dangling toggles...

as brought up in discussion of the new Outer Island boat.

do some of you really swim your boat in through surf, wouldn’t you want to be away from your yak in this condition? could you hold onto the perimeter line instead or is that more dangerous yet?

is there any other advantage or disadvantage to the dangling toggle? anyone prefer other saftey/carry handle types?


Toggles can be secured with a peice of bungee cord to keep them from dangleing and still be useful in an emergency. When you need to hang on to your kayak in rough conditions toggles will keep it from being ripped from your hands. Waves are very powerful.

If 60 pounds is hanging off your fingers

– Last Updated: Oct-31-04 2:08 AM EST –

Would you rather it be off a 5mm deck line or an nice toggle. Do you think that most kayakers who have learned to surf have not either let go of their boat from the pressure, or had 60 pounds hanging off their hand? I am a pretty strong guy but I let go of my boat at an unpopulated sandy break cause I just had gotten the heck beaten out of me one too many times.

Plus if your hand is in a deck line and the boat turns bow-for-stern your hand might get twisted up in the deck line. Might make fingers uncomfortable; might be hard to release. Want to be messing about with a knife in surf when you are getting trashed and running out of air?

This entrapment possibility is also what makes handles a joke. An 18 foot kayak has a lot of leverage, and surf is powerful.

I cannot believe a company as good as Impex still uses handles on some models, but I still like their boats.

Toggles all the way!
Of course, anything works on a pond. Even those cute handles!

Two Swims
This year in the surf with my smaller surf boat. Both times I emerged with cuts from who knows what. I add on toggles or hand loops (with plastic tube covering) on all my boats except my SOF (roll or die in that one). Nothing like a good trashing in surf you make you appreciate the full power of breaking waves.


Swimming in the surf, I try to hold the
cockpit rim, also holding the paddle with the same grip at the rim, with my body towards the ocean and side surf in. Obviously this is in relatively small surf. Like sub 5’. This way the boat and I are pushed closer to shore with each wave. Holding a boat by a toggle and swimming with it behind you is probably not a good idea in breaking waves. Holding onto the boat by a toggle with the boat towards shore is probably safer but it will take longer to reach shore because the boat won’t grab a wave and pull you like it would if it is sideways. And it is pretty difficult to to push a boat from the rear and keep it heading where you want it to go.

I dont know that I would like the idea of the toggle dangling into the water like the one on the outer island. Maybe it is up high enough to not interfere and make a splash with each wave?

last scramble in the surf
I came up with a sharp cut above the achilles tendon,went through the skin about 1/8" and stopped above the sheath of the tendon. I have no idea where it came from,possibly the edge of a carbon Lightning paddle.

I don’t go through the surf much here in the Chesapeake but whenver I’ve had a scrambling landing on the ocean being able to grab a doubled 1/4" painter on my Express was useful once out of the kayak. I don’t swim with a kayak in the surf,it’s out of my hands, but the ability to quickly grap the toggle and drag the kayak by one end is worthwhile once on land,sure a suitcase handle works but a toggle will allow some movement without it transfering directly to finger joints.

OK I admit it I swim a lot

– Last Updated: Oct-31-04 10:09 AM EST –

You never want to get on the beach side of a boat in surf, but my experience is you are much safer to be with your boat. It's a very unpleasant experience to find your self alone and getting dumped on in a very bad rip getting recycled into big dumping waves. Toggles are for carrying not swimming.

In my SOT surf boat I get knocked out of it quite a bit, when this happens I hang on to my paddle and I have a short phone cord paddle leash, I let the leash and movement of the paddle take up the impact of breaking waves, using every arms as shock absorbers and going limp and letting the wave drag me like a sea anchor and then swimmming hard until I can get a hold of my boat, I then use the thigh straps to hang onto the boat and re-enter. I f I end up swimming all the way in with the boat (I usually throw my upper body onto the boat with boat parallel to the waves, and use the boat like a boogie board on the foam piles. Keeping a hold of a toggle in strong surf (big breaking waves) does not work. Several people will reply never use a leash in surf, but if you use seat belt or thigh straps and the right kind of leash it is not much of a problem. I would not use a leash in a boat I was planning on using a roll for getting back upright, but they are very useful for surf SOTs and Waveskis.

If I dump in my whitewater boat I have straps not toggles but hang onto the cockpit when the waves crash and try to let the waves drag me and the boat in or push from the stern kicking it in.

On my touring SOT I have bungie grab lines and then hold onto the seat straps. Toggles are great for carrying the boat or just pulling it out to launch, but they don't cut it for hanging onto a boat in big breaking waves when you are swimming with it. Get on the stern and kick it in til it broaches then ride it sideways and get off of it when you get to the beach dump and just try to hold onto the cockpit or a strap.

yes holding cockpit with hands close

– Last Updated: Oct-31-04 10:23 AM EST –

to chest is a great way to surf in. Kicking feet can help too. If your arms are extended grip is weaker and the arm muscles cannot absorb shock. Not too close you don't want to get trhown ahead of the boat

When the stuff is too big for that for me I'll hold a toggle.

I have let go at nahant when nobody else was around. I was so trashed. Beach was 40 feet away with nothing but sand ahead. The boat went in like a rocket would have broken bones of anybody it hit.

thanks Seadart
that was thoroughly informative. many people, even some earlier in this thread claim that the toggles are for swimming the boat in through surf. note that one even derided other carry handle systems because they are not as appropriate for the surf swimming scenario.

i haven’t swam in surf with my sea kayak yet but in white water i push my canoe away from me or swim away from it until it is safe (slower/deeper water) to swim up to it for rescue. so i am surprised that people would want to swim with their (possibly loaded) sea kayak in surf. i figured that would be incredibly dangerous.


I think it depends on situation

– Last Updated: Oct-31-04 6:17 PM EST –

The grab loops with plastic tubing Sing describes work well for surf/white water. I'm not saying boats should not have toggles for carrying, dragging out etc... just that they are pretty impossible to hang onto to swim a boat in big surf. Maybe I should stop posting about how to swim ... about an hour after I wrote that this morning I pearled on a big wave and lost boat and paddle and had to swim up the beach out of the rip and get pummeled coming back in for a loooong swim. I need to find some surf buddies.

Yes they are inappropriat for

– Last Updated: Oct-31-04 11:06 PM EST –

swimming in surf. Handles can entrap hands twist wrists etc.

BTW I love the transition from my words "swimming in surf", to "swimming through surf". If you have got to swim a boat through real surf you better have fins or a tow line cause you ain't gonna be doing much with bare feet and one hand no matter what you have grabbed. Now if I'm letting the surf kick my butt till I am at the beach when I might be getting into a barrel or something else powerful I'd rather have a toggle. but letting the surf take you to shore or shove you out of the surf zone is not swimming through surf, it is swimming in surf. you are not penetrating anygthing: (through), just trying to survive it: (in),

Of course you can disagree with me and Derek Hutchinson about the toggles vs handles thing. But you might want to think about it.

Aside from staying out of the water what does a handle do that a toggle does not?

Conversely, a toggle allows for pivoting and guaranteed release, if needed, when things get weird. Are these valuable traits? As Don G pointed out, one can also rig bungees up to a toggle to make it almost as modern looking as a handle.

So yes, I denigrate handles as they offer a decreased margin of safety over toggles and no advantages that I can see.

Eyes still open though.

On a camping trip, someone helped
me carry my wife’s loaded kayak (they used the rear HANDLE). Short version is that the screw hole in the webbing of the handle enlarged enough that the boat came crashing down. Fortunately no damage to the boat.

The only way to carry loaded boats is under the keel with either your hands or a sling.

All of my boats have toggles for use in the water. If I am swimming in surf, it’s because I really screwed up big time and in that situation, I’ll hold the toggle closest to the surf and push the boat in front of me. If I’m getting too beat up, I’ll let the boat go.

If the situation hadn’t been serious, I’d still be in the boat.

Different Scenarios Require

– Last Updated: Nov-01-04 6:50 AM EST –

different actions/reactions. If you are swimming in a rip and/or with strong off-shore winds, you would want the boat with you. Floating out into the ocean where you're less likely to be seen and totally immersed should be of serious concern. It's not like swimming in the river where you use the current to work towards land. On big days on the ocean, the rips are stronger as are the winds that stack the waves up. Maybe this is just the worry/problem of dedicated surf kayakers.

Also, grabbing onto the coaming on the ocean side is a good strategy on a moderate size waves, as the boat will catch the waves and help the swimmer get in closer/faster. But, I can also tell you in big waves, from personal experience, hanging on to the coaming on the ocean side, is no guarantee of anything. I have been caught in big dumpers just like that where I went flying over the kayak and then the kayak over me. Wear your helmet! When I hang onto the toggle with the boat in front of me and a big dumper is coming, I actually dive under before the wave hits. I get pounded less and the boat usually surges ahead and pulls me along. But then I also had the boat ripped from my hand in such a manner. I'm quite sure though if I were hanging onto a handle, I would have lost my fingers.

I don't get into absolutes, except to wear a helmet and to keep the boat on the shore side. Other than that, your mileage may vary. If you surf enough, you'll find out on your own through direct experience rather speculation. You'll come to realize also there are always exceptions to the "hard rules" that folks like put up.


Leashes in surf are a no-no!
I’m glad to hear that you haven’t had any problems with you leash (yet), but they pose a serious entanglement hazard in surf and are generally NOT recommended. One thing you don’t need when getting “maytagged” is a leash wrapping around you. Better to lose the boat - since it will be carried to shore anyway - than to get entangled and/or strangled.

are there for a swimmer to hold onto while they are bobbing along in the water after they’ve come out of their boat. in surf, this is about the only place you have a chance of holding onto your boat and even then they can be dangerous and if the surf is big enough, the boat is leaving anyways. even with a toggle, there is a risk that your hand could be damaged as the boat twists and thrashes in the surf with powers that you are not capable of controlling…sometimes its best to have the boat just be the hell away from you and then rejoining boat and boater in a more controlled setting.

coupla things…the decklines are not there for you to hold onto in the surf…the risk of injury/entrapment is greater than with a toggle. they are there so that when the rescue is effected, you have somehting to haul that puppy up with or when you tow, you have a contact point for the tow rig.

as far as being anywhere near the cockpit and holding onto your boat in surf…sure. to a point but then when the seas get big, it’s leaving too…

…always, always be upwave of the boat. it will just cream you if you get hit with that thing in surf. even if you have a lid on, that’s a pretty thin piece of plastic and foam and boats are large and heavy and when they have water in them, ungodly heavy and move with an uncontrollable and even more dangerous momentum.

the toggles are not there for transporting your boat…they are there only for on water use. to carry the boat, cradle and keel in the bow and stern.

and your data to support this view is?
OK show me one case of someone being strangled by coiled, breakable leash in surf.

Three times out of the boat in big surf. Twice I got sucked out and once - last month - I had my paddle stripped.

I added on a seat belt to my surf kayak. Not adviseable for those who panic easily. Better for those who trust their roll and would rather take their chances with the boat. So, I get smacked in big surf the last several times. Never came out of my boat because of the seat belt. Last big session, I get the paddle stripped. Okay, go for the hand roll. Got knocked over before making it up. Time to bail. I pulled the skirt and then pulled the seat belt (not one hitch or mental hang up on that) and then took the awful swim and beating (I truly, truly hate swimming 'cause it happens in the worse places).

Anyway, bottom line. I am rigging a short leash for my wrist and paddle. Not recommending this or the seat belt for anyone else. I rather stake my life with being able to stay in my boat and having a paddle in my grip (or at least attached to my wrist) on BIG days.


Outer Island- Toggle Handles
Hey all,

I will be adding a bungee cord system to hold the toggle handles in place when the Outer Island is paddled. We went with the traditional toggle handle over our Comfort Grip carry handle to keep a clean look. The Outer Island is as much about looks as it is its great performance, We did not want to clutter the deck with a big rubber handle. For kayaks out now a bungee can certainly be added. Others have ideas about handles. Should there even be a handle for safety? I think it is all a compromise, and hard to please many of the high end paddlers. That is why we all get to vote on the second, it is a free country. I know Atlantic Kayak Tours only has a single line holding the toggle to avoid a finger tangle. Steve Maynard of Maine Island Kayak actually takes away the toggle and uses a small monkey fist. These are all great ideas, that can be added or changed by the individual.

Happy paddling and keep any ideas coming to me at danny@impexkayak.com.


Impex Kayaks

As Dave Barry would say…
…“Dangling Toggles” would be a good name for a rock band.