Cowboy scramble reentry??

I found this term in Schumann’s article "10 Essentials for Sea Kayakers ( SK mag June 2004 20th Ann. Issue).

I didn’t have much luck on a google search. Can anyone explain this rescue technique? Is it worth learning? Anybody ever use it?


photo of a Cowboy re-entry…

The link above is a photo of Debi (my spouse) doing a cowboy re-entry last weekend. She has such great balance she can “cowboy” in fairly rough conditions.

Me on the other hand, it’s a chore to cowboy and I usually have to use the paddle for bracing while scooting to the cockpit.

It’s not my preference for re-entries that’s for sure.


EZ and yes
This is a fun way to get back ‘on board’.

after the wet exit you hang on to your paddle and boat, right? swim to the bow and sissor kick and lift the bow, draining as much H2O as you can as you flip the boat upright.

now get to the stern and with your paddle tucked under your arm, slide up on the stern deck from the side, keeping your belly low. This takes some balance. Once up on the deck, kick one leg over, like getting on a horse (Yee-haw cowboy). Now you should be sitting on the rear deck, usually about 1/2 way from the stern to the cockpit, with your legs hanging over the sides (for additional balance) facing forward, with your paddle tucked under your arm (or in your hands ready to brace). Obviously rudders suck while doing the first part of this move.

Now just scooch forward till you can drop your bum down into the saddle, your legs still outboard. now bring the legs in one at a time while you brace with the paddle. Tough with an ocean cockpit or cockpit that doesn’t allow one leg lift at a time.



There’s actually three photos in series
If you use the URL link I sent moments ago. You can also use the arrows to view the photo before and after the one I posted. It gives a better idea of the process of the re-entry.



– Last Updated: Apr-28-04 12:13 PM EST –

Obviously, rudders suck while doing the first part of this move!

Yep. I would guess so.....

Thanks both…
Wade, pictures added clarity and Steve I understand your written description completely. Looks like this would be a fun reentry to play around with this Summer.

In your opinions do folks that are able to “rid’em cowboy” find this technique to be significantly faster than the standard paddle float solo rescue technique??

Thanks again to you both,


I’ll give you a new technique

– Last Updated: Apr-28-04 12:31 PM EST –

and ask you a question or two.

The technique is for the bow lift. Set the paddle blade down flat on the water and put a hand on the throat with a the thumb and a finger or two around the shaft and a few running down the blade, (must retain control of paddle) to push down and use it for purchase to get a better bow lift. Must be timed right, but works a treat. (Thanks Dave L. of NSPN.)

I have always encouraged this as a fun exercise, but discouraged practicing it a lot or thinking of it as a real non flat water rescue. How useable is it in moderate conditions (minor steep chop) in a 20-22 inch boat? Other than on flat water could you really see using it?


great descriptions, more technique inpu

– Last Updated: Apr-28-04 12:36 PM EST –

Great description Steve, and Peter, I'm trying that tip.

As for appropriate use, I can do this in a 1-2' chop but only about 75% of the time (but have done it in a calm 3-4' swell). But I have an ocean cockpit so that compounds things - I have to scull brace w/paddle braced in my lap while I slide one leg in at a time, all while balancing on deck. It helped to paddle around in chop while sitting on the deck for practice. In any lesser conditions I don't bother with paddlefloat rescue(can do this in worse conditions 50-75% success) as this is easy for me and fun to practice and cool off.

Also - if you're having trouble getting back on deck, try to submerge yourself as much as possible and your buoyancy will help you out.

it’s quite fast, tho it’s also EZ to muff up, as balance is hard to muster in a narrow boat and mixed seas.

i find the use of my paddle as a brace a key to making it work.

it IS a fun way to fart around with your vessel and get good at figuring out what works and such, especially in warm, summer conditions.

personally I have done this re-entry in cold, rough, winter conditions, as well. I’d use it before the paddle float but after the re-enter and roll.

my order

  1. roll
  2. re-enter/ roll
  3. cowboy
  4. paddle float re-enter/ roll
  5. paddle float

    I don’t deploy the paddle float till I have to. down/ dirty/ fast


I may have an advantage…
with having a wider boat with a cavernous cockpit (Prijon Kodiak). I’m thinking that I might want to actually deploy the rudder if I haven’t been using it just to have more stern deck area to play with.

I haven’t learned to roll yet, but it might be wise of me to learn the cowboy scramble technique so as to have another self rescue technique in my bag of tricks.


Hey Steve, in reenter and roll do you
attach the skirt before rolling up?


Looks like a nice place to paddle!

tight fitting neo skirt and ability to hold my breath about…oh… 15 seconds! =:-0)

I did it once, in a pool, nylon skirt.

funny thing is there is only about 4-6" of water in the boat after a good R&R, so it’s a non-issue w/me.


Four inches of water in my explorer
and I am bracing a lot! :slight_smile: Balance not so good!

Me too.
I’m the same, 4-6 in of water in the boat and I too am sculling for support. Here’s a couple things I’ve learned.

  1. begin paddling. It’s amazing how stable the boat becomes if you’re paddling (even with the water in it).

  2. put more water in it. Sounds odd, but I’ve found it becomes more stable with more water in it. Do a scull for support to purposely get the combing into the water.

    my 2 cents worth

Thanks sounds bizarre enough
to work!

not me…
I’d be a foot pumpin’ on me Guzzler!!!



i’ve used a cowboy re-entry very successfully in the nasty standing waves on the windward side of the 520 bridge in seattle and many, many times when i just wanted to go for a swim in other places. i was even able to do it on a west side boat shop thunderbolt, although it was a bit touch and go. i pull my crotch over a few feet up the stern, so that i don’t dome anywhere near the rudder. the most important thing i’ve found is to keep your back really low and parallel to the deck, and to make your jump into the seat in one swift, committed movement. don’t hesitate, as you are most prone to tipping right then. once you get your butt in you have all day to worry about your legs- heck, you can paddle pretty well with your legs out.


It’s BIG Boat Technique
paddle a low volume boat, like a SOF, a cowboy scramble will just flood the boat. My priorities are:

  1. roll
  2. roll again
  3. scull and roll
  4. balance brace, get some aire and rest, and roll again
  5. wet exit, then re enter and roll.
  6. anything else, I am screwed!!! Make VHF call, shoot flares and pray.


The cowboy thing
on a boat that is 20.5" wide is interesting, dooable but I would rather reenter and roll every day of the week.