When paddling without other boats nearby, a capsize means self-rescue. If close to shore, it may be possible to swim in, pulling your swamped canoe, but this is even less fun than it sounds. If you are far from shore, you will need to get as much of the water out as possible and attempt to reenter. The Capistrano flip is a self-rescue technique that will get you out of deep water and back on your way.
6 steps to complete the Capistrano flip
1 Lift the gunwale
Both paddlers get to the same side of the capsized canoe, still holding paddles. Lift the gunwale nearest you up out of the water.
2 Tip the canoe
Face each other and tuck your paddles between the thwarts and seats so they won’t float away. On a count of three, tip the canoe back over you in unison.
3 Roll it upright
Use the momentum of this action, along with a strong scissor kick while straightening your arms to push the canoe up and over to one side. The aim is to roll it upright while in the air.
4 Ensure you’re not swamped
Although you may not get all the water out, there will be enough freeboard to allow you to reenter the canoe and bail it out or paddle to shore.
5 Reenter from opposite sides
To reenter, reposition yourselves on opposite sides. While holding the gunwale, use strong scissor kicks to get up and out of the water.
6 Work with your partner
Time your actions to coincide with your partner. Lean forward, keeping your torso weight as close to the centerline as possible. Reach across to the opposite gunwale, twist and flop your butt back into the canoe.
This article originally appeared in Paddling Magazine Issue 65. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or download the Paddling Magazine app and browse the digital archives here.
Tip the canoe back over and roll it upright with a strong scissor kick. | Feature photo: Joanie and Gary McGuffin