Do competent paddlers need a float

Perhaps this is a provocative post. I’m sort of serious though. I find a re-entry and roll much quicker and a little bit easier than getting out a float and inflating it and getting it onto a paddle blade and then rigging the paddle to the boat and then clambering onboard. Just wondering if I really need to carry the float. Perhaps there are some injuries that would interfere with a re-entry and roll more than a paddle float rescue….not sure. This also assumes I am paddling alone, as is typically the case. Any thoughts?

worth carrying

– Last Updated: Jul-03-14 12:33 PM EST –

Besides when I teach basic sea kayaking, I don't do the paddle float rescue and it is not my go to rescue for most any case. But I always carry an inflatable paddlefloat with me. There are many other uses it can be used for, including:
- to make a seat more comfortable by inflating under a person's legs
- to make a re-enter a roll work better when you are tired
- as an outrigger to support a disabled paddler (sea sick, dislocated shoulder, etc.)
- as a last resort flotation in a hatch that is no longer sealed
- etc.

all good points
and persuasive. No real reason not to carry one, they’re so light and have so many uses.

You left out…
pillow when kayak camping :).

But I’ve used mine as a survival float for a swimmer, and have added a bit of air and attached it to loose items that would not float otherwise.


what peter said BUT
I wonder if there’s a collapsible version made of a styrofoam inner. Not having to inflate it would be a step in the right direction.

the more competent, the more useful
There are actually foam floats and inflatable floats. I typically only carry my foam one during cold water months, as it’s not collapsible.

I think this is a good way to picture it. Somehow everything has fallen apart. I ended up doing a wet exit, so things have really gone wrong for me, at least for the moment. I’m rattled, and I screw up my re-entry and roll, and darn near lose hold of my kayak in the process. Someone pulls up with the bow of their kayak so I can just get a hand onto it, get in, and sit up. Huge help.

Now substitute your friends bow with the shaft of the paddle near the paddle float, the other end of the paddle over your boat in front of you. Nice light touch like you’re supposed to use, and roll your hips upright, just like hip-flick practice. I’ve practiced this. It’s quite helpful. In other words, you don’t have to do the flatwater paddle float re-entry with the other end of the paddle attached to your kayak. You can do other things that your more advanced skill level allows.

Yes I have a reliable roll. Yes I have a reliable re-entry and roll. A paddle float is just something for you to use as a resource in the case where you’re otherwise discouraged for any number of reasons.

Every type of rescue procedure has difficulty and failures as part of the learning process. Every one has difficulty and failures in real situations when a learning process isn’t undertaken. The more you play around with things, the more useful and second nature they become. Paddle float assists are no different. If you make up your mind to reject them as a useful tool, they will probably not be an easily useful tool for you. But even among naysayers, I’ve never been able to dismiss them. Among all of my solo paddling, when am I really going to say it sure was lucky that I didn’t bring my paddle float along, and I’m sure glad I didn’t experiment with using one? When will I say I’m glad I didn’t think about things that I should and shouldn’t do with one in different conditions - such as using it in such a way that I could easily break my paddle in waves? If potential mishaps precluded usefulness, we couldn’t use any of our rescue methods.

So my suggestion would be to get one, go for a swim, play around with it, and see where it leads you. Speaking for myself, the more competent I become, the better use I’m able to make of it.

once you learn to roll or cowboy
they are not that useful except as a pillow. The paddle float rescue in general is not that great as it gives novice paddlers a false sense of security that they have a reliable solo rescue.

The foam block type or even less useful as they get in the way of rear deck rescues.

That being said, mine remains tucked away waiting for that next nap on a rocky beach.

My thought is our Discussion Forum.

It’s like a PFD
I know how to swim, why wear a PFD?

Paddle Float?
Hard to think of an actual reason to not have an inflatable paddle float–are they that much of a burden?. Regarding PFDs, my own assessment of another sea kayaker I pass by or talk to on the water is whether or not they A) Wear a PFD, B) Have perimeter decklines, C) Have a compass, D) Wear a sprayskirt. If yes to all, they are mariners, in my view. If no, then…

not that much of a burden by itself

– Last Updated: Jul-04-14 4:28 PM EST –

>--are they that much of a burden?<

in and of itself, no. But then again, I've got a big list of things that aren't that much of a burden, but when you put them altogether, it is a burden. Should one take a fully equipped first aid kit, a VHF radio, a cell phone, a GPS, a stirrup, sponsoons, a hand pump to back up the electric pump or vice versa in case one breaks and also because they have different strengths and weaknesses such as the hand pump not being permanently affixed to the boat and not being very usable in heavy seas where you need both hands for other duties), emergency hatch cover, in addition to a full suite of signaling gear (strobe, orange flag, pyrotechnic device, safety sausage), spare paddle on deck that is not a two piece in case you need to get it off the deck while underwater because you lost your grip or broke your primary while going under and need an intact backup to roll, emergency tent/blanket in case you need to warm yourself or someone else after an inadvertent swim in cold water, EMT shears, radar reflector if you paddle anywhere with ship traffic, sea anchor (drogue) in case the waves get beyond you skill and/or you're injured and need to orient to the waves (I carried one for a while many years ago after a nervous ride to shore in following seas in a low bow-volume boat), I could go on. I'm not arguing against any of these things and have carried probably all of them (other than a radar detector). But a kayak is only so big and part of the appeal for me anyway is the simplicity of the sport and just getting body, boat, blade out on the water. I also find part of the fun to be in the planning and prioritizing of what gear to buy and what gear to take and what gear to leave behind.

MH, your first assessment was correct: your post was a provocative one. And you did say you were sort of serious. Are you asking for opinions on whether you should carry each and every item you’ve just enumerated whenever you launch? One suggestion would be to tow a really fully equipped duplicate kayak behind you as you paddle–I also am being sort of serious.

I have never used one
Depending on the people I am paddling with and where I am paddling I don’t carry one. I have never used on in almost 20 years of kayaking. I have tried using one in rough seas and it is too cumbersome (even a foam one) compared to other methods.

The question is… Do I continue to carry one despite almost two decades of never needing one? I wear a PFD every time I am on the water all the time I am on the water. A paddle float doesn’t seem to fall into the same category though.

Try both methods in rough weather.

carry the paddle float for…
the inexperienced paddler who bought or brought nothing and flipped. Then you can lend it to him/her and show them what a great idea it is to carry one. Get hurt and try to roll or scramble, then see what happens. Do it one handed. Too many good reasons to carry one and virtually no reason why you should not.