Drownproofing – Water Survival Training

Yesterday I was surfing (on the www...) for info about underwater housings for digital cameras, and ended up at the "www.wetpixel.com" forum.
A thread about Water Survival Training caught my eye:


The first reply started a story about a water survival technic called Drownproofing, and gave this link: http://www.drownproofing.com/

I did a further search on the net and found these links:

http://www.andover.edu/athletics/physed/home.htm#dp (some pictures and movie clips)
http://gtalumni.org/StayInformed/techtopics/sum00/firstperson.html (about the inventor)

I have not heard about this "Drownproofers Swimmers test" before, but a underwater picture of some NAVY Seals swimming in a pool with their limbs tied up, comes to mind.
Since kayaks and kayakers have such a close "relationship" with water (and a faint one with seals :-)), I thought that these links would give some of you an interesting read.

As kayakers we use a PFD while on the water (ALL of us do that - don't we...?), so flotation shouldn't be an issue.
But as a means of acquiring greater confidence (in your self) in water, some Drownproofing training could probably make it easier to learn/train the roll and different re-entry and roll technics. Then again – NOT a good thing to do this alone...

If anyone have first-hand experience with the Drownproofing technic, please share!


Not considered a good technique anymore.
I learned about drownproofing back in the days of when I was a boy scout (I’m now in my 50’s).

I’ve been taught lately that this is not a good technique because it submerges most of your head in the COLD water. As long as the water is colder than body temperature, you will be losing heat and will eventually succumb to hypothermia.

The technique I have been taught now is to get as much of your body OUT of the water by getting in your boat or up on it’s overturned hull.

In the absence of anything to get your body out of the water, I’ve been taught to assume a fetal position with your knees brought to your chest and your hands kept out of the water if possible.

The idea is to minimise heat loss. That’s what will cause you to lose motor function and then drown.

Not very relavent
I learned the boyscout drownproofing thing long ago too, but not very useful in real life.

Usually when I am out of my boat I am swimming in surf and it is hard to just keep from getting maytagged. It’s impossible to just float still on the surface this way in moving turbulent water. Its hard to understand until you do it but a PFD makes matters worse because you can’t dive under the white whitwater with each wave. But there is no way I would surf in cold water without one.

I do think lots of things I leaned as a boyscout were useful though. I remember my scoutmaster who had learned to do the mile swim in a very cold mountain lake where I grew up in Utah. When he was in the Phillipines in WWII he ended up swimming several miles for his lifeto escape the Japanese and he knew he could do it because it was nothing compared to swimming in that cold water at high altitude.

Agree with some on this

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 8:15 AM EST –

I looked at the www.drownproofing.com site and it is essentially the same techniques I learned in the USMC (1972-78). At that time, all Marines were required to pass water survival training that included the drownproofing technique along with others like the travel stroke for swimming long distances, using a uniform shirt or trousers for floatation, etc.

For the USMC test, if I remember correctly, we only had to stay afloat for 30 minutes without aid after 30 minutes with an improvised floatation aid.

For cold water immersion I agree that the drownproofing techinique would not be as valuable as other cold water, heat conserving postures that suppose the victim is wearing a pfd or exposure suit.

Still, drownproofing is a valuable skill. But it takes practice and is useful only in a limited range of circumstance. If they are not prepared for cold water immersion, hypothermia will eventually overtake the swimmer no matter what technique they use.

I thought you all were talking about…
…the hardcore drown proofing that supposedly happens with elite military units. IE, trainee is bound and submerged until he/she “drowns” (passes out/windpipe spasms shut), then is pulled back out and revived. Repeat ad nauseum, so to speak.

I want to say I read this in The Perfect Storm, when they were talking about the training that the search and rescue teams go through. But I may be remembering wrong…

Link to USMC publication

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 10:32 AM EST –

Okay, my post on this brought back old memories from Parris Island so I did a seach online and found this link to the current Marine Corps Reference Publication 3-02C, Marine Combat Water Survival. It's a 145 page document that covers drownproofing, hypothermia, surf/wave conditions and a lot more. https://www.doctrine.usmc.mil/signpubs/r302c.pdf

Agree with Waterdoc.
Learning to tread water and playing with your craft in warm water and controlled conditions for re-entry, bailing, emptying, righting, until you can do it in pitch dark would be great survival excersises if you want to. Getting out of the water and conserving energy for signalling, communicating, waiting for aid, bailing and restabilizing your craft… are key.

It’s all about hypothermia

– Last Updated: Feb-12-04 6:25 AM EST –

At least is it in New england. so it's all about skills to make your boat go where you want it to, dressing for real immersion (not just two minutes), signalling devices from VHF to mirrors, knowing where you are, and maybe fins in your lotus pack.

Hypothermia is the killer. If a paddler gets cold enough there is not enough control and energy to drownproof, tread water, swim, etc.