Bad Idea?

I was on the Ocoee last year paddling my duck. I pulled over to the side and a guy said, “Can I give you a suggestion”? This is what he said.

He told me that when you turn over in a duck you have a hard time keeping up with the paddle and the boat. He explained that many duck paddlers tie their paddle to the front of the boat with as short of line as possible. That way when they turn over they can swim with the paddle and the boat drags behind them.

That seems like a terrible idea to me. A length of line does not seem extremely dangerous when it is only tied to something at one end. But when tied to two objects it seems like it could wrap around your neck or body part in a way that it could not be undone.

Any thoughts on this? Am I over thinking it or are these people nuts?

I wouldn’t

– Last Updated: Apr-01-11 9:26 AM EST –

You are correct that a paddle, especially a double-bladed one, tethered to a craft will present an entrapment risk for you.

The odds of getting yourself entangled are probably pretty low, but real. More likely is that a boat, dragging a tethered paddle will hang up with the paddle stuck in a rock crevice. This may tether the boat in fast current in the middle of a rapid where it might be difficult to retrieve and might present a "hazard to navigation" for other paddlers.

It is true though, that an empty inflatable riding very high in the water can float away from you more quickly than you can swim after it. On the Ocoee the solution would be to swim to river right if possible and safe to do so, and walk/run along the river on the road (watch out for traffic) until the boat enters an eddy or area of relatively slack water where it can be safely retrieved.

what’s a duck?


– Last Updated: Apr-01-11 9:56 AM EST –

A paddle leash isn't a big deal on flat water, but tethers in moving water are a bad idea. If a rope can get tangled, it will.

I'd rig a couple of short painters on your boat -- floating line, no knots in the end -- and practice holding on to your paddle when you bail out.

If you're going to be around ropes in moving water, an appropriate knife is a good idea.

That is exactly what I have plus a righting strap to flip it. So far it has all worked well and I have kept it all together.

This is mine

You know, the things with webbed feet and feathers…

“Duck” is a term of affection used by folks who paddle inflatable kayaks.

Why a duck?

“Why a duck?”

"All right, why a duck? Why a duck, why-a no chicken?


“Well, I don’t know why-a no chicken. I’m a stranger here myself…”

Duck, Ducky, Inflatable Kayak, Pool Toy

The Original Question
Yes it is a VERY bad idea and even worse practice. Entanglement.

Yes, but they’re not called “nuts”… I think the term is serial killer…

do what I do

– Last Updated: Apr-01-11 11:35 AM EST –

When someone offers a suggestion from shore like that, I usually listen quietly, let them make their entire schpiel, and if it's worthless, say:

"Leider gibt es aber mein Englisch ist nicht gut."

Towing a duckie?
It seems that this guy’s includes the concept of towing the duckie to shore. Granted it’s been a while since I was in a duckie myself, but I can’t think of a much more tiring idea than that.

I do it in the surf
I don’t want my boat getting away from me and hitting someone who jumps in from the beach and is oblivious. So I use a leash in the surf and let the boat go ahead of me under control by holding the paddle.

When paddling or sailing offshore I want a tether connecting me to the boat. In sailboats it is standard procedure to be harnessed to you boat.

I don’t see an entanglement problem as I’ve never had one but I do carry a knife and have been entangled sailing catamarans and windsurfers more than a few times.

nice vid
nice video, never would’ve thought one of those duckys would’ve stood up to those rivers… very cool

towing a duck
Agree, but many times when you get ejected or flip you may not be that far from shore. Many times it is easier to flip the duck over and scissor kick back in, other times swim it into an eddy or shore. The temptation to stand in the river to climb back is not a good idea per the risk of a foot entrapment.

Also from the WW perspective the leash is bad practice due to the risk of paddler entanglement with the leash AND then with debris in the river: Rocks, logs, branches, rebar, barb wire, chain link fence, shopping carts, Chevy Blazers (all things I’ve seen in rivers.)


– Last Updated: Apr-01-11 2:36 PM EST –

In a river you are probably near shore, yes.

Great video on the front page of pnet by the way, ro-sac

Yep, yep, yep
Everyone confirmed what I thought to be true for all the reason I figured. The only one I didn’t think of was the paddle hanging up and trapping the boat mid river.

To date I have just grabbed a line on my boat with one hand and the paddle with the other. A couple sissor kicks usually gets me to shore. Or I just try to hop back in. So far I have not been able to get back in the boat if the water is rough because I have to become more vertical in the water which scares me around the rocks. I rather just lay beside the boat only a few inches deep in the water and ride it to the next pool.

A lesson I learned early:

Most whitewater kayak life jackets have about 16 pounds boyancy and are designed to be worn with the expectation of a roll. During my first swim on the Ocoee I spent more time under water than above. That 16 pound jacket just wasn’t enough. I immediately bought a 26 pound jacket and it made a giant difference. I would suggest a big float jacket if you are regularly doing wet exits and/or swimming class III/IV water. Just my opinion for what that is worth.

Thanks for your comments!

sort of depends
Those with a higher body fat percentage actually don’t need quite as much flotation, but you are right. Swimming the Ocoee is no fun, at least for most of us, although some guys like to run it with swim fins, a boogy board, and no boat.

The other thing people are unprepared for when swimming in whitewater is the PFD rising up around their face and neck if it is ill-fitting, or not cinched down tightly. Some folks will fit a crotch strap to their PFD when running big rapids

I think the perimeter line you have on your inflatable is the best solution.

PFD Buoyancy
Agree that for many big guys that 16 to 18 pounds won’t float them. But smaller people, say average sized women like myself, do fine with that level. In fact I think it’d complicate the heck out of a roll if I started wearing over 20 pounds of that.

PFD Buoyancy
Agree that for many big guys that 16 to 18 pounds won’t float them. But smaller people, say average sized women like myself, do fine with that level. In fact I think it’d complicate the heck out of a roll if I started wearing over 20 pounds of that.