Here we go again-1st capsize!

I went out to the beach again today…Pretty windy with 2 and 3 foot swells. For those of you that read a previous post of mine where I described some ahem…difficulty…with staying upright and keeping some semblance of control, I am afraid that I really can’t report a whole lot of progress. I was more comfortable though overall.

My surf launch was infinitely better than last times debacle but again the surf behaved a bit better…Lots of surf and soup getting out past the sand bar, no seasickness, and I was feeling pretty good about everything. I was able to turn a bit, and lean a bit between swells, and while still pretty leery with it all, I managed to stay upright.

On the way back in I got yet another very cold dose of reality. Waves coming from behind and left (don’t know the nautical terms and don’t feel like looking it up) and I am trying to lean into the waves and as they were pretty steep, leaning way back to keep some weight off the bow. I managed to sort of surf in a ways but still very uncomfortable with it all and I stopped paying attention for just a moment…

I capsized the boat. I was thinking as I capsized…ok roll back up and lets get on with it…and the nylon skirt pops off (neoprene will be purchased this week!) and I am basically ejected from the boat? (I thought I was pretty firmly in there but obviously I let loose with the knees and thighs as I was going over…ok so much for my highly touted roll… so then I think ok…re-enter and roll…boat is so full of water that I roll it upside down and then lift the bow kicking upwards and trying to flip it over…wouldn’t flip…got most of the water out but the waves were just too high, badly spaced, etc…so I turn it over with some water still in it…about a third, and decide to do a paddle float re-entry. (My wife is telling me now that the lifeguard is watching intently and a couple of surfers were looking on.

I get the paddle float out and managed to blow up one side (big mistake) and then spent a few moments trying to get it into the blade and promptly lost the boat!. so now I am trying to swim with a half inflated paddle float and paddle in one hand (not attached) and the boat just keeps getting farther and farther away… I make the dcision to leave the paddle and I managed to just grasp the safety lines of the tempest and then I tow it back to the paddle. (I had a spare on the deck but I figured I could make it back to the paddle)

Now I remember some of what I have read and hook my foot into the cockpit and deflate the float, place it on the paddle, and then inflated both sides. at this point it was cake as I had practiced repeatedly the paddle float rescue so I get back in my boat and stayed upright.

so I am finally back in my boat and the paddle float is on the paddle on the left side. I reach behind me to get the pump out from behind my seat and it is stuck! I can’t get it out for nothing! I used my sponge and got maybe a couple of gallons out and the boat was sort of ok…so I reach back to get the spray skirt and it is under me!..not funny. I can’t possibly get it set up right without leaving the boat again which I was not going to do!..I deflated one side of the paddle float and threw it in the bottom of the kayak floating with my sponge and basically, made it into shore very carefully.

so what did I learn?

My real attempt at rescue had absolutely nothing to do with any training in a pool or lake. (well the paddle float rescue but I am talking about physical and mental conditions) but the things that happened like losing the paddle, watching the boat get carried off by a wave as it is much lighter than you are at that point, and trying to lift the bow and flip at the same time, were very frustrating in the conditions I was in.

I am pretty calm in the face of crisis…I have my reactions later…so that has to account for me not having to swim for shore and finding the boat later, but by god I did some really stupid things!

  1. my pump was inaccessible behind the seat.

  2. I let go of the boat! I let go of my paddle!

  3. Nylon spray skirts are not a good idea in swells and surf.

  4. I stopped paying attention (several times obviously…1st capsize, paddle, paddle float, boat…)

  5. I should have done the re-enter and roll anyway or at least done a paddle float roll since Ihad the damned thing on the paddle anyway.

    things I did right:

  6. had a pfd on

  7. stayed in a supervised area with lifeguards and plenty of boats nearby.

  8. used a rescue technique (admittedly not the roll I would have wanted to use) but I got back in my boat!

  9. I stayed calm and made some decisions, got the boat and myself back to shore safely. (Well until my wife got a hold of me! That was definitely not pretty!) (I should have stayed out on the water until she cooled off.)

    Another notch on the lessons/experiences of kayaking I guess. You can get comfortable…but can never be inattentive or mother nature will slap you up the side of the head hard.


Nicely done and nicely said. It just
aint never real until it’s real!

Some Suggestions!!

Following is a list of suggestions that can help.

  1. Take lessons from a professional kayak instructor.

  2. Purchase Wayne Horodowich’s excellent video, "Capsize Recoveries and Re-enty Procedures Volume 1 & 2

  3. Paddle with some experienced paddlers who can help show you a better way to do things.

  4. Continue to practice your skills.

  5. Take more lessons

    Good luck

Reading Your Report
I could not help but think that that could have been me. I have launched and played in the surf three times so far. I have picked particularly calm, low surf days to practice.

My experience so far includes more capsizes both planned and unplanned. I have tried to do some planned capsizes as a wave washes under in order to get familiar with rolling up. I obviously need lots more work as the times Ive capsized not wanting to Ive had to do a re-entry.

I favor a nylon skirt due to temps but I cut off the suspenders and cinch it down at my waist instead of my chest.

We dont have life guards here and we are not allowed to kayak in the swimming areas. So, I have a spotter on the beach when I am practicing. I did find a spot that has a sandbar offshore of the beach so that the waves break twice. I have been using the offshore set to practice in.


You were starting to feel a bit more comfortable and let your guard down a little too far.

The first time in surf you were a little too tense, this time you got a little too loose. There is a middle way, this is where you will find success. (You’re getting warmer!)

Once again, you have learned how quickly things can go wrong and get VERY complicated. This is good, it’s all good (in a protected situation).

You will soon come to understand why many people on this site are so adamant about safety issues.

Learn on!

p.s. They were “following seas” and waves quartering on the stern.


My $.01 is that unless we capsize a few times…we never acquire rock solid, yet relaxed…balance in rough conditions.

You might want to alert the lifeguard
That you are working on learning to paddle. Let them know you want to work on rescues etc so someone does not call the calvary to come to your aid. Let them know if the kayak is upside down, with nobody swimming you might need help, otherwise you’ll wave a paddle or an arm and wave for help. One weekend when it was pretty crowded I was trying to roll a sit-on-top kayak and some tourists thought that I was in big trouble and called the lifeguards.

Another fun day!
As long as you made it back, it was all a good learning experience. As you repeat the exercises over and over you will find that doing the right things becomes second nature.

In the surf where you are, you might want to consider a paddle leash. Also, in my experience you won’t have much luck overcoming the suction of the cockpit or lifting the bow to get most of the water out. When paddling solo, make your main concern getting back into the boat. Then use the assembled paddle float for support while you pump. If the waves are coming over the combing, put the sprayskirt on, leaving a gap on the lee side for the pump. All good things to practice before going out into the surf. :slight_smile:

Keep having fun & be safe!

taking more lessons etc.
I am taking lessons (believe it or not). Katrina kinda put a damper on it for this wekend but will be re-scheduling for October. thanks for the two videos…will definitely order them. I take every single opportunity to go out with more experienced paddlers and try to learn from them as much as possible. Just not too many opportunities unfortunately.

Somebody mentioned that I should have talked to the lifeguard before going out. I forgot to say that I did talk with the lifeguard and let him know that I was going to be probably rolling and to not get too interested unless he saw me waving to him. I do this for two reasons…I am still learning how to read tide charts and I want to know about any currents or rips before i go out. As a matter of fact I had to stop myself from waving to my wife to indidcate that I was all right because I knew the lifeguard would come running.


Paddle Float Suggestion
Perhaps you should consider a ridgid paddle float. It could have saved you time by not having to blow up the traditional float. Just a suggestion. FishHawk

Good Job

– Last Updated: Aug-29-05 9:40 AM EST –

You probably did better than I would have in the same circumstances and my guess is that I have more time in the saddle than you. In fact, we are making next season the one to seek surf because of how easily it can wreck your carefully cultivated skills.

So one or two things didn't go right, you figured it out and still got back in OK, and were in a carefully planned environment to do it. If I am guessing right that your wife is basically a non-paddler who does not view this stuff with a robust sense of humor, it may be that the only thing you did "wrong" was to have her as an observer while you are still going thru this messy stage.

I have one of those rigid foam floats, and have to agree that it beats the heck out of the blow-up versions when you are in an environment that makes managing the boat and the paddle difficult whgile you inflate the thing. It also behaves better than most blow-up ones as a practice tool for some skills, in fact I know someone who got one just for that purpose. But you should check out your deck rigging. While my Vela already came with enough RDF's to leave it in an accessible place on my deck that was still secure, I had to have custom deck fittings added to my Explorer to hold it in the same place.

As to the pump location - I can't remeber for sure but I think it is Wayne Horodowitch who says in a video that he changed to having his pump on the deck because he needed it once in slop and it was a dangerous situation to open the skirt. Or, if you really like messing in surf, have a foot pump installed.

On the skirt, the Kokatat neo skirts have a knee-off strap that should make emergency exits a lot easier. I'd suggest you look for a feature like that in skirts if you want to play in surf. It doesn't cost any more but adds a huge safety margin.

good point but the

– Last Updated: Aug-29-05 8:07 AM EST –

only drawback is that I am really making an attempt to keep the decks clear. (I realize that it did me no good trying to get the pump out in this case, but the paddle float was easy to unroll) Another point is that I had a spare paddle float in the day hatch (which again is pretty stupid as I would have had to open it in waves to get to..)
I ordered the Northwater under deck bag and I will be able to keep the pump on top of that between the bag and the hull. this will make life a lot easier. I can keep the spare paddle float in the bag also. I will be getting the neoprene skirt this week so that should eliminate the loose hanging waterlogged nylon spray skirt I ended up sitting on.
something else that just occurred to me in so far as my rescue attempts. I currently have a Stearns Wallmart pfd (not the vest but the three piece foam squares that buckle in the front. While I keep it very tight, and it did the job, I realize now that I have almost too much flotation too high. A pfd with a flotation point a bit lower will facilitate re-enter and rolls as I will have a bit more weight on the bottom (upside down) and the pfd will help keep me in the boat better..(not sure I explained this well)..
Anyway, I think I might get the rigid paddle float anyway..looking at them on the web, they don't seem as if they would cause much of an issue with the deck and I could keep it directly behind the cockpit where it would be very accessible. the only thing I can think of with the rigging on the tempest 170 is that I may need to add another small piece of bungie material to really keep the float secure but still easy enough to detatch.
Never heard of the knee strap release. I am getting the skirt and pfd from greyak this week, the dragon neoprene and the Lotus (equivalent to the P rescue series?) pfd. So look out ocean!
My wife likes to paddle on the lakes..calm waters..she was not impressed with my shenanigans and after getting over yelling at me for being stupid, I then got yelled at for being unskilled!...can't win. "yes m'am, no m'am, I promise to do better next time" eventually worked. for now.


I commend you for going out there and testing your limits within the safety margin of having someone on shore making sure you are ok. Because I tend to get rather sea sick in swells, I stay away from ocean paddling but did do alot of what you are trying to do at the beginning of my kayaking adventures. I found out that paddle float self rescues are almost impossible in really bad situations and down right dangerous if the water is very cold. Luckily, we don’t have to deal with cold water in south FL but conditions do get dangerous at times. The pump is also not easy to use in such situations and if I were going to be an ocean paddler, my boat would be rigged with a foot operated pump instead of a hand pump. Secondly, I would really make sure to work on rolling the boat upright rather than rely on a paddle float self rescue.

So, I have been paddling for about 10 years and stick to coastal estuary paddling and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas where swells are not as bad as the Atlantic side. This winter, check out paddling from Everglades City or Chokoloskee for a change of pace from east coast. I think your wife would probably enjoy that kind of paddling from what you write and you won’t get sea sick…

One Piece Of Advice
I am awed and humbled by your fast track learning and intestinal fortitude, and I’m amazed that I am able to offer some advice.

When you do your paddle float recovery, and you’re laying with your belly on the back deck, pull up your skirt in the back. This way you won’t end up sitting on it when you’re done. I’ve found it to be a very good thing.

Godd luck and be careful…Lou

I have heard too many experienced …
kayakers on this forum constantly saying that the decks should be clear, and I say BS to that!

I keep my bilge pump on the front deck under bungees. In a self rescue it is right where I can get it once I am back in the cockpit. There is no need to turn around or go hunting for it.

I have tumbled in the surf while playing many times, and it has never come loose.

I keep my paddle float on the rear deck, right behind the cockpit under a bungee right where it should be, (that is the area I will be working at when I put it on the paddle).



Knee-Off Strap, Float
It’s a moot point if you have a skirt lined up, but you may want to keep it in mind for down the road. In fact I don’t see any reason you couldn’t take a skirt without it to the local shoe repair guy with a strap tacked into position and ask them to sew it on. (I meant to do for one of my skirts last winter and never got around to it, will this year.)

What I meant was a strap that runs sideways across the front of the skirt, within range of where your knees would come if you lifted them up. (or down if you were flipped over) It is set up so that, as pressure on it increases, it’ll start to pull the skirt off from the sides. So if for whatever reason finding the grab loop is a problem, you can pretty much push yourself out of the boat.

There is also the option of grabbing some material in your hand(s) on each side, near but not on the coaming, and lifting it up. That’ll usually get a neo skirt off from the side if it’s not super tight.

The one thing that becomes messy with the big foam floats is if you start doing some of the Greenland back deck stuff, where you really want to be very much snugged up to the back deck, you’ll find it gets in your way. And it really does not work well on the front deck, since that’s where things like charts, GPS units and short tows best go. I probably will be carving myself a new float from building insulation over the next few weeks because of a back deck roll I am working on. But my big red foam float will remain invaluable for a lot of other purposes.

building insulation?
could you elaborate on that please?


At this rate…
… you’re really going to learn fast! Sounds like a perfect day and place for all you experienced.

People who remember to keep hold of boat and paddle at all times have likely lost them for a bit at some point too. People who consistently roll up in any situation (not me - I haven’t been aggressively testing lately like you!) have no doubt bailed many times along the way.

I’d say you’ve haven’t made any mistakes so far - just done some very good testing of yourself and your gear.

Speaking of gear - you’ll always get a mix of suggestions. To all that I say - see for yourself.

JackL likes stuff on deck where he can get it - I rarely use it don’t need to see it all day. I prefer it stowed but still very easily accessible if needed (if I really need to pump odds are pretty good my skirts been open already at some point). Anyway, let your experiences shape your own choices as we have.

Skirt with strap across the knees added? That really depends on the coaming, fit, skirt construction, and use. Mine’s very easy to get off (with or without grab loop) so it wouldn’t be needed. On a super tight heavy duty WW skirt - might be just the thing.

Foam float? When firt using a float the arguments for foam seemed worth checking out so I did. I found it too bulky for something I rarely use. They also offer less buoyancy than inflatables. The extra speed and reliability is important in frigid waters - but down here we have all the time we care to take - and the extra time in the water is usually good to get your bearings, assess things, and mostly just to cool off! I sold my foam float to someone in Alaska! I haven’t used my other float at all in a year - but then I’m not on the fast track like you. Note that I do always carry it. I did practice several times with it at first, and used it once “for real” in about 3’ stuff.

BTW - If any of the gear I have doesn’t work out I’ll buy it back. I don’t mind having decent backup gear. I can’t remember how my skirt fit when I tried it on your boat. I know it’s the right size - just trying to remember how easy it went on and off. Since I didn’t notice - must be about like on mine. Stayed on fine rolling. You’ll have to go get trashed in the surf and see if it stays on there. To deal with heat I just leave the front open on calmer waters. Waves will take care of the cooling otherwise. I find neo deck much easier to get on and of as it holds it’s shape and isn’t as slick as nylon.

As for paddling with more experienced paddlers - maybe a couple of the folks you met at Oleta? A few are known to seek out surf play and do the rougher inlets on interesting days. I wouldn’t put myself in the “experienced” group - particularly not in surf zone, and while I like my boat in textured stuff - I prefer it outside the breaking stuff. It’s got too much LWL to be a playboat. Need to take out my neglected Tsunami X-1 on a sloppy day though…

Home made Paddle float
You can make a good serviceable paddle float out of a old bogie board. I cut mine to the shape of my rear hatch so that it would just fit in the hatch opening. Then rounded all the edges for a nice clean look. I taped the whole thing with a good quality duct tape, then painted it with plastic drip. To hold the float in place I used a couple of one inch straps with buckles, and riveted them to the deck. The whole set up should look like a hurricane cover for you hatch. I did this on both the front and rear hatches. So I would have a spare float, just in case. I also found that by cinching down my floats, my hatches also no longer leak, a big plus. Now you have a paddle float, and hurricane cover all in one, that won’t get in the way. Hope this helps.

Bldg Insulation
I can check with my husband on what it’s called, but that’s its purpose. It is the insulating stiff foam intended to put over (I think) the outer walls of a building on one side or the other of the vapor barrier. It comes in a couple of widths, sheets 8’ tall by I think 4’ wide, the stuff we have is light blue in color. It won’t absorb water and it’s cheap enough to buy a whole sheet, share it with friends and still have enough to make some mistakes yourself. It’ll shape similarly to minicell, cuts with a knife, and since it is so cheap it’s not big deal to replace your float if it breaks. You can use duct tape or stretch velcro staps to get strips that’ll hold it once you slide it over the paddle blade.

It isn’t as secure as something you’d buy with a clip and all on it, but as you get better and need less floatation it’s fine for the purpose. best thing is that you can just shape a piece to fit under your deck rigging and fit your paddle very well, and it lies fairly flat along the deck.