Cowboy Rescue

I have been practicing my rescues. Yesterday I was out for a short while and practicing self rescues. Ive got a paddle float self rescue down fairly well now, I think.

I have read a little about a Cowboy rescue and gave it a try a couple of times and was not able to master it. Id appreciate any hints that anyone would like to offer.

Also, Im playing with getting some of the water out of the cockpit before starting a self rescue. I swim under and push up on the capsised boat just forward of the cockpit far enough to get the cockpit out of the water then kind throw the boat over on its hull. I am making progress on this but would like any help that you might like to offer.

Am practicing with a QCC700.



sculling brace
in the cowboy you pretty much pick a side to fall onto while doing a sculling brace and getting in. With a high aft deck kayak like the QCC the transition from plopping your butt to bracing happen about the same time,all this is assuming you’re flexible and short enough to bring your legs in while sculling.

Getting water out of cockpit
Place paddle float on blade and inflate. Position yourself at the bow of your kayak. Put your paddle under your armpit so the paddle float blade is near your body and the other blade is far away from you and flat on the surface of the water. With your other arm push up violently on the bow of the kayak while simultaneously doing a scissor kick with your legs. The combination of the paddle float bouyancy and the thrust of the scissor kick should get the cockpit clear of the water and mostly emptied. As the bow reaches maximum height above the water use your hand to rotate the boat upright as it comes back down. This will take some practice to get the movements coordinated properly, but when you master it you’ll be surprised how little water is left in the cockpit. How well this works will depend on how far the stern flotation extends toward the cockpit.


Don’t waste your time on the “cowboy”

– Last Updated: Apr-30-05 11:10 AM EST –

It's pretty much useless in anything other than dead flat calm water. You're not ever likely to be able to use it when you really need it. You're better off putting your effort into learning to roll.

As for emptying the boat, you get much more leverage if you push up on the bow, rather than right in front of the cockpit.

I thought that too
At a club pool event, I saw a number of folks doing cowboy re-entries, and tried to picture doing it in conditions that caused the paddler to end up in the water in the first place. I’ll stick to keeping my c/g looow. Anyone done cowboys in combat?

Those Cowboys
are mostly show offs :slight_smile: All hat and no cows.

Seriously, I never thought of the cowboy re-entry (notice I didn’t say “rescue”)as anything but a demonstration of good balance and flexability.

Boat dependent
My experience is that the ability to easily do a cowboy rescue is very much boat dependent. It seems that a low back deck and good primary stability are the major factors. I can do the cowboy re-entry in a very tippy boat (eddyline falcon 16) but must use my greenland paddle as an outrigger to be able to do it quickly and consistently. But I’m not sure that I could ever do it in conditions in that boat. It’s mostly the same with a CD Slipstream. I can do it easier in a Foster Silhouette and Perception Shadow without the outrigger. An Impex mystic was fairly easy to do it with. But the easiest I’ve ever experienced was with a WS Tempest 165. I was able to quickly re-enter in 1+ ft wind waves after my paddle broke (I should practice rolling up with half a paddle, but was upset at the time and didn’t think about it and had never practiced it. The spare was on the back deck, now kept on the front). I had been getting on some surfable waves for 5 to 10 seconds each, but then thought that I should practice maneuvering my boat in those conditions and was practicing doing reverse circles when I lost my balance and capsized and my paddle broke. I thought about doing a re-enter and roll but didn’t like the idea of pumping all that water out so I decided to give the cowboy re-entry a try. I did what LenT described except without using the paddlefloat to empty water from the cockpit as much as possible. Then did a cowboy re-entry as I had practiced it. No outrigger and no sculling. Easy.

So the bottomline is that if you find it hard to do in your QCC, it will probably always be a marginal technique using that boat. But if you are in calm conditions, dressed for immersion, not in a hurry, it won’t hurt to give it a try if you want.


I agree cowboys are nice in lakes
but I could not imagine using one in any real world ocean scenario.

Great exercise though. Gets people playful! So we do it sometimes.

Is there another name for this
cowboy rescue? I’m not familiar with this technique - at least not by that name.


Pump and Dump
As noted, you can raise the bow with one hand while simultaneously pushing down on the water’s surface with the other arm, while simultaneously scissor kicking. (Lots of ‘simultaneously’ here.) When the bow is raised and the water drains, let the bow pivot and slap back down hull first onto the water. The plumb bow of the QCC makes it hard to do this, unless you have hands the size of catcher’s mitts, but it is possible. It was far easier to do with my pointy bow Explorer, plus Nigel angles the bulkhead so ALL the water drains out immediately. Can’t figure out why all manufacturers don’t do this. Did notice that the new Impex OI has this feature though-good thinking. It takes a fair amount of strength to raise the boat with one arm. I agree that the cowboy reentry, while impressive to watch, is next to useless in any kind of conditions; most likely why you capsized in the first place. Reenter and roll is the fastest, but kind of negates emptying the boat now, doesn’t it?

I searched (“cowboy rescue” kayak)
(no parenthreses but quotes a must for prescision) and got this lovely url as the first hit. Glad to show you:

While I disagree with their assessment of this as a valid rough water rescue they seem to be a shop that knows what they are doing. Go figure.

Thanks for the tip on paddlefloat

– Last Updated: May-01-05 1:39 AM EST –

While I have pracitced this with my hand on the blade to increase support, I have never thought to do it with a paddlefloat.

I might modify that to setting on hand on the throat of the paddle and pushing up with the other after a kick, rather than having it under my arm. We'll see how it works.

After dumping from the bow. I'd paddle float rescue, or if it's too rough for that I'd just forget dumpoing and reenter and roll with the paddlefloat, and use the float while I pump out.

Yep angled and currved bulkheads

– Last Updated: Apr-30-05 10:15 PM EST –

aer great for this or regular T rescues. Why dont the other manufacturers do this?

It's a lot more expensive than a flat piece of fiberglass.

cowboy reentry
In pool sessions this winter I learned a type of cowboy reentry that works with Explorers. However, I consider it a “trick” done for fun and to get a better feel for balance on the kayak. Have doubts about paddle float working in big waves. Everyone I see doing a demo is in calm water. Works in pool, doubtful in big waves or swells.

I worked on learning to roll on both sides for real safety. Also learned reentry and roll (was quite surprised at how unstable the half filled kayak was after reentry and roll). Foot pumps or battery pumps now make more sense, but rolling up in a dry boat is better yet. This Spring and Summer I have to practice what I could do in the pool in real conditions before I can count those skills.

pumps are nice but heavy

– Last Updated: May-01-05 1:37 AM EST –

for solo paddlers or serious padlers they deserve very serious consideration.

Good training for guides: make em work hard, them make them paddle foat for a hundred yards to do T rescues while their cockpit is full of water! When you can do that without thinking about yourself, you can help another. (I swam the first time)

oh ok, in the CRCA we just call it
a paddle float reentry. I don’t agree with it either. A re entry and roll works sweetly for my Sirius :slight_smile:


Scroll to the bottom
of the page I pointed you to. This rescue is done wihtout a paddle float.

All the best.


Peter I am not following you !

– Last Updated: May-01-05 6:44 AM EST –

Pumps are not heavy, and they should be one of the basic things that a kayaker should carry.
I consider my self a serious kayaker and I am a solo kayaker and I don't leave home without my pump and that includes when I am racing also.
This past Feb in the thirteen mile Bogey race I helped a fellow P-netter, (assisted rescue) and thanks to two pumps, (his and mine) we had him back in the race in probably less than a minute.
There are many newbies here on the forum and I don't think we should be downplaying pumps.

Or am I misreading your post title and first sentence?


Used it recently, in fairly rough water
Not a totally useless rescue and learning does help with balance. I was out on Tahoe in January at night. There was a 15-20 kt wind and 2-3 ft waves. My vision was blurry and I was dizzy. I ended up on a rock that I didn’t see. I bailed instead of rolling, so as not to hit my head. I ended up losing my paddle float and had to cowboy back in. When I got to shore, I noticed I had lost a lens from my glasses.

Thanks For All Responses
But…What is the technique to use when a solo rescue is required, and conditions are sloppy? Most of you have said that the cowboy rescue is cool but cant be done in conditions that are other than flat calm. OK, that put my focus back to a paddle float rescue or a re-entry and roll. Someone expressed doubts that a paddle float re-entry would work in rough conditions, so are we at re-entry and roll as the technique to learn and use in rough conditions?

Ive gotta say that having just mastered a normal paddle float rescue that I am sure I would be back in the drink if I were doing one in 2-3 foot waves. I just assumed that I was an unstable newbie and things would get more stable once I gained more experience.

As for the re-entry and roll, that is on my list for later this month. First is just a normal roll.

thanks all,