So you find yourself out of the raft and in the river. Getting back in ASAP is almost always your first priority. If the raft is upright and somebody is still inside, he or she can just haul you in, but climbing back in on your own is more of a challenge.

How do you get back into a raft? Follow these steps for two different scenarios.

If the raft is upright

If the raft is upright, grab the side perimeter line on either side of a D-ring.

Trick #1

Push out with straight arms and kick your feet to get them to the surface. Don’t try to climb in until your body and feet are at the surface and your arms are extended. Then, with strong kicks and a swift pull, travel forward and up—you need momentum to get your upper body over the tube.

Trick #2

The other option is to turn your forward pull into a downward push, keeping your hands on the line until you are straight armed again, wrapping your upper body over the tube. Only then do you reach into the raft for a new handhold, likely grabbing a cross tube or the raft frame. Strong kicks this whole time keep you from stalling halfway.

Man leaning into raft

If the raft has flipped over

Your approach to how to climb in a raft when it’s flipped over is a little different. The trick is to work from the end where the floor angles down into the water like a ramp, using the floor lace as a handhold. Be warned: the hold isn’t great. Once you’ve climbed onto the bottom your job is to flip the raft over, but that’s another story.

This article originally appeared in Rapid‘s Summer/Fall 2012 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.


In-text photos by: Dan Caldwell

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Jeff Jackson has been teaching kayaking since boats were long and eddy turns were nervous. And yes, he used to be cool. Rapid contributor since way back in 1999. Guiding on rivers has taken him from the Yukon to China, and his Alchemy column explores the values and lessons life on the water brings. When not teaching outdoor education at Algonquin College, he spends his time guiding, fly fishing, building mountain bike trails and conducting risk management research.

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