Kayak Towing & Rescue

So swells arent waves? or the sizes?

dang, that’s a stable boat
just out of curiosity,this isn’t to slam you, but how many times have you done an assisted rescue on someone else in practice and what technique did you use? Has your friend ever done any rescue practice?

I would recommend you find some
classes in your area on re-entries,rescues, and incident management.

I’m finding it a bit hard to understand an “intermediate paddler” who not only doesn’t carry a tow line when paddling big water, but doesn’t know how to use one. A tow by having your friend hold onto your bow and wrapping his feet around your deck would have worked once he lost his boat. As an “intermediate” paddler, these are skills I would expect you to not only know, but to have practiced a lot as well.

If you can’t find any good local classes, another excellent resource is the DVD “Capsize Recoveries and Re-entries” by Wayne Horodowich and sold here on Paddling.net.

There is a difference between a forecast
and an observation from a buoy report. Look at the NOAA site and square that with your observations.


for me it was paddling out by a place where a tidal estuary dumped into the surf. Some days it was calm with small predictable waves and the current providing a predictable direction into calm water over the shallows. It was in that that I played with dumping in the surf and swimming and I realized I had to learn how to roll because the paddle float rescue was worthless in the conditions that would dump me to begin with.

In those waves could you get ahold of your Spectre if you wanted or were you waiting for your friend to hold onto it so you could hold it for him to get in?

Safety thoughts
The question is not the size of the surf - the larger it was, the worse you look for taking a beginner out without the equipment or training to handle the situation -

But some thoughts

  • Paddling in that kind of surf, especially for the beginner, with surfers nearby is not a good idea. Surf anywhere near the size you describe is very powerful, and you could hurt a surfer

  • It’s fun to expand your comfort zone, but the people expanding need to have enough skills not to panic (had your friend done a wet exit before?) and the mentors have to be properly equipped and have the knowledge and skill to help. That would mean an absolutely bombproof roll (so you both aren’t swimming) and a tow belt and the knowledge to use it. You should have practiced assisted rescues with this person before going out if you were not sure of his skills.

  • When you are the experienced person in the group, it is your responsibility to make sure that conditions are appropriate. The fact that your friend wanted to go further wasn’t relevant. He did not appreciate the danger (now he does).

  • I am not sure what you did when you saw him panic - it sounds like you paddled away, which is usually not a good idea. Did you have a whistle with you for emergency use? You should.

  • There are a lot of good books and lessons available on safety procedures and rescues, and if you are ever in doubt about your ability to handle the situation as leader, play it safe.

    I think people here are being critical towards you because it very predictable that your friend would both capsize and panic in the situation you describe, and it sounds like you had no plan for that scenario.

and even a difference from
a buoy report and what you’re actually paddling in if you’re not near the buoy.

Swells are made by waves that formed
hundreds if not thousands of miles away from you. Wind waves are what you were probably experiencing because last time I checked, Lake Erie did not have a fetch long enough for swells to form.

Wind waves are usually steeper than swells and can be more difficult for an inexperienced paddler to handle.

Several weeks ago I wiped out while launching through some 5-6 footers. A video can be seen here http://shurie.com/lee/video_PointDumeJuly2008_1.asp with me wiping out on what appears to be about a five footer. From the cockpit of my kayak, it looked about 20 feet high. To help put things in perspective, the kayak I was paddling is 18’ long.

long continuous waves , waves can be any disturbance in the surface with a peak, trough and length. Swells are predictable, waves can be a random collection, plural or singular.

thats cool

– Last Updated: Jul-29-08 7:51 PM EST –

enough of the wave height... they appeared to be 8 feet.. from trough to crest...

sometimes i watch the surfers and the waves are well over their head.. i ask, how big is that wave, they say 4 feet.. bc the face is twice the size of the wave..

maybe i'm wrong.. but that's the way i understand waves..

ok.. I may have misunderstood what you want to know but you are kind of upset because you took a friend out in your extra kayak and you both had a dangerous experience because he didn't have the recovery skills to get back in the kayak after it capsized in rough conditions?

this is a great thread because it reinforces rescue and recovery skills before encountering rough conditions.

i learned a few things..

but instead of thinking how to tow in someone, your frineds need to learn the basics first..

i went to the beach on a calm day and practicing rolling just past the breakers.. i should have also practiced more reentry as well even though im confident with both skills..

what you call coconuts i call bananas ;)

your post here is helping everyone

i may have misunderstood though, bc sometimes we don't have time to explain each and every aspect..

Forget the wave size
as an experienced paddler this was your fault and your responsibility. Not only are you lacking in boat rescue skills but you abviously are lacking in verbal rescue skills as well. Hopefully you learned something and luckily things didn’t get worse.

Now do your homework and learn about tow ropes. I paddle rivers and never paddle without one and I’m good at both rescues.

Don’t comment on this post. Just take the advice.

Paddlin’ on


check this out
this information is from http://www.stormsurf.com/page2/tutorials/wavebasics.shtml

“What common units of measure are applied to open ocean waves? There are two attributes used to measure open ocean waves: Height and Period. Wave height is the distance from a wave’s trough to its crest (i.e. amplitude). The crest is the top of an unbroken wave, the trough is at the bottom of the front of the wave. Wave period is the amount of time (in seconds) it takes from the moment one wave crest passes a fixed point until a second wave crest passes that same point. Typically one will hear waves described like, " It’s 5 ft @ 13 seconds”. What this means is that the average height of the largest 33% of the waves are 5 ft and that the average period (time between wave crests) of the most prevalent swell is 13 seconds. But waves measurements come in two flavors: Significant Seas and Swell. In general, if you have a choice between obtaining Significant Sea or Swell data, use Swell data. Significant Seas don’t exist in the real world from a surfing perspective. “Seas” are the combined sum of the heights of all waves present at the reporting station. Think of it as the average wave size. For example, it there is a 5 ft swell coming from the north, and a 3 ft swell coming from the south, it would be reported as a 6 ft sea. (‘Seas’ are actually the square root of the sum of the squares of all wave energy present). Add in a bunch of open-ocean chop and it really starts to skew the results. Surfers don’t typically ride two separate waves coming from two different directions simultaneously. So the seas measurement is actually overstates actual wave size.

But if you’re in a boat at sea, significant sea heights are very important. They help set an expectation concerning the size of waves you might encounter. If you’re in or near a major fetch area (a storm), waves of different heights and period momentarily combine as they pass through each other to form larger waves. It makes no difference whether it’s chop or swell. On average, about 15% of waves will equal or exceed the significant wave height. The highest 10% of waves could be 25-30% higher than the significant wave height. And on occasion (about one per hour) one can expect to see a wave nearly twice the significant wave height. And then there are rogue waves, those that exceed twice the significant wave height. For example, in 1933 the USS Ramapo reported encountering a record 112 ft wave. On September 6th 1995, the ship Teal Arrow was in the center of Hurricane Luis where central pressure was measured at 942 mbs. The ship reported sustained winds of 64 kts and later at 99 kts. Gust were 125 kts and wave heights to 50 ft were reported. But on September 11th, during the same hurricane, the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) hit a 95 ft wave 200 nmiles south of eastern Newfoundland and 120 nmiles southeast of Luis’s center. In these cases the large waves were probably the result of 2 large waves traveling at about the same speed/period momentarily combining to form one giant wave. In 1995, the QE2 was reporting significant seas of 46 ft and winds were sustained at 80 kts with gusts over 100 kts. A nearby Canadian buoy reported peak waves of 98 ft at about the same time. Clearly they were in the middle of a storm. Statistically, one would have expected the QE2 to encounter about 1 wave twice the significant sea height once per hour (46 ft x 2 = 92 ft). It is theorized that such waves don’t last for more than a minute or so, as slight differences in speed cause them to separate. And once seas escape their source, and start to travel long distances, these raw wind waves start getting groomed into swells, and their highly variable character fades. On average, most boaters encounter waves that are only about 65% the height of the reported significant sea, since most avoid storms for obvious reasons.

From a surfing perspective, rogue waves are far from the norm, since surfing is near impossible in winds over 25 kts. Perhaps the largest wave a surfer will ever encounter on any particular day is that which is reported as the significant sea height. This happens when a ground swell and a locally generated wind wave coming from the same direction converge. But swells have more energy, and are easier to catch, so they will be what most of us ride. If both a swell and reasonably long period wind waves are present, then the upper limit one might experience could approach the significant sea height. Surfers and boaters notoriously overestimate the size of the waves they encounter, and statistically, significant sea measurements help sustain that practice. But, a far better measure of unbroken waves is the Swell height and period. Swell height is the ‘average’ height of the highest 1/3 of the most energetic swells present at that reporting station (a buoy), and is most likely what one would ride if surfing near that location. Likewise, swell period is the average period of the most energetic swells. Use swell data whenever possible."

Read the rest of the page… you will see why forecasts can be wildly inaccurate.

I am not going to bust your butt
however, those didn’t look like 5-6 footers, more along the lines of 3-4 footers. In the video when you are standing down wave of your kayak (tsk, tsk) the wave looked to be about a foot over your head. If you are six feet tall and standing in waste deep water (which you were) the wave would about 4 feet.

Yeah 4’ Californian or 1.5’ Hawaiian

They always look bigger when they are landing in your lap.

You should get rid of that skinny stick and get an Onno Paddle.

You would have been outside and laughing long before you got dumped.

He drifted from the boat or vice versa 3 times… I retrieved it a few times and the last time I just gave up because he was refusing to hold on to it… I really dont know why, and he didnt know why either afterwards. On top of that it was very hard to retrieve and bring back to him. So no progress was made to get him back in. He could have done it because we practiced a wet entry before … but he just simply wasnt thinking clearly. He was just so scared being out of the boat. The last time he let go, I just simply gave up and his panick was making me want to get him to shore asap. I thought I could tow possibly or at last resort just call a tow boat. When I got to shore I just decided that with no experience towing or not knowing the proper rigging points, length of tow, etc, etc… it was not the time to learn.

yeah thats all they were… maybe 8ft was wrong, but I know they were at least 2x my torso height. It just seemed that 3 or 4 were like ranch houses, and that some guy tearing it up in a play boat said he thought a few around 8 ft. As big as the large swells were, they really arent that hard to paddle perpendicular or even horrizontal for that matter.

yes certainly :smiley:

I didnt mean to offend you bro. Im not sure how the buoy measures… is it an avg? Regardless, Im sure that some were 2X my height at least. The weather info I got was from a local yacht club in Erie.

buoy report
that report has them at around 3 ft… is that an avg? The info I got that day was at brunch at a local yacht club. It wasnt just a forecast, but a report for the Erie area. I had mentioned my desire to go paddling that day, a few people mentioned the waves and size.

more practice
I def learned that… it has sparked my desire to get out and pratice scenarios and more basisc not only with him but others. So I have more reason to tell the girlfriend I have to go paddle :smiley: