How to teach self-rescues with sit-inside, recreational kayaks that do not have perimeter lines?

I’m considering purchasing some recreational kayaks and am wondering about the possibilities of teaching beginners how to self-rescue with those boats – specifically, when the boats do not have perimeter lines.

I already have plenty of experience teaching (beginners) self-rescues with sea kayaks, using paddle floats. Some folks do well, others struggle a lot. Once, I accidentally used old sea kayaks that did not have perimeter lines, and things were much more difficult because there was little to hold the paddle-with-float in place during the self-rescue.

I’m aware that with wide SOT kayaks, a “side-scramble” self-rescue should be quite easy – similar to a self-rescue with a SUP – without even using the paddle. Correct me if I’m wrong.

I also believe that teaching self-rescues with sit-inside recreational kayaks that do have stern perimeter lines, using paddle floats, should be very similar to doing the same with sea kayaks. Correct me if I’m wrong. (Those kayaks are often called light touring kayaks. Please, do not debate where to distinguish between recreational, light touring and sea kayaks, thank you.)

I’m concerned about sit-inside recreational kayaks that do not have any perimeter lines. Complicating matters further is the fact that such kayaks often have little in the way of bow flotation so they get quit full of water when capsized. There are a large number of those types on the market. How does one “easily” self-rescue with those kayaks?

There are a couple of videos out there:

One has the kayaker hold the paddle shaft and rear coaming together in one hand (instead of sliding the blade under perimeter lines). []

Another has the kayaker wedge the paddle blade under the far-side coaming. []

Are those, or any other techniques, even possible for a beginner?

Rec kayak self rescue…one wonders if peremiter lines is the first concern.

Seems like float bags are more important. …However from Cleopatra’s Needle no peremiter lines required , maybe a tow line.

I’ve done a assisted heel hook with the assistant just leaning on the foredeck.

I’ve also put the paddle under rear bungees. Bad, but it worked. My rear deck has more than your video.


Easy. Add perimeter lines to the kayaks you buy!

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Add perimeter lines to the kayaks you buy!

Yes, that’s an option – along with adding extra buoyancy into the bow.
But it’s a lot of work for what essentially are design defects.

What kind of answer are you looking for if you already know that true rec kayaks are NOT ment for self rescue without significant mod?

Sorry, I am doing a quick response, so didn’t watch the video in question. That said, when I teach self rescues in sea kayaks, the description of the video says what I teach. We don’t put the paddle under deck lines, but instead l do the lunge up on the back deck holding the paddle and back of combing together with one hand. Once on back deck, you should have your chest on the paddle blade on the deck, which holds it in place. I find that holding down the paddle blade with deck lines or straps makes it hard when you finish t get the paddle back. Plus it requires that the boat be set up for it (many deck lines are too tight to work well as they come from the factory).

Deck lines are very helpful with a heel hook variation of paddlefloat rescue, but that isn’t a standard rescue for most.

Lack of deck lines are more of an issue with the 2 person rescue (T-rescue), but not something that would prevent a rescue from being completed.

On recreational class kayaks, I agree with the mention before that lack of deck lines likely isn’t the big problem, bu rather lack of built in flotation.


I’m not sure if most users of the “standard” recreational kayak with no or minimal flotation can successfully perform an unassisted self rescue. It would be difficult to empty enough water out and the decks (such as they are) tend to be high. I do know several people (very skilled and, at least one, a guide) who have assisted getting a paddler back into one of that type of craft and then back to shore.

Stepping up, I have seen an owner of a Hurricane Santee successfully perform a rear deck scramble and entry. Those do have a sealed rear compartment and a small sealed bow compartment.


It’s what i suspect to be true, but i don’t have experience, so am open to things i might not have thought about.

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The scenarios you describe for rec kayak rescues will be very challenging. As an instructor who likes rough water play/rescues, I occasionally “play” with scenarios you mention and am challenged to successfully complete a rec kayak reenty even in benign conditions. As others said, the lack of buoyancy is the big issue. Assuming you can successfully reenter the kayak, can you pump it dry enough to paddle before the kayak swamps again by water washing over the cockpit.

With a rec kayak, best rescue is to swim it to shore. Basically that means you should be paddling your rec kayak near shore.


Holding the paddle with paddlefloat and the rear cockpit rim is a bit difficult but will work with practice. However, without adequate floatation both bow and stern it’s generally a futile exercise. Even if you don’t end up with a Cleopatra’s needle situation, the cockpit rim will usually end up under water when the person in the water tries to reenter. A swamped rec kayak without adequate floatation will weigh hundreds of pounds and hold a vast amount of water. Even an assisted rescue is very difficult. I’ve seen skilled sea kayakers capsize themselves trying to perform a T-rescue of a swamped rec kayak.


In a rescue session last weekend at Training Camp we struggled to get a paddler with some strength and mobility issues back into a Skin-On-Frame kayak (Cape Falcon LPB). The kayak did have flotation bags but they turned out to be inadequate when the paddler flooded the kayak trying to reenter scramble or heel-hook with a single rescuer supporting. We ended up with a four boat raft to successfully get the paddler back into the kayak. (1) the empty kayak (2) the initial rescuer in the standard support position (3) another kayaker providing offside support for the first rescuer, and (4) a third rescuer positioned so that the one in the water could have support on both sides to lay back in the water & get feet back in the the kayak & then roll in. I wasn’t timing but probably at least 10 minutes or more to complete this.

In the same session we did a rescue that I hadn’t done as a rescue but have done similar playing with boats. Scenario would be where a paddler in the water would be too tired or, perhaps, have too deep a kayak to reenter at that time. The assumption was that the occupied kayak would be sitting lower in the water and the back deck would be fairly easy to climb onto. The rescuer (me in this case) is using the empty kayak for support while the swimmer climbs on my back deck and then climbs over me and back into their kayak.

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Just an overall comment - we accepted impossible rec boats in ad hoc rescue sessions our bunch ran some years ago.

It turned out to be an excellent idea, because for the most part those folks left the session understanding that they could not self-rescue in the things and needed to stay close to shore. Or get a different boat for bigger plans.

It is incredibly valuable is someone simply learns that they can’t do it.


The cheapest of rec-kayaks have no added flotation as you move up in quality you will find a rear hatch with foam bulkhead and then the next step up will have the addition of a foam block in the bow. A few longer ones will have a bulkhead at both ends.

IMO without adding additional flotation with the large cockpit openings they are not even as easy to empty of water as a canoe. Solo self rescue is going to be more than 99.9% of the people using such rec-kayaks will be able to do. To make matters worse where I live the vast number of people in the worst rec-kayaks have their required PFD stuck behind the seat or under a bungee and if separated from the boat are in big trouble. Our river is not that wide but has difficult mud banks to climb and our inland lakes most people stay close to shore in these boats when paddling solo. Being in a group of two or more is a smart strategy and where rescues start becoming more reasonable.

We have a rec-kayak an Old-Town that has stern floatation and came with a foam block. I removed the foam block and replaced it with a yoga ball that has close to 4 times the floatation and doesn’t affect the usage. I have recommended and used yoga balls for flotation as they are tough, inexpensive, low cost, hold air for years, conform to the area, come in different sizes and shapes. They come round and peanut shaped. In addition I installed a bow painter line with a small float and loop for swimming the kayak or towing it along with bringing in a capsized person all at once with a second boat. Towing a rec-kayak even half full of water is next to imposable and forget it with a full one. It is also very hard to empty and flip one that is full even at the shore line let alone in deep water alone. Floatation makes all the difference IMO. We carry a bailing pump and almost no one I have seen has had one in a rec-kayak and they are only good if the boat will remain out of the water if you can get the person back in.

This brings up my other fear with rec-kayaks as people using them don’t dress for immersion and air temps rule when they go out on the water. A second boat or a swim can bring a person and their kayak in to shore in warm water, but in colder waters say below 65-70 degrees matters get more urgent. Rec-kayaks with people not dressed for immersion even wearing a good PFD have no place on cool to cold water, but many do.

We boat as a pair one rec-kayak and one canoe both fitted with painter lines and additional flotation and we feel comfortable being able to do assisted rescues both ways or even combined if we both go in. We both have quality PFDs and hold off till we feel the water temp is right for us. We carry a stirrup setup to help in assisted rescues.


What you describe is exactly why a mix of rec and sea kayaks in an Introduction to Kayaking class is so valuable (in my opinion) for the students to see and experience the difference between kayak types.


I am surprised that some of the people there didn’t remember the rescue of skinboat where you empty the kayak and then pull it onto your kayak {My Anus Acuta hes a flat rear deck so I use that}

The now empty kayak is placed accross the rescuer’s kayak so the cockpit is centered on your kayak , and it is then held so each end sticks out and acts as an outrigger. { I just loop my arms back and pin it to my kayak} then the capsized paddler climbs on the rear deck of the rescue kayak with their kayak still on the rer deck…climbs into their kayak, fastens their skirt Aquilisaq , tuilik etc …when all is ready they seal launch off the rescue boat’s rear deck. {I liked to roll out from under them too} fun game, but effective rescue for low volume kayaks {not just limited to skin boats}

I’ve seen Chuck Smith perform that rescue in A’Tuin from Henry’s deck.

In this case the SOF is pretty high volume (Cape Falcon LPB - a longer version of the F1) and a standard rescue should work. In this case the paddler could not get a good kick to re-enter & pulled the kayak over on edge & flooded it. I don’t know the details but the paddler had a knee brace on & used a hiking pole to get around camp.

The primary rescue kayak was an Anus Acuta although the bow hatch cover had just failed. We also had a Betsie Bay & a Delphin 150 involved so no shortage of low back decks.

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Our club does assisted rescue training with folks in rec. kayaks, and even boat over boat it is sometimes tough to get all the water out. Trying to pump the water out for a solo rescue would take forever. Better off making sure that they can do an assisted rescue, and understand their limitations when paddling alone.


…exactly why a mix of rec and sea kayaks in an Introduction to Kayaking class is so valuable (in my opinion) for the students to see and experience the difference between kayak types…

Yes, in my short intro class (no rescues) at another location where there is already a mix of sea and rec boats, i point out the differences and let them choose which one to try. (But i’ve not been at any location that has both kinds of boats and teaches rescues.)

Main reason I have the rec boats attempt rescues in Intro to Kayaking classes is so hopefully rec paddlers learn how difficult rec boat rescues/self rescues are so they will choose to paddle near shore and avoid open waters.

My area has lots of open bays and barrier islands 7+ miles offshore that people can see and tempt casual paddlers. And yes, some paddle out and back in rec kayaks and/or not wearing or without PFDs. Darwin will eventually win should they attempt those open water trips often enough.

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