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Wet Exit and Confidence in Whitewater

In my opinion, the wet exit is the important overlooked skill in kayaking because it can really help people feel more comfortable underwater, and it's an important safety precaution as well.

Flipping over can be a very common occurrence when you're first learning how to kayak. If you haven't practiced how to get out of your kayak before you flip over unintentionally, it can be a very scary and traumatic experience. The wet exit should be performed near shore, in water that's deep enough for you to flip over without hitting anything, but still shallow enough for you to be able to stand up or swim to shore easily. Make sure you've got your nose plugs on as they'll keep water going up your sinuses through your nose. Ideally, you'll be with an instructor who will be standing beside you ready to encourage and assist.

Here are the steps to the wet exit:

You're gonna lean forward and hug your boat, take a deep breath, and flip over. Once you're upside down, you're gonna rub the sides of your kayaks while you count to three, then you're gonna bring your hands up to your grab loop, pull up, it releases the skirt, put your hands on the side of your boat, and you're gonna lift your butt up and somersault forward, okay, it's like pushing your boat up and away from you, and you'll come right up to the surface.

The counting to three serves two different purposes. It's what I call "mind training". Kayaking is a psychological sport more than it is a physical sport. The calmer you remain, the better your experience. So pausing and counting to three underwater is a tool that keeps you focused on counting instead of on your fear. Eventually, you'll want to get to what you're counting to more than three. The second purpose the counting serves is preparing you to feel comfortable waiting underwater for a rescue, either a boat to boat rescue or a Hand of God rescue.

In kayak instruction, we talk about practicing hard moves on easy water. This means practicing the moves you'll need as you progress on water that feels comfortable for you. The same goes for your mental game. If flipping over and being underwater scares you, then it's important to practice the wet exit. It'll be challenging for you, but if you avoid it, then you're gonna take that fear with you as you progress.

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