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Emptying Kayaks on the River

A boat full of water can weigh hundreds of pounds and be hard to move around, especially in whitewater. Knowing the techniques for emptying kayaks on the river is a valuable rescue skill. Team NRS paddler Stephen Wright demonstrates the steps.

When you go to empty a boat, look around for any potential hazards. Also make a plan for where you want to take the boat once it’s emptied; that may be close-by, so you don’t need to empty much water or you may need to completely empty it for ease of towing it a longer distance.

Before you start make sure you’re comfortable with the location and not putting yourself in any danger. The first step is to get next-to and parallel-with the upside-down boat, bows facing in the same direction. Next, reach under the boat and grab the cockpit rim with both hands, flipping it up on its edge and slowly raising it, emptying as much water as this allows.

Once you have emptied as much water as you can this way you want to flip the boat over your bow and rock side-to-side until most of the water is out of the boat. Now, quickly flip the empty boat off your deck and either push it where it needs to go, or clip onto it with the tow tether (cowtail) attached to the quick-release belt on your rescue life jacket.

As with other rescue skills, practice is vital. First, play with this with your friends in flatwater, learning to do the maneuver quickly so you can be an asset to the group you paddle with.

Practice makes perfect; it’s not enough to just watch the video. Only by practicing the skill until it becomes second-nature will you be contributing to river safety for everyone!