Bow Roll Rescue

-- Last Updated: Aug-28-07 1:50 PM EST --

There's an intriguing new rescue technique in the October Sea Kayaker magazine. It's called the "bow roll rescue" and it's mean to replace both Hand of God and Scoop when you have a kayaker, conscious or unconscious, stuck in the cockpit upside down.

The basic idea is to grasp the victim's bow and right the kayak in two stages, first to get it on its side (and the victim out of the water) and then to right it. These require different techniques.

In general, the techniques look powerful but subtle, and you really have to practice -- on land is recommended -- and get it right. But the author claims that once you do, it's foolproof, and works on any victim/rescuer size combination and in conditions.

The article says there is an online video at and at SKMag, but neither seems actually to be there yet.

Worth looking at and trying, I think.


Not really new
ocean paddlers are taught this by some of the kayak instruction schools(west coast anyway) such as eskapekayaking run by Roger Schumann.


I would rather do the hand of god and have them next to me with my hands on them. Looks interesting though.

I don’t see how this could have any advantage.

worth trying…
I look forward to seeing the article and trying the technique out. When we do our weekly rescue/roll/etc practices, I’ve had a lot of trouble doing the hand-of-god on big paddlers (especially those who forget to plaster themselves to the back deck). Maybe this technique will work better for a medium-sized woman rescuing a big guy. Or perhaps some of you have tips to help me on my standard hand-of-god?

If it does overcome the weight defferential between my 135 pounds and the size of most of the guys I’d have to get up, it’s more than worth it. I can’t say that the HOG and I are getting along when someone is a good bit bigger than me. And once you start doing 4 star work, there are a lot more of them than me.

any time you do a HOG or barrel roll
you should lay the victim back as you roll them up.

For the barrel roll I see a lot of people grabbing the cockpit, rotating the kayak, grabbing the victim’s pfd, and then pulling them straight out of the water. Instead, grab the cockpit, rotate the kayak, grab the victim’s and yourself all the way back and away from the victim’s kayak. (Push off on the foot pegs as well).

This keeps the victims body low and in the water longer, you don’t need to lift the victims upper body very far, and you can use your legs and back muscles instead of just your arms.

AS for the bow roll rescue… you might as well practice it and learn it. Knowing one more rescue can’t do too much harm.

I just don’t get it
How many of you can paddle to the front of your buddy’s boat in enough time to set up for this rescue to make a difference (not in a pool)?

How could this rescue be done in conditions that put your buddy upside-down in the first place?

How well can YOU hold on to a slippery kayak bow with waves washing over you and still put enough leverage on it to roll a waterlogged paddler back upright? And not back over again?

To me, it looks complicated and unnecessary. Like a lot of rolls, they’re neat, but impractical. I’m certain, however, that somebody will now pipe up and exclaim that this is their favorite and most effective rescue, yadda yadda yadda…

its not my favorite
But I use the rescue if I am paddle to a kayak for a hand of god, bow presentation, or paddle presentation rescue and ‘overshoot’ - thus ending up at the bow. Obviously overshooting means I need to work on my boat handling skills.

It can be done in conditions the same way other rescues are done in conditions. Practice, practice, practice. Will it work every time? No! But most rescues won’t. This rescue is just an additional rescue to add to the bag of tricks.

How do you hold onto a slippery kayak? DECK LINES.

Like I said, not my favorite but one to add because you never know when you might need it.

unconscious, trapped, etc
It’s meant for paddlers who can’t get out of their boat for another rescue–either because they’re trapped, or unconscious, or just had a heart attack (in which case the fun has only begun once you get them upright).

Do that but…

– Last Updated: Aug-29-07 9:33 AM EST –

At 5'4", 135 pounds laying someone on their back deck still doesn't solve the problem once it's a 6 ft or so guy. Works fine up to a certain weight above me, but not after. And I am not a weakling for my size as long as I am not injured like now. The weight diff itself is just too much. For what it's worth, a friend was helping out with a class at a major outfitter locally where a husband and wife had come to beef up their skills. This couple wasn't beginners and were well outfitted. But they tried every way from Sunday for the rather small wife to get the 6'3" guy up in a HOG, and nothing was working.

I know of one woman who has been able to solve this at times by rising up then coming down hard and hitting the near side of the hull to get it going. But she has more weight than me up top by a good bit to bring down on the boat, and she hasn't tried it enough herself to vouch that it'd always work.

Been done
I’ve known people who have performed a HOG and had it make a diff - luckily it is a rare need. If this works as well as a HOG for just one person, it’d be worth it for that person and the rescuer.

try laying them all the way back first
and use your torso and legs mostly. Your arms should do almost no work.

while the person is upside down, roll the boat a bit, just as much as you can manage, then reach across their kayak and grab a pfd strap. Using your body (torso/legs), lay them all the way back. Then using your body roll the kayak over.

I think the hardest part of that variation is leaning far enough over to grab a pfd, especially if your arms are a bit short.

Members of my group have…
performed 2 HOG’s in conditions in the past 10 months. Nice work.



– Last Updated: Aug-29-07 6:38 PM EST –

This rescue a few times.

In the summer of 06, John Martin ran a advanced rescue class for the instructors up at Grand Marais, Michigan. Maybe he can chime in here...

Like any other rescue, technique really matters with this one. There were a couple of guys who had some real difficulty with this one in the beginning, and were using some brute strength to bring the paddler back to an H2O environment.

I can see where it would be a problem for some females and weaker males who just aren't applying the proper movement to roll the boat effectively.


Update...pretty funny, I just watched the video after my original post and saw that it was John performing in the rescue video.

Overshooting the mark
Dang, hadn’t thought of this rescue working for that. And of course I have never overshot a paddle shaft presentation…

The laying back bit hasn’t solved it for me yet for a big person - I think the arm length starts to be an issue to just get to the sweet spot for balance. But eventually.

it happens to me in the surf a bit
when I am practicing rescues with friends. If I am up wave I will surf towards their kayak. The plan is either to come along parallel to their kayak or at an angle so my bow slides down their hull. This plan doesn’t work perfectly since stopping on a dime in the surf is hard to achieve. But when I over shoot I can slow myself down by grabbing their hull, usually my hands slide a bit before I come to a stop. If that happens and I end up at the bow or stern I grab the decklines (or grab loop as a last resort). Then it is simply busting out the bow roll, or in some cases using their kayak to assist me in a roll and then rolling them.

If I am working with my ‘big guy’ friends in their Assateagues I have a bit of a time reaching all the way over to them as well. I generally stretch my body out and reach all the way over and around their hull. Basically my kayak is fully on edge (or a little over) and my torso is completely resting on their hull. I grab their decklines and go to phase 1, which is rotating their kayak a bit. Then phase 2, grabbing their PFD (or something) and leaning them back a bit. Then phase 3, rotate my kayak back underneath me and lay myself all the way back taking them with me.

It does suck sometimes, but I know you can do it. Just keep working at it. I had to perform a barrel roll on 2 people in a Southern Light as part of an assessment. If you don’t know, the Southern Light is barely under 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep, she also weighs 101 lbs empty. here is a link to the Southern ‘Heavy’ for those interested.

I did practice it on land…
… after reading the article, both me and a buddy on each other, and he’s reasonably chunky on top.

The second phase – bringing the boat from its side to upright – is actually not particularly hard if you follow the instructions carefully. The key we found was the hug/grip, getting your wrist and elbow joints positioned at the edges properly, and the arms flat against the sides of the bow. And, of course, it should be even easier in the water where the boat will be sunk a little.

I’m looking forward to trying this on the water. Couldn’t talk any of my companions into being a guinea pig last night at a practice session.