-- Last Updated: Feb-04-04 3:30 PM EST --

I think entrapment in a kayak is overplayed. If you're not wearing shoes with laces/straps, if you don't forget to pull out the skirt loop, the chances of entrapment is pretty minimal (provided you do don't go apes and panic in a capsize). Personally, I have yet to snare/hook a thing in wet exits from a number of different boats. Also, I find that even when I am just partially out of the cockpit, my head tends to break the surface of the water with the aid of the PFD. If I were to get caught partially in the cockpit, I think I would still be able to get air.

In another thread, PB wrote:
"Rudder cables -- foot between one and the hull.

This happened to me, not on a wet exit, but upon re-entering the kayak. I wrote a long ltr to Sea Kayaker Magazine describing what happened (several issues back), so I won't rehash here.

I managed to free my foot while precariously balanced with body prone over the back deck but it was not easy, and it would have been impossible in any real "conditions." I was just practicing wet exits and paddle float re-entries. If it were a real-life scenario, I probably would have capsized while trying to free the foot and drowned while hanging upside down by the strangled foot. I know some people carry knives for cutting line, but knives don't cut SS cables.

There is a very cheap and simple way to prevent these cables from pouching out and trapping the foot, and that is to put a piece of pipe foam insulation (the stiffer foam, not the neoprene-like kind) over the cables. Make them short enough to allow full rudder movement but long enough to keep the cables from pouching out and lying in wait for a blind foot entering the kayak.

This entrapment is not highly likely to occur but if it does, it could kill someone."

Anyone else have an entrapment experience? What do you think?


it’s possible, but unlikely
It’s definitely possible to get caught up in some interior wiring or whatnot, but I think it would be fairly difficult to get yourself caught to the point of not being able to free yourself. I think most people in the throws of drowning panic would rip the cabling out of the boat first.

It should be noted that if your using a neoprene sprayskirt (especially on a glass boat with a sharp, hard coaming lip) it is important to remember to keep the grab loop accessible. Some of those skirts won’t budge if you don’t have something to pull on.

PFD snagged
on the handle of the Chimp pump on the rear deck during rolling practice. Happened once in hundreds of rolls. Made for a few tense seconds before I figured out what was up.

if you’re on the rear deck, you would have made in rightside up already? Unless you’re doing a forward (reverse) sweep towards the bow. No drowning but puzzlement all the same.


with the skirt loop. But with a lot skirts and boats, you can actually grab/pinch around the coaming side to free up the skirt. In fact, one boat I have, the skirt keeps popping off on its own around the coaming side. I installed some small velcro just to keep the skirt in place. Yeah, yeah… should get a better/tigher skirt. :slight_smile:

YMMV though if you got gloves on. Harder to get at that skirt on the side.


years ago. I’ve spent loads of time in sinks and that was my only experience with entrapment…unless you count that time in a motel room in Reno…

There was that time I walked by a bar. And, this “cute” thing said to me, “Hey, good looking…” I looked around me, behind me… Can’t be talking to me… I thought. I walked on by. She probably had a badge somewhere in that flimsy outfit. :slight_smile:


Yeah, they come off
even with loop trapped. Just a matter of finding what works on your particular skirt/coaming combo. Mine’s pretty tight, but side grab method works well. I suggest this be practiced right side up a few times so it doesn’t have to be figured out sans O2.

I’ve seen people put a carabiner, large bead, or something else (bright, not black so it won’t blend in with the skirt deck - Why are the loops black anyway?) on the grab loop to serve as a reminder to keep the loop out. Just make sure it’s not something that can get tangled up in a wet exit.

Entrapment in shallow water!

– Last Updated: Feb-04-04 7:45 PM EST –

The only time I've come close was in about 4 inches of water on the beach after side surfing in while playing in 3 to 4 ft ocean surf.

Surfed in fine, going rather fast, caught hold of the bottom as the wave dumped out and rolled over, with the kayak on top, me folded over the front deck, dragging and scrapping till the wave stopped going in. As the wave receded, the kayak acted like a dam and held back some of the receding surf. The water/sand mix blasting between me and the upside down kayak left sand in my pfd, kayak gear, and other "personal" places that I'm still clearing out.

I couldn't get the kayak off the paddle to get my hands free to pull the skirt off. While I wasn't afraid of drowning, it was without a doubt the most unpleasant experience I've ever had in my kayak. My wife was standing about 10 feet away and later told me "I thought you knew what you were doing". LOL :)

After all the "sandy" water receded, I rolled over on my side, popped the skirt, got out the yak and sat down on the beach, wishing I had some dental floss to get the sand from between my teeth.

Next time I'll try to pop out before the kayak does a complete 180. Other than that one time, have never ever come close to being trapped...

Confession time!

– Last Updated: Feb-08-04 6:48 AM EST –

I once went out on a lake in my fave boat on with my watershoes. The laces managed to wrap around the right footpeg. I did a lot of rolling practice and did not miss a one. Lucky thing! When I took my boat to the take out I could not get out. The difficulty of raising 245 pounds with only my arms and the fact that the shoe was pivoting about the lace tops rather than fixed made it impossible for me to slip out!

A sobering experience!

You can bet I check my laces and knot them so there are no tails or loops. Then I chedk them again.

I think if I were totally inverted I could have gotten my foot out, but it would not have been a happy time. I probably would have let go of my paddle to get more force and that is not a good thing!

A little clarification
When my foot was trapped, I do mean trapped. I could not move it, because in the process of starting to twist my body around upright and facing forward, the cable tightened around the foot. I had to regress and put my body back over the rear deck, prone, and ohsocarefully wiggle the foot out from its snare.

If there had been any significant water movement, I would have capsized while trying to remove the foot. Capsizing with one foot hangmaned while facing the stern end of the kayak upside down and underwater would have been disorienting, to say the least. I wonder if I would have been calm enough to think which direction to move the footpeg to loosen the cable. Hate to find out.

Common sense is all that’s necessary
If you think about it, most of the threads here that mention entrapment are in the context of preventing someone from using gear or doing something that could create such a hazard. Actual entrapment stories in sea kayaks are pretty rare. If you just follow the guidelines you mentioned, you’re right, it’s very unlikely to ever be an issue.

Practicing wet exits today
in my Chinook, I caught my shorts on an exposed bolt on the thigh brace assembly. Wasn’t snagged for long and the bolt will be changed before the next time I head out.

Plenty of stories floating around
of people having themselves stuck in kayaks. http://www.seakayakermag.com/2003/03April/Entrapment/Entrapment_09.htm

I got in the habbit of keeping my camera case between my legs while paddling. It is a small case. 8 by 11 by 4inches. One day while messing around in the surf I got messed up, failed to roll, and went to bail. Somehow my camera case became twisted and ended up right between my knees lengthwise. As I went to wet exit, the camera case prevented my knees from exiting the boat and left me half in and half out while getting pummeled by the waves. I struggled with the box for what seemed like way too long before I was able to twist it free. That sucked.

Now I place my camera case up on my lap where it doesnt have the room to fall between my legs without an intentional effort. I am hoping never to repeat that incident.

I know a lot of guys that modify there boats with below deck storage for gear inside the cockpit. Pumps, storage containers, really tight fitting outfitting, tow belts, ect… Sounds like a recipe…

I would like to see some statistics on entrapment in touring kayaks. Anybody got any?

Glad you posted your story
If I want to take photos from the 'yak, I keep a Pelican 1300 box (fairly large) right in front of the bulkhead. It does not go between my legs, but in an “incident” it certainly could slide toward me.

Since I am building my own boat and can custom outfit it, I’ll think of some way to strap it next to the BH, perhaps with a quick-release fastener for easy access when I do want to take a photo.

I had a similar
incident when my PFD got caught on the aft deck lines (leather deck lines - Lotus Low Rider PFD). I was trying hand rolls and not doing very well. I had my paddle strapped on my forward deck and I was pinned to the aft deck. That was a very bad feeling. Luckily I was in a low-volume SOF and I turned and started swimming with the boat to shore. When I got to shore I was loose. I had just minutes before practiced swimming with the boat so it was the first thing that came to mind to do. It’s damn hard not to panic in a situation like that.

I’ve tried to duplicate the snag on land but was never able to get to happen again.

Nothing should be loose in the cockpit
At least nothing larger than a hat or a pair of sunglasses or similar small objects that cannot pose an entrapment hazard. It’s not difficult to do, so why take the risk? Personally, the only thing I ever carry forward of the seat is a under-deck mounted bilge pump in some of my boats. They’re so far out of the way that I’ve never hit one in a wet exit.

Grab ball
I add one of those perforated orange practice golf balls to the grab loop. Easy to see and grab, but unlikely to cause additional snags. A carabiner sounds like a bad idea.

grab loop

– Last Updated: Feb-09-04 4:23 PM EST –

I forgot the grab loop once early on when I was first learning to roll. I was just off the beach while my family and friends were playing in the water all around me. They had no idea why I would bang on the hull. :) Like sing mentioned, I just pulled the skirt off at a corner. I had just read the article in Sea Kayaker a month or so earlier, lucky me! Without that I would not have known about that option. Good lesson though!

I think the people most likely to become trapped are often inexperienced and more likely to make mistakes like that. (and not know a solution) Then being new they may be more apt to panic as well. So I would think entrapment is a real risk for beginners.

my 2 cents. . .

'Biner Works For Me
underwater, the cheap $1 keyring 'biner shines right in front of my face. Grab me, Grab me… It calls. No, No, NO… Must resist. Swimming can lead to bad things… :wink:

I find it works fine. Also, I can clip the loop on my PFD, lifting up the skirt out of the way, when I have to use both hands on the relief zipper… :slight_smile: