Good Places to Practice Wet Exits

Anyone have any suggestions on places to practice wet exits, self rescue etc in Northern Ill? I have been canoeing for a long time but just started kayaking and want to get comfortable with these manuvers.

anywhere with company
You can do this anywhere there is tolerably warm water, and 3-4 foot depth. Bring a friend along if this is new to you, so you can spot each other. If you want to learn more than just a wet exit, or if wet exiting is a source of anxiety for you, I’d recommend hiring an instructor.

Practice where you paddle
You want to practice doing wet exits and rolling in the places where you actually paddle. Doing a wet exit in a pool or a roll in a swimming pool, when you are afraid or hesitant in real conditions doesn’t do you any good.

Get a friend to spot you on your local lake or stream and go for it. Every time you paddle do a wet exit and try to roll or practice your roll.

Pool Practice
While there is some truth to what one poster said about being able to practice in the conditions where you will paddle, there is also some benefit derived from pool practice. As with all learning opportunities, there are progressions of improvement that some will need over others.


  • I’ve had more than one individual that was uncomfortable in the water and it would have been virtually impossible for them to learn in the 50-55F ocean where they might paddle. The 84F pool enables one to grow comfortable with the water, actions, and behaviors required to perform self or assisted rescues. Note that nobody trains lifeguards to perform in cold surf, the best eventually work up to that.

  • I had one individual who required no pool training at all to learn to roll a kayak. I demonstrated to him in the ocean, broke down the motions required, and performed the slowest roll in (my) history in an effort to show him how to right himself. It was this last example that made it possible for him because, “I didn’t realize how much time you could take while underwater.”

    No technique works for all people, but the sink/swim approach is widely considered the worst training scenario.


Start in a pool
Pools are good for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they have lifeguards who are trained and ready to help. If you don’t have a buddy, make sure and let them know you are new at this.

Call local YMCAs or universities to see if they have anything for kayakers. Maybe start out in a classroom environment if you can swing it.

Or find a local club and find a couple of guys that are wanting to do some roll practice out on a lake and go with them in some shallow water.

as they said
If “Northern Illinois” is not too far from Chicago, look up

Also, Door County Kayak Symposium, very beginner friendly, is in a few short weeks, definitely worth anyone’s time.

Want to get the mechanics down first
Thanks for all the feedback… I’m amazed how fast people responded.

There will be 3 of us, 1 experienced person to show us the mechanics behind these skills and then the two newbies. I have already done the exit in a fast moving river a few years ago, not by choice, and want to let my partner experience in a little more controled setting before taking her “down by the river”. Once we get a litte more confidence then we will again practice in the wild.

Getting wet is a great way to spend a warm summer day.

Suggestion when practicing.
Try to never practice alone, especially on natural bodies of water, due to the fact someone may see you tip over and call 911.

When I train, I always have someone along to let concerned folks know it’s a practice session. Is it necessary? No. But it’s nice to be considerate by not causing undue anxiety to others and should the exercise not go as planned, you’ll have someone to assist.

Anywhere where the water is deep enough so you dont scrape your head.

BTW this is a good excuse to go out and buy a kayaking helmet.

start on land
Move to a pool or shore where you have company. Make sure you have the depth and preferably a sandy bottom on which to tread.

Once you get it down, THEN practice where you paddle.