Article on paddle swimming

I tried this on a whim last year, and found it amazingly effective. My shouldes hurt like hell for days afterwards though, be aware that this technique really strains the bod.

Another reason to never let go!

Second that thought
During a tide and current training off Woods Hole, MA this spring, I had to use this method to catch up with my rescuer. It was my turn to get out of my boat and be rescued - I foolishly let go of the boat for a moment. The wind was fairly strong, and we were in light surf. The two boats drifted out of my reach in that moment, and the rescuer had her hands full holding on to my boat and her paddle, so was not able to effectively slow the drift.

I started to swim by hand, hampered by having to hold on to the paddle. The boats got farther away as I swam, drifting fast. One of the nearby instructors yelled “swim with the paddle” and I said “duhhh!!!” (to myself, of course). I’d seen this technique somewhere along the way, and knew what to do - it worked like a charm. I quickly caught up with the drifting boats, and was back in the boat in a flash. Lesson well learned…Now I should take Wayne H’s advice, and practice it often.


Everybody doesn’t do this?
Two notes from my own playing around:

  1. GP is VERY good for this. The indexing and narrower blades both making git easier to manipulate in/under the water (and it’s buoyancy don’t hurt either - particularly if you need rest stops. Like a PFD outrigger/kickboard/pillow).

  2. There are other ways to do it than the crawl and backstroke variations in Wayne’s article.

    One variation I like is to be on my back - but paddling forward, feet first. Sitting up a bit - very similar to normal paddling position. If you keep your legs together they become the “hull”, and point your toes they become the “bow”, of your nonexistent kayak. Takes a minute to dial this in, and it won’t let you use your legs to kick, but does let you bring core muscles into the stroke. It will also let you keep head higher and looking forward for a better view, and let you approach things feet first instead of head first.

Feet first, hadn’t tried that.

Thanks greyak
Your expertise is appeciated. I will definitely incorporate this into my training. Your method sounds as though it may be less stress on the body than that suggested by WH.

What is your opinion?

I tried this with a canoe paddle …
in a pool this summer. It also works, but not quite as well. It’s like having a long arm only on one side, but you can still cover more ground than without. Would be good to practice with half a kayak paddle as well in case: 1. your paddle breaks, or 2. you lose your paddle and can only grab half of the spare before losing the boat.


All about equal effort
You can control the effort anyway. As with paddling in the boat, smooth and steady effort is better than flailing around.

Having several options may let you deal with conditions and other things going on better.

FWIW - My expertise rating = 0. My curiosity and silliness factor have to supplement. Play is good.

Cool idea!
I’ll definitely have to try that. It must be considerably easier to manipulate the paddle than in the prone position.

Rescue sequence:
1. Paddler

2. Boat

3. Paddle

4. the rest

my local pool
won’t let my kayak in.

So I make the time productive by sneaking my paddle in. So far, they haven’t had anything to say about that. Just look on, nonplussed.

A bit more wobbly first couple strokes than the tail dragger methods - but body stabilizes as water pressure along the “hull” increases.

Try sculling variations too:

A vertical paddle sculling draw from various body positions. Yes, you can actually drag yourself around like this. Sidestroke position makes most sense

A horizontal scull with both blades, working the blade up and down pushup style like the rear foil on an AquaSkipper (wrists altering attack angle). Works in theory, but bad leverage, high drag, and a symmetrical foil prevent it from really doing a lot.

Same prone position, but pushing out and pulling back vs. up and down. Slicing forward with blades flat, dragging back with blades vertical. Can be done one handed which could help if one arm’s injured or needed for something else. Not fast enough to chase down a kayak, but might get you to shore more efficiently than swimming one armed.

Rolling without kayak is fun too - though pointless functionally beyond maybe gaining some more varied blade/body feel. More like really ugly water ballet with a large weapon.

I assume that the feet-first swim requires wearing a PFD, though. Sounds like it’d be fun to play around with. I’ve swum (no paddle) while wearing a PFD and found that the crawl and backstroke are awkward with it on, but the sidestroke works well (just slower than without wearing PFD). I should try it with a paddle…hmmm…