Huli Recovery

Table of Contents


A huli can happen at any time with little or no warning.

A novice crew, a beginner stern, or rougher waters can cause the boat to capsize.

A huli is very common and can happen during a practice or a race. It is more common for boats to huli during a race. Contact with other boats, wake, or extra boat speed and paddler effort may cause the boat to huli.

Below are the steps and procedures to right the boat and to continue paddling.

If a huli does happen, it is the decision of the group or coach to continue to paddle or return to the dock. During the winter months, a hulied boat must return directly to the dock and have the paddlers change and warm up.

When a huli happens during a race, the boat is expected to continue the race. In cold weather, length of race and position of the huli are all to be taken into account to see if finishing is best or if returning is the safest option.
The best huli procedure is to prevent the huli by making sure that all paddlers:

  1. Are sitting up;
  2. Not leaning over the gunnels;
  3. Not throwing their body weight across the canoe during a change;
  4. Letting the boat roll under their bodies and being flexible.



  1. SEAT 1 – You are in charge of gathering the paddles and personal gear that may be floating away.
  2. SEAT 2 – You climb over the canoe using the iakos (wooden bars that connect the ama to the canoe). Once out of the water and on top of the boat, turn and face the ama. Place one or two feet on the muku. Place your hands on the iako. If you cannot reach, grab the gunnel of the canoe. When everyone is ready, you will pull the boat towards you as the ama is being lifted, and flip the canoe back upright.
  3. SEAT 3 – You will swim to the ama. Once seats 2 & 5 are ready on the muku, you will push the ama up by doing a big scissors kick with your legs to help in getting it out of the water.
  4. SEAT 4 – Your job is the same as seat 3
  5. SEAT 5 – Your job is the same as seat 2
  6. SEAT 6 – You are the captain. You must check to make sure all paddlers are accounted for. You must assist in the execution of the huli recovery and be able to offer verbal or physical assistance.


  1. The steersperson is in charge of the boat. If there are any paddlers that are in need of assistance, the stern (or next best suited to help) will take control.
  2. The first step once in the water is to gather yourself. There is a major initial shock to the body and often prevents logical, common sense thinking.
  3. If you are having a problem, hold onto the canoe. Shift your way down the boat (with the sterns assistance) and hold onto the stern end of the canoe.
  4. Do not climb onto another paddler orthe ama. This will sink the ama making it heavier, or possibly injure a second paddler.
  5. Do not lose your paddle. Hang on to it! Give it to seat 1 if you cannot perform your job and hold the paddle at the same time. Seats 3 and 4, should be able to maintain their own paddle during the huli recovery.


  1. Each seat has a dedicated job (as posted above). Once you and your crew are stabilized, get into postion to right the boat.
  2. Changes to responsibilities: a taller paddler may exchange roles with a smaller paddler when taking on responsibilities of seat 2 or 5. Due to a longer reach, they can often grab the iakos further away and offer more leverage to pull the boat over.
  3. Talk! Work as a team. Let everyone know when you are ready, or if you need any assistance.
  4. If the waves are big, turn the boat around so the boat is perpendicular to the waves.

1– 2 – 3 GO!

  1. Once everyone is ready to go, count it down. We need everyone to pull at the same time.
  2. It doesn’t take a lot of energy to right the boat, but if not done together, it can be very difficult!


  1. Everyone must enter the boat from the ama side. This is very important. If not done, you may cause the boat to
    flip back over.
  2. If you cannot pull yourself into the canoe, use the iako to help you get into position.
  3. Do not worry about getting back into the same seat. Only seat 6 has to end up back in the stern position.
  4. The smallest paddler enters the boat first and uses the large bailer and quickly starts emptying the boat.
  5. Seat 1 places paddles in the boat, (do not worry about correct paddle distribution)
  6. Seat 6 is the second to enter the boat and keep the boat pointed in the right direction.
  7. If there is a skirt, the boat will not be full of water and the paddlers can start entering the boat.
  8. If there is no skirt, the paddlers must make sure the boat is bailed enough before they enter. If the boat is too full of water, it may swamp if all paddlers were to enter. Watch the gunnels. Make sure that the boat is high enough out of the water.
  9. Do not bail from outside of the boat as this is energy consuming and may make it difficult to pull yourself into the boat.
  10. The remaining paddlers get in as quickly as possible.
  11. When bailing, rapidly throw the water over your shoulder. It is a fast swinging motion, do not place the bailer in the water, then pull it out, and then empty it over the side. Rapidly scoop and throw.

During cold weather, enter the boat as soon as it is safe to do so. Get out of the water. Help any paddler that is having a hard time getting in the boat.


  1. Once everyone is in, seats 1 – 2 – 5 – 6
    –start paddling.
  2. Seats 3 and 4 continue to bail.
  3. Seat 3 starts paddling when 80%off the water out of the boat
  4. Seat 4 continues to bail until 95% of the water is out. Any water in the bottom of the canoe will cause a heavy boat and make it hard to steer and paddle.

Once we are paddling, assess the situation.

Is this a race or practice? What is the weather?

If any paddler is cold and shivering, turn the boat around. Start paddling to warm yourself up.

A huli recovery can be done in less than 15 seconds. If paddlers are in the water for more than a minute, they have the potential to get hypothermia

A huli is common and needs to be considered part of outrigger paddling. All paddlers will huli during their time in a boat.

During cold weather, you can paddle in a wet suit if you would like. Lifejackets are mandatory to be worn during the cold winter months.


Take a second to gather yourself and then execute as a team!


There are a few alterations that should be noted when capsizing and righting unlimiteds, but for the most part, the procedure remains the same. I’m happy to outline a basic OC6 huli as well, but for this initial email, I cover the huli differences between the hulls:

  1. The Capsize (huli)
    • Unlimiteds are easier to both huli and right than a spec boat. The ama is lighter, making it easier to break surface tension with the water and lift into the air, causing the initial capsize. It usually only takes a couple of paddlers committing too hard to the right to huli an unlimited canoe.
    • Being a lighter canoe, the wind will take the canoe quickly, making it necessary for paddlers to grab the canoe as soon as possible after a capsize.
  2. The Righting
    •  The ama/iako/hull combo is significantly lighter, making it easier for crews to right the canoe (easier for climbers to lean back and start the righting, as well as for the ama pushers to assist). It’s even possible in some cases for one paddler to right the boat themselves in an emergency.
    • Typically when done smoothly and quickly, less water pours into the unlimited canoe during the righting as the cockpit style blocks some water from entering.
    • The unlimited ama is more delicate than a spec ama, making it necessary for the boat flippers (seats 3 and 4 usually) to smooth and slow the ama’s descent when righting. This will minimize the ama’s impact on the water.
  3. Climbing In
    • The cockpits of an unlimited are higher from the water level than a spec boat, making it tougher to get back in unassisted (both sealing and hooking become more challenging). The gunwales are also more narrow (sharp) and can be uncomfortable to lean on when climbing in. 
    • Huli straps are strongly recommended (necessary even) for paddlers who need any assistance for regular spec hulis. The use of ladders is not recommended, as they can damage the hull very easily and do not lie against the hull properly. Paddlers who require ladder assistance may want to consider paddling in a spec hull unless the rest of the crew is confident in their ability to help with getting the paddler back in the boat.
    • Due to the cockpits, paddlers have a more narrow window of entry into the canoe.