Avoid Becoming "River Lunch": Tipover Survival Tips

Everyone, from the river rat to the paddler leaning on a pole, will eventually get "eaten" by a hungry river. Since most of us know only the first half of an Eskimo roll, we should all be familiar with the steps necessary to avoid becoming "river lunch."

1. FLOAT ON YOUR BACK WITH YOUR FEET DOWNSTREAM. Now you can use your feet, not your face, to absorb the steps of the dance called "river rocks & roll." Keep your feet up to avoid being caught between or under a rock or ledge. KEEP CALM AND DON'T PANIC. Backstroke toward shore, keeping an eye out for a throw rope and assistance. ONE EXCEPTION: if you are moving toward a strainer, such as a fallen tree, face forward and climb on top of it to avoid being swept under and trapped.

2. STAY UPSTREAM OF YOUR BOAT. To come between your boat and a rock would let the current make a sandwich of you that would be extremely painful and possibly fatal.

3. GET AWAY FROM YOUR BOAT IF YOU GET IN TROUBLE. As you backstroke for shore, try to hold onto your boat's upstream painters as well as your paddle. If you and your boat get to shore together, getting back on the river is simplified. HOWEVER, IF YOU OR YOUR RESCUER ARE HAVING DIFFICULTIES, LET GO OF THE BOAT. It's hard enough for a rescuer to get you back to safety, let alone you and a boat full of water weighing hundreds of pounds. The first priority is to rescue the people. 

4. ALWAYS BE PREPARED TO SWIM. Dress warmly and safely enough for the river's conditions. Be alert. Even though the river may look tame, it might just be hungry enough to eat you for lunch!