How Not to Turn Over in Canoe

Posted by Author David Lee
How Not to Turn Over in Canoe

Keep your strokes as close to the canoe as possible without scraping the hull. This will minimize your side-to-side drift.

Once the forward motion ends, the paddler rotates the paddle 45 deg. while it trails behind them and uses the paddle blade as a rudder to push water away from the craft.

Alternate sides often to keep moving in a straight direction.

Your Center of Gravity

It really helps if you understand what turns a canoe over. It’s basically the center of gravity. So when you’re sitting in a seat your center of gravity is basically at that seat.

Canoeing: How Not to Turn Over

number one thing you can do to not turn over is lower your center of gravity and you do that by kneeling. Today’s canoes are actually made with a little bit higher seat so that you can fold your feet back underneath that seat. Kneeling lowers your center of gravity and is the number one thing you can do to keep from turning over.

Okay, I can hear you now: I got to get that on my knees? I got to be on my knees all day long? I’ve got a bum knee! I can’t do that!

Knee Pads

There’s a simple solution: knee pads.

Canoeing: How Not to Turn Over

At any sporting goods these are made for volleyball players. They’re inexpensive, they fit on almost anybody. If you rent a wet suit, wet suit already has built-in knee pads. It even helps if you bring a roll of duct tape and tape that in place so that’s stationary it doesn’t move.

Those are the solutions to being comfortable while you’re kneeling.
It’s not an uncomfortable position you can actually lean back against the seat. It will lower your center of gravity and keep you from turning over.

Three-point Contact

Many times you see people turning over when they either get in or get out of a canoe. There’s a simple rule here — draw a line from the bow to the stern and that’s a tightrope. So you’re trying to balance on that tightrope and the best way to do it is with a three-point contact.

Canoeing: How Not to Turn Over

So when you step into the canoe, you step directly to the center which is on that tightrope. You don’t step to the side or the outside because that’s when you’re going to turn over. Step directly to the center and then three points of contact, on your knees for a lower center gravity and you’re ready to go, you didn’t turn over!


Many times when you’re floating down the river you will come upon obstacles — rocks in the middle of the river, limbs hanging out over the edge of the river, etc.

There’s a couple of rules here. Number one: if it’s above the canoe, don’t touch it. Try not to push off from it. That changes your center of gravity and will make it easier for you to turn over. So if a limb or something is coming at, you simply get lower in the canoe and try to let the limb go over you.

Now if you find yourself against an object in the river, there’s a simple rule here: lean downstream.

Canoeing: How Not to Turn Over

Now that’s a tougher one. If you hit an obstacle you’ve got a lean downstream and if the currents strong you’ve got a lean further.
That keeps you from turning over to the upstream side. Think about it: almost every canoe you ever see turn over turns over to the upstream side.

So lean downstream, if you come against an obstacle.
We hope that these few simple tips will help you in your next canoe trip down river. So let’s go paddling! is a source where the post How Not to Turn Over in Canoe appeared first.

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