How to Get Into a Canoe

Photo Credit: Clay Banks

Instructions for Launching a Plastic or Aluminum Canoe

Getting into a canoe can be tricky business. They are tippy as it is, let alone having two people who are new to paddling applying pressure, leaning, and moving in uncoordinated ways while trying to sit down and launch a canoe. Here are some steps on how to safely and comfortably get into a plastic or aluminum canoe.

Positioning the Canoe in Water

Place the canoe perpendicular to the shore, pointing out into the water. The canoe should be dragged into the water as much as possible, leaving only a couple of feet of the canoe on the ground for stability.

Facing Direction

If there is someone on shore to help people get into the canoe, start out facing the canoe toward the shore. The front seat isn’t as close to the end of the canoe as the rear seat. This will keep more of the weight of the canoe in the water and make it easier for the person on land to slide the full canoe into the water.

If there is no one to help people get into the canoe, face it out toward the water. The person who will be the last one in the canoe will be the one stabilizing it and therefore the person who will be sitting in the back.

Determine Where Paddler will Sit

In general, the weight should be equally distributed in the canoe. This is often at conflict with where paddlers should sit based on their paddling ability. As a rule of thumb, if the equal distribution is impossible, the heavier paddler should sit in the back of the canoe. However, this is also where the more experienced or coordinated paddler should be since the person in the rear steers the canoe. Figuring out where to place paddlers in a canoe is the balance between weight distribution and experience.

Stabilizing The Canoe for Entry

There must be a person holding the canoe from tipping when others are getting into the boat. If there is no one who will be on shore to help with this process, the paddler in the back of the canoe should do it. With the canoe pointed out into the water and the tip of the canoe on land, straddle the canoe and sit down on the end of it. This person’s feet should be on the ground with the hands holding the canoe stable to keep it from tipping. It is helpful for this step to pull the canoe further onto land to further stabilize the boat.

Order of Entry into the Canoe

With the canoe being stabilized, the person sitting in the farthest seat out into the water should begin to get into the canoe. They should step right in the middle of the canoe. Most canoes have support or joint line running down the center length of the canoe. Step there, and walk foot over foot directly down the center of the canoe toward the furthest seat. Sit down. If a person is going to sit in the center of the canoe, they should enter next the same way. If there is no center seat, the middle person must sit on the floor of the canoe, and not the support bars. Before the final canoeist gets into the canoe, it is helpful to push the canoe further out into the water. The final person should then enter the canoe.

Pushing the Canoe Off

The push-off into the water can be difficult if the canoe is too far onto land. This is why the canoe should be pushed further out into the water before the final person gets into it. If there is someone there to help push the canoe out into the water, be sure that the individual is using their legs to lift and push the canoe in. Those in the canoe should help the process by pushing off the ground with their paddles.

If it is too difficult, the paddler closest to the land should get out, push the canoe further in the water and try again. In the event that there is no one helping push the canoe into the water, the final paddler will have to do this. They should push the canoe as far into the water as they are comfortable. Then, from the stabilizing position of straddling the canoe, they should put their feet in and ease into the seat.

Paddle Away

When launching the canoe, all paddlers should use their paddles to paddle, or push off the bottom to get the canoe moving. Now that you’re in your canoe, you’ll need to know how to paddle it. And, you’re off! Enjoy.