Nothing has a greater impact than you following safety procedures around your peers and students. It then simply becomes routine and 'the way it should be'. Not following procedures sends a signal that it's not important and this can have big consequences down the road. Judging by the number of watersport related deaths in Canada, we need to become better role models.
River paddling can offer fun and exciting challenge. Some people have the tendency to push the challenge too quickly. Most rivers offer pleny of opportunity to push your skills without big consequences. Work on the moves in easy conditions before trying them in challenging and riskier situations.
If you're inevitably going to hit a boulder sideways when river canoeing, hug it! It's about to become your best friend. Lean your weight towards the boulder (not away from it!). This prevents the current from flipping the canoe upstream, filling it with water an wrapping around the boulder. Many types of canoes will simply be torn to pieces. Materials like plastic and some high quality composites will bend and conform to the boulder and would need to be unpinned and then hopefully reshaped.
Often the first thing we try to do when we capsize on a river is to try to stand up. Putting your feet down can jam them between boulders or into wood debris, trapping them while the water wants to push you under. This happens sometimes, even to seasoned paddlers and you'll never forget if someone tells you a story about their "foot entrapment" experience. Keep your feet near the surface!
River canoeing is fun and can be done very safely. But BC rivers are cold, often fast and typically have wood hazards. Get some training before starting on rivers to avoid the "bad experience" that we hear about far too often!
We sometimes have an instinct to head straight to the middle of the lake, maybe because of the views. The center of the lake is a vulnerable place to be, particularly if it is large. Rescues, escape from storms, wave size and wind exposure become much greater concerns. The shoreline offers scenery, wildlife, quick escape from weather and easy recovery after rescue.
Canoeing alone increases your risk dramatically. If you're not comfortable with increased risk we recommend travelling in groups of a minimum of 3 canoes. This allows for safer rescues and more options for dealing with emergencies.