Kayak Towing & Rescue

lighten up.

You are asking about a very fundamental piece of equipment, tow belt, that anyone who is going out in waves that big, 3-6’, should know about. It’s like running out of gas and telling the tow truck driver, “oh, that’s what the E-F gauge is for?”

You said waves were 3’-6’,then you’re saying the forcast said they were 3’-6’. It may seem like we’re trying to trick you but we’re not. Imagine I’m taking a car to the mechanic and I’m giving information that’s not consistant and the mechanic is trying to narrow the answers down,that’s kind of what you’ve got going here. To answer your request for information about towing techniques,it opens up the context of how,when and why they’re used.

That leaves the reader with some conflicting data, most beginners (as you acknowledge yourself to be) grossly overestimate waves size. It’s not a personal attack on you, it’s a factual observation from my 20yrs of paddling and a few other old farts around here. Just like the observation that guys tend to overestimate their skills and women tend to underestimate them.

Since you didn’t know about tow belts then it would be reasonable to assume you were overestimating wave size. 3’-6’ is effing big for beginners. I don’t know Lake Erie, maybe all 3’-6’ waves get smaller at the beach but in my experience 3’-6’ waves 3/4" mile offshoure become scary ass waves at the beach. That’s why I asked about helmets.

So your information left questions, along with your friends incapacitation kind of said there’s a lot more going on here for YOU to KNOW than types of tow gear.

you can’t always get what you want, but you might get what you need

yr the one with the url
that’s a flying surfer!

sounds like it was exciting

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 5:32 PM EST –

and fun up until that point. There's gotta be a word for what you described, anywho it's a great way to learn if the water isn't cold and every one is fit, and rescue is nearby.

I'm no longer fit for that kind of learning, or young. One thing about paddling solo is that you operate according to your own comfort limits and not others. It tends to make one a bit conservative and save the risk taking for when there's some back up. That's when it becomes important to weigh risks and chose NOT to do things because someone wants to.

When I joined a club I learned a lot more but realized assisted rescue skills were garbage,,I could get myself back in my own boat ok and had a marginal roll but really couldn't facillitate others rescues because I never practiced them beyond a couple times in classes. If you only do something once or twice it's really not adequate to be able to affect a rescue in the conditions you describe.
Anywho, if you had a tow belt, everyone was nearby, communication was good, and your friend was floating ok it would have been a reasonable thing to paddle to his boat,clip his boat on your tow belt then go over to him and have him hold onto the bow of your kayak while you emptied his kayak. If he's panicing he's not going to get the support he needs from his kayak because everytime he pulls up on it it'll roll over in his hands. If he's holding onto the bow of your boat it won't destabilize you and it'll keep him holding onto something that won't roll around in his hands. More importantly you can talk him through everything you intend on doing. This is where having done this kind of basic rescue a few dozen times helps, when you're calm, the person in the water is likely to stick with you. If you are unable to direct the victim with a sense of competance/confidence then they're morel likely to follow their fears. A panicing person tries to climb on a kayak when all they need to do is hold onto one of the ends and let their pfd float them.

Here's something else to consider why your situation has so many questions to your question. A person who has dumped is just as likely to dump again, maybe they'll be calmer if it was just anxiety and they needed to break through the nervousness but if they truly are outside their skill set then they'll probably dump again. Each time you paddle back while connected to assist with their rescue is another time you risk becoming a victim. This time it's with a rope wrapped around you and him. Trying to tow a flooded kayak is near impossible, trying to tow a body is near impossible, trying to tow a person laying on your back deck is very dificult.
How about this, get that tow belt, then practice assisted and solo rescues in milder conditions with waves THEN do the same with the tow rig.

he did have a pfd on didn't he?

check it out, google is your friend

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 5:22 PM EST –

if you google around you'll start to notice that rescue techniques are an entire section in basic to advanced classses.

Your question "share the knowledge" is kind of broad given your starting point but it's a good opener for folks to share their experience. That's why I recommended Deep Trouble, it's accident reports, like yours, that provide real life scenarios to learn from and not just "you should do this, this and this".

It's funny how you really learn the limits to what you've learned when the shit hits the fan. I was paddling for two years and never really had to self-rescue in dicey conditions. Then when I paddled with the club I was with a group of six paddlers outside a bay and it was 5' swells, measuring trough to peak. When you're down,,there's nothing but sky above you and when you're up you can see the shore cliffs and your buddies(sort of). At the point we were at the waves reflected and added/subtracted giving some big rises and falls. My friend was in a spot where all of a sudden he's 5' above me at 20' away then the combined waves fell and he's 3' below me. He was so surprised by the sudden fall that he simple rolled/fell right out of his kayak. So I paddle up parallel to next to his kayak bow to bow and he's holding both bows and I can't remember,,"ok,,I should get his bow to my hands and he should hold the stern and push down"(that's how I was taught),,he can tell I'm not moving fast and yells "HURRY UP IT"S COLD HERE!!". At which point I said "just come on in and we'll pump it out". Which he did. And we did. That's when it was screaming obvious to me that I really needed to practice rescues. Five years later I'm teaching basic sea kayaking and I could do that rescue in five seconds but at the time I didn't have it down second nature. I'd also had the experience of talking people in panic through a rescue and getting them to shore. You give them one thing they can do and don't make them an essential part of the rescue. If they have a pfd on snug then all they need to do is hold the toggle with one or two hands and wait.


Lee, the 3 things I reduce by half are
reports of gas mileage, sex partners and wave height.



8 foot waves
Sit on the floor of a normal room in a house with an 8’ ceilings. Now imagine yourself in the trough of a wave and the top of the wave is as high as the ceiling.

“I’ve been with dozens of women…”

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 5:35 PM EST –

I think...I mean I think I was there

"doing well, about to turn around…and."
that line is mighty common when folks are in over their heads. It’s like heading out where the wind is known to be 10-15mph in one direction,and deciding to go with it because it’s easier but discover that the trip back is twice as hard. Sounds like you guys were heading into the waves and were about to come back with them?

I’m guessing that the rudder was necessary for him to point the kayak where he needed to go. That’s when things went south,it wasn’t when he panicked, it wasn’t that he fell over fiddling with the rudder. It’s that he’s in a kayak where the rudder is necessary to control the kayak for waves off the stern. Next time find a wider boat for him for those conditions. Aint nuthin’ wrong with staying in the boat. I had a 24"x15 necky Swallow for a couple years because I was solo paddling and did NOT want to be in cold Pacific water by myself.

Oh you were in a lake …sorry
Did not make sense there were 8 ft waves on a lake anywhere in the US yesterday… did not even think that was possible, sorry for implying you might actually be paddling on the open ocean coast.

From the buoy data there was a 3 ft wave several days ago however… yesterday it never got above 0.3 meters.

2008 07 23 18 50 350 8.0 9.0 1.1 meter

Paddle on Action Man.

Im 100 % sure about the size

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 11:54 PM EST –

Im positive they were at least 6 ft. The marine forecast listed 3-6 ft... other paddlers said some of the swells were around 8ft, and I am pretty sure a few we went over were around 7-8 ft. Just because I dont know about a tow rope doesnt mean I am overestimating the conditions or dont know how to paddle. There was a small craft advisory in affect. Ive done it a bunch before and I will continue to do paddle those conditions. There was like 5 other paddlers in the area and a couple people surfing.

The funny thing is, once I paddled past the break zone it really wasnt anything crazy. Some of you "know it alls" probably dont have the coconuts to do it and are jealous or something. You make it sound like I was paddling in a hurricane. I paddle the waves all the time, and spend a lot of time out on the lake. I am probably better at estimating waves then most paddlers because I spend a lot of time paddling them.

Maybe I was wrong for saying the waves were 8 ft, but I thought the swells farther out were just considered waves.

Had my friend just held on to the boat, I could have towed him and the boat back no problem if he couldnt re-enter. All we were doing was paddling directly into the waves and turning around. I should have had a rope or belt, but I didnt think he would panic.

Anywho, just to clarify... the waves were breaking on shore around 3-4 ft... a little out further some 6 footers were breaking. Only the swells seemed to be about 8 ft. And those were few... most of the paddling was on 3-4 ft waves and swells. But I am going to mention the big waves becasue they were there.

Man, is this really crazy to some of you guys? Ive been paddling for about 2 yrs and I started hittin the waves this size last season. Give me a break its not that crazy.

That’s me… Wave Envy

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:14 PM EST –

"Some of you "know it alls" probably dont have the coconuts to do it and are jealous or something."

I'm jealous of those Lake Erie giant swells.


Does anyone smell some Coffee around here?

coconut fortitude

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:21 PM EST –

you went paddling, your friend fell out of his boat and someone else had to rescue him and his boat. That's not coconut fortitude, that's getting rescued and you not being able to do jack shit for him. You really would not be able to tow him and his boat while he's in the water if the wind was blowing against you. He has to be in his boat and able to prevent himself from going over for towing to be worthwhile.
If you get a towbelt get a means for cutting the line.

As far as there being "know it alls" here,,just think, if you didn't ask they wouldn't appear.

Ok,,back to something that has come up in conversation,,this really is worth getting a reality check on, not to prove you wrong or right but to get some ground reality going. Like tow belts are things you wear and can release, like being able to do a rescue IN THE CONDITIONS you paddle is a fundamental for playing. Not learning, but playing. If you are learning be straight up about it and don't include friends in your learning experience, make it productive and fun, and safe.

When I think of 3' waves they are a foot above my head, trough to peak 3' and I can't see the horizon every time I dip down. Most folks I've met who talk about 3' waves are really talking about waves where their head is still over the wave tops. 5' waves and I'm on small hills.

Just out of curiosity were the wave tops breaking or blowing off or did your friend simply fall out because the waves were too big?

most of the time the great lakes are fairly calm, you can tell me Im wrong all you want, but I know I am right. Why would the local marine forecast list them at 3-6 ft? They seemed like 3-6 ft to me? Hmmmmm?

no, worng there too

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:30 PM EST –

I towed him back most of the way as he held on, the life gaurds came out just to make sure he was OK.

But he didnt tip due to the waves, once we paddled past the break zone it was just like paddling over big hills. They were def 6ft, I only mentioned 8 ft because other paddlers had said some were around that size. And some really seemed to be about 3 x the size of my head.

Anyway, Im done arguing about wave size... the marine forecast was my gauge.


– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:31 PM EST –

you left that part out. Towing someone for 1/2mile in 3-6" waves takes some big coconuts. See how easy it is to not have the whole picture? What did he hold onto? Did he have any problems keeping his pfd on? I find most beginners don't have them on tight enough and they're up around their necks.

what kind of kayaks do you have? Did you know if your friend knew how to do an assisted rescue?


– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:36 PM EST –

Im not trying to be a dik about it, but the damn marine forecast even said those numbers and people are trying to say I am wrong.

he was holding on to the the rear carrying strap, I had him lie on his back. The wind was directy at my back so it wasnt anything insane, we actually moved along at a fairly steady pace.

I paddle a Perception Eclipse 17' and I also have a Dagger Specter.

no one says it’s crazy
the waves are what they are. It’s crazy to go out in those conditions if you don’t KNOW if the person you’re paddling with can handle them. He fits the description I gave earlier that men tend to overestimate their capabilities. You wanted to stay in the bay but he wanted to head out and he dumped it. You seem surprised that he panicked,what was his feedback later on at the beach about what went right/wrong? This is a learning opportunity for all of here on the forum.

he was in the Eclipse?


– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 6:47 PM EST –

All I wanted to do was stay about 200-300 yrds off shore. There were people surfing out that far. After he paddling the break zone a few times and was looking ok, only then did we decide to paddle out a bit. We were right at the point to where I felt we should turn around.

And you're right, this was a great lesson and it has made me realize I want to practice towing and rescue scenarios in rough water.

Oh, and after the incident, he admitted he panicked and refused to listen to me. He said he could have held on to the boat and felt bad that he acted the way he did.

He was paddling the dagger specter 15’