Do I need a paddle float?

What purpose does it serve other than the obvious? Are you supposed to leave it on the whole time? What’s the deal?

I need a rootbeer float. It’s 98’F today

paddle float
Don’t know if your post was in jest or not as I am fairly new to the forums and do not know the names of everyone. Also you do not have a profile posted.

I just started practicing re-entries with paddle floats this week.

Paddle floats come in two forms. The most common in warmer waters is probably the kind you blow up and from what I understand, in colder waters, the foam kind is more prevalent. The obvious advantage to the foam ones is that you can deploy it quicker, getting yourself out of the cold water faster but I think the blow up one gives a bit more flotation.

Do a google search for paddle float rescues for more in depth reading.

One of the things that I have found is that it is easier for me to attach the float and then re-enter the boat upside down and use the float to roll up. I can lunge onto the back deck fine and get in but figure whats the sense if I can do it this way without much effort.

Is a paddle float necessary? you betcha! paddle float rescue, paddle float roll, and you can use it as an outrigger for stability while you pump out your boat.

(I understand they make great pillows for camping too. :slight_smile: )

If you have to ask . . .
If you have to ask if you need one, then the short answer is, . . yes you do.

Other purposes (other than as a reentry tool) :

emergency stability for too-sick-to-paddle tow-bait

training aid for developing your hip-snap

emergency floatation bag (for use after you hole your boat and before you learn to carry repair materials)

dunnage for your (soon to be unable to live without) day hatch

air-splint for broken bones

emergency cooler for beer

sleeping pillow / seat / cushion / leg support

emergency pad for your boat during travel

emergency back support / cushion

training aid for developing your hand roll

(no doubt others will add quite a few more potential uses)

Are you suppose to leave in on the whole time?

Assuming we’re still taking about the paddle float, well no. It’s a tool to be used and rarely at that in actual paddling but quite often in training mode.

You do “need” a paddle float. No, you don’t leave it on all the time. The float fits over the blade of your paddle and provide a great deal of bouyance. If you have taken a basic paddle course, done some reading, or watched a video you will see that it is used for self rescues. In calmer waters you can use it to get back in your capsized yak.

And, yes, it is handy for a lot of other things. They are inexpensive, easy to store/carry, and very handy when needed.


Your call
Only you can determine whether of not you need to carry a paddle float. Assuming you know how to use one, then you have to do a self risk assessment of the consequences of not having one. The Coast Guard does not require you to carry one (unlike the requirement to have PFD at all times). My (or anyone else’ self-risk assessment) may not apply to you so their recommendations to (or not to) carry one may not be valid in your case. As for me, I wouldn’t go anywhere in a kayak without my 16" Bowie knife and I-Pod with six dozen spare batteries… but that’s just me.

In my personal opinion, the paddle float is the biggest waste of space on a boat. I purchased two for use when I am guiding. I have never used one. There are a multitude of techniques, maneouvers and other equipment that can be used in higher rates of success. Having said that, a poster above, listed a bunch of uses for the paddle float - all of which made sense…none of which I would use a paddle float to repair.

Your choice.

Mine are hanging in my shed. I dont think they have been wet this year.

Just an opinion.


16" Bowie Knife?
What is that, your spare paddle? 8>) "That’s not a paddle, THIS is a paddle!)

yeah but you’re different sirius…
You have a strong roll and are probably proficient in other self rescue techniques (re-enter and roll, cowboy scramble, etc.) Also I’m not certain but you may also use a greenland paddle which makes the paddle float less effective. I also typically do not carry a paddle float (unless I’m on a trip in which others may need it) but judging by the nature of the question, it’s a fair call to say that the original poster would probably benefit from a paddle float.

Paddle Float Use
I have yet to use mine in a true emergency, just when losing it while practicing braces and rolls. Since those are planned risks and generally happen in a more protected environment, I am usually messing around with other ways to get back upright than the paddle float re-entry. But if there is a more useful tool than a paddle float to learn more skills and extend your paddling angles (literally) I don’t know what it would be.

I have one of the big long red North Water foam floats. My float is off the boat more often than on when we are in practice sessions, because it doesn’t require inflation. Same thing in a real capsize in a mixed level group.

I personally find it invaluable for honing my own skills. I can use it to practice my offside hip snaps without needing a dock, or experience the float position in a scull or static brace if I am having a bad balance day.

Maybe someone who is quite advanced with a strong roll on both sides, or someone who is just barely starting out, would find limited use for a paddle float. But it seems tremendously useful for for anyone in the middle who is working towards those skills.

Paddle float
When I was paddling my Loon 160T I never carried a paddle float, because I never felt in danger of tipping over. Also, it isn’t so hard to get back into. When I promptly rolled a Carolina 14.5 that I rented and had to swim for shore, I started to see that a paddle float and the knowledge of how to use it would be necessary for me.

I been practicing leaning my Old Town XL160 as far over as it will go, getting dumped, and then rescuing myself. This was all done in a small pond (a controlled setting). I wanted to see what it felt like to be in the water and have to set the whole thing up. It wasn’t difficult getting back into the cockpit once the paddle float was rigged properly. While I have no delusions of being able to do it in big waves. It has given me more confidence in being able to rescue myself in the type of paddling conditions I expose myself to.

If you have a very calm small body of water close by, you can practice safely. Good luck.


Luis Leon


– Last Updated: Jul-25-05 2:48 PM EST –


Lots of paddlers have enough alternative rescues that they feel they never need the float. Heck, I can't really imagine using one either myself. But then I think about shoulder or other injuries and realize that maybe that float would give me another "way out" if I needed it.

I remember asking my ACA IT the same question and he just looked at me and said, "OK, why would you carry it?" When I started looking for reasons to keep it, I found quite a few. Usually related to group paddling, but the point is for as little space as it takes up it seems like a reasonable added safety measure even if you can't off-hand imagine using it. You'd never want to be in that one situation where you needed it, and then not have it.

By the way, I keep mine attached behind my seat so it does not take up much space.

Just my nickle!

Re-entered many times without one
First of all, I own a large rec kayak, a Loon 160T. It is extremely stable.

I love snorkeling; I often go snorkeling from my kayak, and have found it to be quite easy to re-enter from the side without a paddle float. I simply grab the edge of the cockpit, give a couple quick kicks in the water while pulling myself up across the cockpit. Virtually, the only water that gets into the boat is the water on me.

Please note that I first PRACTICED this over and over again one weekend in shallower water, [wearing my PFD of course]. So, I KNOW I can re-enter any time I need to. Regardless if you use a paddle float or not, I strongly suggest that you practice re-entry until you are comfortable with it.

Happy Kayaking!

water wings
I’ll add my two cents. I bought water wings intended for children who cant swim. They do work well enough for one dollar. The only time I have tried them is in a pool. Although they stay in the boat with me, I never see myself rolling my Carolina (which I find incredibly stable but another poster rolled). If I ever get a more tippy boat then the need might be more neccessary. My advise would be to decide if your boat will ever tip and if you get them, practice before you need them, or else they aren’t any use.


Yo, Turkeybacon,

I never saw myself capsizing either, but now I know better and feel better prepared. I didn’t find the Carolina tippy, I just wanted something more stable and with a roomier cockpit area.


Luis Leon

send em to me then…
If you are not using them…I will take them!