Now that I’m paddling in colder water – wearing a drysuit – I’m considering getting a foam paddlefloat to use instead of my inflatable to speed the process of getting back in the boat in the event of a capsize. Granted, I’ve never needed to do a paddlefloat rescue other than in practice and I haven’t done it “in conditions.” But I want to be prepared. Does anyone here have a favorite brand/model? And to answer a few expected questions: Yes, I know I should learn to roll and plan to do that in pool sessions this winter. And, yes, I am paddling solo in cold water – no one else I know around here has the proper gear to paddle with me.
Try one out first because foam floats never have as much flotation as a dual chamber air float. That is not to say it wont work for lighter people.
It’s the only one I know of that fits reasonably well under deck bungies - most foam floats are awfully wide.
Note that it still requires that you clip it around the shaft, if anything this is more important because you can’t inflate it to hold tight around the blade like a double-chamber inflatable. So you need to be sure you would have the dexterity to handle that in cold water - as in good gloves.
As to using this in difficult conditions… may be a bit optimistic on that depending on what you consider to be conditions.
For a short time I used
a Seattle Sports foam float that did not have enough flotation. It was easy to submerge it fully during paddle float rescue practice so I sold it and got an inflatable. For cold water, I would say just pre-inflate your current float (one that you know works for you) and put it under the bungees or clip it onto the deck somehow. Sometimes I partially inflate mine and use it under my thighs to help prevent my legs falling asleep - the bonus is it's in the cockpit and ready to go in the event of a capsize.
Seals makes one
I’ve got a nice one from Seals (local NYS company)that I use when teaching rolling. I have to admit that I’ve not tried it for a regular paddle float rescue, but it fits the paddle really well. In pratice, I carry a blowup float behind my seat. It’s for backup, since my roll is pretty good - I never say “bomb-proof”.
I encourage you to work on a roll this winter in pool sessions. It’s liberating to develop a good roll, and it makes it much less likely that you will need a roll or self-rescue (unless it inspires you to go out in worse conditions).
roll with it baby
I practiced rolling with a foam paddlefloat by attaching while capsized. It works very well (in the pool and in normal water) although lake water i the winter is pretty much around the freezing point and your dexterity will be compromized. Wear neo gloves and a drysuit and a neo hood and your odds will increase.
They sell a ‘beanbag’ style that can be formed a bit to conform to deck curves. I held me up fine during practice, at 200 lbs, and I was able to do a cowboy/scramble rescue with it on my back deck, where I keep it while paddling. I consider it a backup to my roll, either to support the paddle for re-enter-and-roll, or in the traditional use. Cold water and how hard I found it to inflate my NRS float was why I chose a ‘foam’ style.
Just inflate what you have just to the point that you can still slip it on your paddle. That will also speed up the process and you might find that you do not need anymore air than that.
Congrats on having the sense…
…to have that drysuit. The water is still not as cold when you are in it for about two seconds vs a minute or so.
Don’t expect to be "in conditions"
Thanks for the advice. I’ll check some of those out and, in the meantime, have my inflatable paddlefloat partially inflated. As for my reference to never having done a self-rescue “in conditions,” I don’t expect to be paddling in winter in windy/wavy conditions. If I capsize, it would likely be in a moment of inattention or distraction and/or getting flipped by an unseen submerged tree or rock (more likely the former where I paddle). So, at least in theory, I ought to be able to paddlefloat self-rescue. I do have neo gloves – used them when I was out Sunday. Even broke through a little ice in a narrow, shady, shallow section of a deadend cove.