Where possible, hang on to your gear. That boat can be a great flotation device in big water. Paddles are often dark in color and blend easily with water making then difficult to find when let go. You can guide your boat around boulders and rocks to avoid any damage. When close to shore, toss the paddle like a javelin onto the shore. You can also push the boat into an eddy or up on shore when you are close and then swim quickly into shore yourself. Always keep the boat below you so you don't become trapped between the boat and a rock. if the boat is heading towards something dangerous like a sieve or strainer, push off the boat and swim aggressively away to avoid the same fate. If you keep the boat and paddle with one hand, the other is available for a strong side stroke.