Backing Slalom


  • Practice and develop the boathandling skill of controlling the boat when backing. A skill used to back into a marina or slip, departing from a dock, or to avoid an object or another boat.
  • Apply the pivot point principle while backing.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: 4 to 6 buoys
  • Trainer sets 4 to 6 buoys in a row about 4 to 6 boat lengths apart aligned with the wind or current (whichever is stronger).

Conducting the Drill:

  • Operators rendezvous and hold position to leeward and port of the line of buoys.
  • Each operator backs through the slalom course, exits course at windward buoy and returns to rendezvous point in forward gear.
  • Start second boat as soon as first boat clears the course.
  • For beginning operators, backing into the wind is recommended.
  • For advanced operators, backing downwind can be more challenging.

Teaching Tips:

  • For beginning operators, have each perform the drill one at a time.
  • For more advanced operators, can have up to two operators performing the drill at the same time.
  • For advanced operators, reducing the buoy spacing or backing downwind or abeam to the wind can be more challenging.
  • Operators often have a better feel for backing and pivot point if they stand alongside the helm facing aft and think of pointing the outboard or propeller in the direction they want to go. This also provides full visibility astern.
  • Operators who attempt to back by pivoting their body while remaining sitting have dangerously reduced visibility to the side away from which they have turned.

Common Errors:

  • Oversteering and overturning in the turns.
  • Failing to anticipate the need to stop the bow from swinging too wide.


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standard 3.5 and its rubrics

Start Powerboating Right! textbook pg. 52