Are some hull designs better than others for cowboy scrambles

When it comes to the cowboy scramble, I seem to be having trouble with my current boat - a highly rockered Sterling Grand Illusion - than my previous boat which had much less rocker. But I’ve also put on a fair amount of weight since I had that last boat so maybe that has an impact also. I would think that trying to get onto the rear deck of a rockered boat is more difficult since you end up with only the rear part of the boat in the water. Not that I’m going to get a new boat on account of that but am just curious if my logic is sound.

My guess there’s not enough rocker difference in most boats to make a huge difference. Maybe volume in stern and or shape of the hull in regards to chines? What is the first hull? Weigh gain was?

First hull was a Chatham 17. Weight gain - I don’t know, maybe 25 lb over 5 or so years. I feel though that the bow of my newer boat is way up in the air when I attempt the cowboy scramble and the hull wants to rotate underneath of me. I was able to do it successfully on flat water but it was more difficult than I expected. Maybe I just need to devote some additional time to practicing/refining this.

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I can’t imagine some wouldn’t be easier and some more difficult. It’s a bit of gymnastics in any kayak. The part of the hull that is above the water isn’t providing any stability, so I could see where a low volume stern and high degree of rocker could make things feel a fair bit more wobbly until you get your weight somewhat centered in the middle of the kayak. Hopefully a little practice can put your concerns in the rear view mirror.

“Frontal weight gain” plus a PDF will increase difficulty getting up on a rear deck. Especially if the stern “point” rises up higher regardless of rocker. Higher rocker often rises more.

You need to find the “sweet spot” for doing a scramble on each kayak.

Examples: 1) my NDK Explorer HV, I can scramble from just behind the cockpit but it is easier a little closer to the rear hatch, 2) with my formerly owned CD Sirocco I had to scramble up from stern (not either side but the actual stern), 3) my Dagger Stratos 145L scrambles best from just behind the rear hatch.

Learn your kayak…each is a wee bit different.

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How far back on the boat do you get ion to the back deck? With a higjly rockered boat, the further back you get on, the more you have to lift the bow up, and the more the bow is out of the water, the more unsteady it likely will be. Some people do scrambles by going all the way to the stern and climb straight up (often called the ladder version) - this version would be harder in a boat shaped like a banana, as the Sterlings are.

I think the Sterling has a lot more volume than the Chatham 17, and that is ore at play. It just floats higher in water, so when you are on it you are higher up.

Of course, the extra weight you put on likely won’t help.

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I thought cowboy was always over the stern?

There isn’t a specific place you must get onto back deck of kayak for it to be a cowboy scramble. I get on to the back deck by sliding up the side just behind the cockpit (basically the same place I’d go up in a paddlefloat rescue). Some do go up from stern (often not possible with ruddered boats).

I have recently been seeing people do what seems to be called a cowgirl rescue - that is where you get up right over cockpit. Basically you are doing it like a sit on top rescue - belly over cockpit, flip over so butt is in cockpit, the n pull in feet. Quite a bit faster of you can do it.


I took an ACA open water course some years ago. Before it I practiced cowboy with my own hardshell boats at the time, both Greenland style low volume hard chine hulls with extremely low stern decks. But the instructor wanted the students to use boats for the class that had rudders since we were going out on one of the Great Lakes, so since mine lacked them I was put in a boat the outfitter had provided . (It was an NDK composite, don’t recall the model. In retrospect, maybe they were trying to force us to demo their boats in hopes of a sale.)

The self rescue I had been able to do (not gracefully but adequately) in my own boats became a real struggle on the higher decked soft chine boat, which also had a large bulky semi-recessed hatch cover that my PFD kept hanging up on when I tried get my torso well over the deck. (It was an NDK boat – don’t recall the model).

We were in a sheltered bay on a calm day, so it was not really a question of rougher conditions than I had practiced in before. Finally got up on the deck but I really had to flail, and had half capsized it and had to flush out the cockpit twice before accomplishing the task. Felt like I needed a good nap afterwards. The experience motivated me to work harder on learning to roll.

I was rather annoyed that the instructor would not allow me to use my own boats (I had brought two) nor would tolerate my use of a GP, which they obviously viewed with scorn. I learned from that to only explore instruction with coaches who use the same kind of equipment that I prefer. Thank heavens for Greenland skills training camps!


sort of the way one remounts a surfski
In a sea-kayak, a little more difficult

cowgirl vs cowboy:

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I thought cowboy was always over the stern?<<

It is. The only mention of the bow I see in this thread is that when attempting to re-enter by ‘scrambling’ onto the rear deck, the bow lifts up out of the water.

I’ve tried getting on the deck from various positions aft of the cockpit and find the best to be just behind the rear hatch. I am trying to find the time to get out this week or next for some focused research and practice. Though counterintuitive perhaps, I wonder if partially flooding the boat, to get it lower in the water, would help.

That video is banana’s!! But I’ll give it a try next time I’m out.

find a different name.
The one you are using is an insult to people that cowboy for a living.

The boat made quite a difference for me. No weight change. My first boat was a WS Zephyr. I couldn’t do a cowboy scramble no matter what I tried.

Current boat is a P&H Cetus. Easy, no matter which way I try it. I can play all over the deck, rotating around, sliding up and back. I have to pay attention, but it is easily doable.

I might also note that the only reliable way for me to enter the cockpit of the Zephyr, without capsizing, was to plop my but onto the seat, then retract my legs. Solid way to enter, though I did still capsize once or twice under wavey conditions from odd angles.

With the Cetus, I cannot do that, the cockpit is too short by a bit. But with the Cetus, no worries, I can sit on the back deck and first slide my legs in, or I can partially straddle the cockpit and do the same. Solid, don’t even need to brace with my paddle.

For me, the boat make a significant difference. And, I feel that difference when paddling too. Both are fun boats, but the Cetus is stable and predictable, while still being fun to play with.

Is that “cowgirl” because it is a “sidesaddle” mount? Was not aware any cowgirls rode archaic English hunting seat.

I definitely find the “cowgirl” version a more stable endeavor. Go from lying over the back deck to seated position, and your head and knees only raise as your butt is lowered into the seat. I prefer it to the point that I don’t use the other version very often. But everything has its set of challenges.

The top method was easy to do when I paddled a Cetus MV, however it is not 50% yet since now paddling an NDK Explorer HV. Need to work on it next time I go out for a rolling and/or rescues play day.

I switched from a touring boat which was super easy to cowboy to a greenland which is super difficult for cowboy. I’ve found scrambling up from the side using my paddle as an outrigger works fairly well even without a paddle float. Some boats just don’t work well with certain rescues and it may be worth just looking at different methods and experimenting. If you do continue to have issues a paddle float makes re-entry pretty much foolproof. Otherwise learning re-entry and roll is your next best bet if you don’t mind pumping out imo, although I usually use my paddle float for it.