We're all between swims

Well, apparently my time between swims was up. I hilariously flipped my Gemini in a flat calm river while trying to grab onto a floating barrier perpendicular to the current. Reached out a little too far with the paddle in my opposite hand (so no ability to brace) and forgot that the Gemini, which I haven’t paddled much lately, has a bit less initial stability than the Tiderace or the Mirage. Sploosh!!

It was definitely a good learning experience. I do need to practice wet exits more often - it’s one thing to do one on purpose, but very different when it happens unexpectedly, but the more you practice the less of a shock it is when it happens by accident. I did have all of my on deck gear stowed well - nothing came off or floated away, but I didn’t keep track of my paddle very well. Also a nice test that the hatches on that boat are still watertight. Spray skirt came off easily, I was out of the boat before I could reach for the grab loop, so must have pushed it off with my knee. Plastic boat coamings help with that, but I should practice more on my composite boats.

I also drowned my phone. I always keep it in a Lifeproof case, which I usually replace every 9-12 months. I have dropped my phone in the water many times in the past with no problems. This particular case was getting old and I had thoughts that I should replace it but hadn’t yet. Turns out there was a small crack in the case near the charging port. I took the phone out and dried everything off; it actually worked fine for most of the day and then the screen died that night. Sigh, but it was 2.5 years old so not quite as painful, and now I have a shiny new phone to play with.

My swim happened in the Weeki Wachee river near the head spring - could pick a worse spot to capsize than a crystal clear, 72 degree spring fed river that was shallow enough that I could stand up just a few feet from where I went in. I had been thinking that I was a little overdressed for the weather that day but ended up being very comfortable in the water and didn’t get cold at all.

So lessons learned - practice your wet exits even if you’re good at them. Check your “waterproof” equipment and replace at the first sign of wear. Make sure your deck gear and anything in the cockpit is properly stowed to prevent a yard sale. Dress for immersion even in relatively mild conditions. And yes, you can flip in completely calm, 4 foot deep water that looks like a swimming pool!

Oh, and as far as I can recall this was my first truly accidental swim!


Brodie, thanks for sharing! As posted a while back, I had a similar swim on the Colorado here in TX, in my case due to a strainer. Popped out so quickly I barely got my head wet ;-), but, with strainers, there’s always a risk.
In my case I lost my prescription sunglasses. My girlfriend also flipped and lost a shoe.
The reminder to keep everything checked, attached, dry-bagged, is a good one - I would have had problems if I hadn’t been using my paddle leash, for example.
Glad you are OK!

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I actually didn’t lose my sunglasses, they stayed put on my face. Same for my hat. I’ve never used a paddle leash, and often take a spare paddle, especially on paddles far from shore, but this made me reconsider. I don’t like the entanglement hazard, but losing a $500 paddle would really hurt.

Soon I’ll load up my EC kayak with gear, and thoroughly flip, roll, and shake it to see what works and what doesn’t. I hate to risk damaging gear, but better now than during the race!

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another lesson, particularly for folks with multiple - unlike craft and/or use different paddles - equipment differences

different kayak:
I have a few different kayaks, but, for example have a Tahe Greenland T (chined) and a Stellar Intrepid LV (rounded hull). So, if on one day, I paddle the Tahe, then the next day paddle the SILV. Before making a hard turn, the paddle better be in the water with the rounded hull. (have more time to hit the water with the paddle with the chined boats, the rounded hulled boats start going over as soon as you start leaning)

different paddle:
I have a number of different paddles as well.
In particular, there is quite a difference between paddling with a regular ‘flat’ blade (‘Euro paddle’) and a wing paddle.
(and a further complication: feathering - click into the brain if using it feathered - when I’m paddling feathered, if I happen to flip, I’ll always just check the paddle face underwater prior to rolling)


The paddle leash actually helped me keep hold of the kayak. Without it I might have seen her float off downstream. As it was I had to snag my girlfriends boat as it came by (which I was pretty lucky to be able to do).
Of course, it was “the one time” I forgot to use my glasses strap. $200 mistake!

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For my boats it’s the opposite. The Gemini is chined, but has a V’ed bottom, while the Tiderace and (especially) the Mirage are round but with flatter bottoms. I never thought of the Gemini as “tippy” until I started using it less.

But a good point - each kayak is different, so whether you have multiple boats in your fleet, or maybe are renting or borrowing one, they will react differently. I know I could have reached over as far as I did with no problems in the Mirage (that boat is almost rec kayak stable), probably could have saved myself in the Tiderace, but the Gemini unceremoniously dumped me in.

Wow - I’ve had 4 so far this year - 3 whitewater surfing and 1 poling. I had 2 in 2021, 1 in 2020, 5 in 2019, and 2 in 2018. As you can tell, I don’t have a roll, but I get lots of self rescue practice. :wink:


I don’t roll either. I actually don’t really enjoy being IN the water, but I love being ON the water. I’m comfortable paddling in bumpy water, but generally don’t enjoy surf. My self rescues are good though - I originally learned on an ocean cockpit sea kayak; if you can squirm back into one of those quickly and stay upright, a keyhole cockpit is a piece of cake.


Time to learn to roll guys. Make it a winter project at your local paddling club if you have access to an indoor/heated pool. Otherwise, learn to roll next summer.


The general rule regarding feathering a paddle. Pick a feather angle that you like and then stick with it. You want the feather angle to be in muscle memory for rolling and bracing. You don’t want to have to stop and think, especially with bracing. There’s no good reason to be constantly changing the feather angle. An advantage of paddling unfeathered is that you can use almost any paddle.

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Yes. Lesson learned… learn to roll and seriously consider a Greenland paddle (a very good rolling tool).


Mostly an open boater, so a roll isn’t everything. Of my six canoes the only one that is set up to roll is my whitewater solo. I’ve tried over the years, and just haven’t got the knack of it. Of my open boat friends, none have what I would say is a bomb-proof roll. Very different from my whitewater kayak or sea kayak friends where a bomb-proof roll is pretty much the norm.

I manage just fine without a roll - at least in my canoes. I dress for immersion and take to heart the old adage “if you can’t swim it don’t paddle it”. I’ll never run some of the big stuff that my kayak friends do, I often take the easier lines, and I am more likely to portage difficult rapids. In the right conditions with the right support, though, I’m happy to push the envelope and sometimes end up in the drink.

This summer I did buy a sea kayak, so we’ll see how things go there. I’m pretty good at getting back in with an assisted rescue, but I know that a roll is more the norm. We’ll see if a kayak roll is in my future. If not I’ll just take the same approach and spend my time on easier trips.

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As you are a new sea kayaker, keep improving your skills. Learning a roll is lots of muscle memory, being able to tolerate being upside down in your kayak in the water, and lots of initial practice to solidify your roll & your belief in the roll working when needed. Then occasional practice to maintain your confidence in the roll. Rolling is not a required skill, however it sure beats coming out of your boat or swimming your kayak.

I cannot imagine taking a canoe in WW much less trying to roll a canoe ( though I have seen videos of it being done).

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You are lucky that your swim happened in the Weeki Wachee river.
This is such a beautiful place with clear waters to see fish and swim with manatees.
Paddle on…

As a canoeist the part I can relate to is how just a momentary lapse of attention can immediately become a problem. Operator Inattention is one of the top 5 risks according to the ACA and Coast Guard (along with Alcohol, Weather, Dangerous Water, and Operator Inexperience). Just a couple weeks ago I got pinned sideways against a tree in current when I was (foolishly) looking for something in my day pack while floating downstream.


As comedian Steven Wright said: Did you ever lean back in a chair and catch yourself. Then lean back again and catch yourself? . . . I feel like that all day long.

My phone as well a anything else I don’t want to lose stays in a dry bag attached to a thwart. Anything that’s not in a dry bag is mounted or otherwise firmly connected to the boat I have also over the year evolved an emergency bag stocked with rain gear, dry clothes, first aid and rescue gear. Never hurts to be prepared.

This summer I was with a group of people in canoes and kayaks paddling on a nefwork of small lakes in NW Ontario. We were headed back to our camp site when a violent storm blew up. We rafted up against a rocky shore (the wrong shore) but were getting pummeled by the wind and waves. We probably should have stayed away from that shore. One of the canoes capsized and they had nothing tied down. I watched their bailer heading downwind at great speed. In the meantime the bow paddler was gathering all the debris and loading it into my cockpit because I was closest. I was using a spray deck only. It wasn’t until we made it back to camp that I got out of my kayak and discovered a dry bag attached to the back of my pfd.

I hate landing on wind driven shores.

I got into kayaking because where I live the water is cold or just sucks and wanted to enjoy being out there without actually having to get wet.

The first time I EVER swam was 6 weeks ago upon hitting a submerged log/tree in a swamp to the side of a lake after dark. It took nearly 20 years of kayaking to do that. I was maybe 25 feet from shore on a still lake right next to a house.

I got trapped in the tree to the point I couldn’t swim away and was stuck. I needed my hands to free the paddle all coiled in the branches as well as to help get my feet out of them because I was STUCK. I had to back stroke my way out of there.

Thanks to the life jacket I didn’t have to treat water and could use my arms to free myself. Thanks to the (semi-) dry suit I didn’t get wet and stayed warm and could remain calm and had time to slowly but surely decide what tasks I had to do to slowly disentangle myself, my boat and paddle from that mess.

Hopefully it will be 20 or more years until I tip again, preferrably never. I hate the water. I won’t roll or learn how to do so nor re-enter the boat for that reason. My rescue strategy is to always remain close to shore. After some finagling myself away from that deadly underwater tree I was able to swim the 20 feet to where I could touch and stand, flip the boat to get water out of it, and re-enter right at shoreline. But even there had I not been wearing the combination of PFD and immersion gear I might have gotten stuck in that submerged tree in all its branches, close to shore as it was and died of exposure/hypothermia or drowning.