you are rowing a full rig, or are just a passenger in a paddle raft, every rafter should know how to calmly and efficiently respond to a flip.
Photo by: Bain Turnbo
Righting a Paddle Raft:
This is the best place to begin learning how to flip and recover. Paddle boats are easy to upright and you aren’t at high risk of entanglement or being hit by the frame. Start in flat water. Flip the boat over on top of yourself. This will help you get comfortable falling into the water and moving yourself out from being under the boat. It also allows you to practice flipping the boat back upright. You can use a flip line or a paddle to help you get the boat upright. Begin by climbing onto the bottom of the boat and clipping your flip line or hooking your paddle to a d-ring or the perimeter line. Then stand on the opposite side of the upside-down boat and pull the boat over on top of you. From here you can pull yourself back into the boat. 
Photos by: Canyon River Instruction
After you feel confident flipping in flat water, you can begin to let the river flip you. Paddle into waves or holes sideways and lean upstream to flip the boat. The more complicated hydraulics will push you and the boat around much more and sometimes you will find that the water will hold you under. Don’t panic. Swim to the surface, hold on to your paddle, and move towards the boat (if it is safe*). Then do exactly as you practiced in the flat water. Crawl onto the bottom of your boat, hook your paddle or flip line, pull the boat back upright, and get yourself back into the boat. Start with smaller waves and holes. With time you will feel confident flipping in bigger water features. However always be conscious of other river obstacles that pose a threat to your safety. Your goal is to be comfortable flipping, not put yourself in danger. Only flip in places where you would be comfortable swimming the rest of the rapid. Only run rapids where you are comfortable flipping and swimming. 
Photos by: Canyon River Instruction
Righting a Fully Rigged and Loaded Boat:
This is much more difficult to practice. Uprighting a fully loaded boat can take several hours and multiple people. If you do want to practice I recommend flipping with only the frame and oars (no cooler, drybox, drop bags, or other gear). However, flipping is essentially the same. After you flip though, get the boat to shore as quickly as possible. Then it is best to unload as much as you can while the boat is still upside down (this will make it much easier to right). Then flip the boat using flip lines. This usually takes multiple people because the rigged boat weighs much more than a paddle boat. 
Photo by: Bain Turnbo
As with everything else, the best way to learn is to practice. Go flip. And then flip again. And another time. Learn what it feels like to be under the raft. Flipping shouldn’t cause panic, but it should force you to react quickly, calmly, and intelligently. In the right situations, flipping can actually be a lot of fun. Go flip, get wet, and have some fun!
Photo by: Bain Turnbo
*After gathering experience as a rafter and in flipping, righting and swimming you will know when you can safely swim to the boat. Your safety is the main priority. While getting back in the boat is typically the safest option, sometimes it is best to swim to an eddy or to shore. Do what makes you comfortable and always be conscious of the surrounding river features. 

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