Kayaks getting blown away

I hear about this often when there is a rescue. Kayak and paddler separated, offshore wind, kayak leaves faster than you can swim, now you’re a swimmer too far away from land (or in bad conditions) to swim in.

I’ve also read about leashing your paddle to a bowline so that if you are separated in windy conditions the paddle acts as a bit of an wind anchor (is that the right term?) as well as turning the kayak bow into the wind and reducing the chance of it doing a fast exit.

Is this actually effective? Does any one use this technique and has it ever been test to work for you? Or is it just another myth?

Most quality paddles are vey light and float. They wouldn’t provide much drag for a loose kayak However, they would keep the paddle with the boat.

If you lose hold of your boat the direction that it is pointing will not matter, as the boat will end up in the position that it wants to be in short order.

In my experience most paddlers don’t use a tether. A number of people fear entanglement, which I have never heard of actually happening with a short tether, although I suppose it could happen. I use a short tether clipped to my bungees on my front deck. I figure that as long as I have hold of my boat or paddle, I have both. I also like that taking a break or taking a part in an assisted rescue, I can just toss the paddle over the side and not worry about it.

I would not recommend a tether for white water or surf where there would probably be more of an issue of entanglement.

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My priority is to never leave the cockpit until I’m going ashore. Yeah I know things happen, but that can be effectively controlled by one’s judgement to avoid getting into a pickle that you are not prepared to deal with.

I used to be into sailboats–big and small. The big ones are not likely to put you in the water under normal sailing conditions. Smaller sailboats are a color of a different horse. Anyway, I had a few occasions sailing where I did end up in the water with a boat that was unmanageable. I didn’t like it when that happened in the winter time. I guess that was the incentive to learn to stay seated and brace up, or just lay back and usually at least my sea kayaks will right themselves instantly.

The few times when conditions changed too quickly to avoid really big stuff, the boat somehow got me through it. I will admit that for me it took a rather long time and a lot of experience where I had complete faith in the boat and myself to avoid having to deal with swimming. That’s not to say that I can’t swim.

I do believe that it is a good idea to tether your paddle to the boat, but in all the years of paddling, I’ve only dropped the paddle once.

It’s always a good idea to stay in the kayak if possible {it’s the largest PFD you have with} Much easier to stay in rather than have to get back in. {sometimes you do get sucked out…bummer time} Lazy paddlers learn how to roll so they don’t have to get back in a perfectly good kayak just to make it in. It’s a lot less work.

It sves a lot of hassle to just stay in the kayak {if possible} …The easiest way is hard enough…

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Didn’t work for me. I tried it various positioning of the tethered paddle in the water, to act as a “sea anchor”, with my Hornbeck pack canoe (gloried open cockpit kayak). Basically, I was trying to “drift fish” in 15-20 mph wind along a certain length of shore line that I knew held fish consistently. I tried with paddle tethered parallel to the Hornbeck 12’, then to the bow, and then to the stern (OF COURSE, I have a spare paddle inside the boat, if you were wondering.) Suffice to say, the shoreline kepting zipping by faster than I wanted for fishing thoroughly. I had to repeatedly paddle back upwind to make sure I have enough passes to be satisfied. Now, I wasn’t swimming outside of the Hornbeck. But, I seriously doubt I would be able to swim as fast to catch up with the boat, especially with a PFD on. Ultimately, as much as I like the Hornbeck, the drift fish experiences convinced me to buy a pre-owned Hobie (pedal) kayak. Now, I can control the speed of a drift with pedaling, while having my hands free to fishing thoroughly.

Separation from the boat – this is serious stuff not to be taken lightly. It’s happened to me a couple of times in overhead, dawn patrol surf sessions, where the surf kayak got torn out of my grip by wave action. It’s a long, long, lonely swim back in, especially in winter conditions. You block your mind to negatively and focus solely on swimming and body surfing back in, one stroke and/or one wave at a time… That’s why the smarter (then me) and more experienced paddlers here will tell you to know your skills/conditioning and to paddle with good partner(s) in more adventuresome conditions. No joke.



As mentioned by others, the rules can be different in the surf zone. But it is similar to white water in that people most commonly are with others, so retrieval of boats and gear can be a shared.

The first, second and last thing that you must learn in open water kayaking is to always keep a leg in the boat when you do a wet exit. Because of my claustrophobic response when first learning to roll I got a tremendous amount of practice at this. Your leg/body will hold the boat better than anything else you can do and the boat will run away a bit more slowly upside down than right side up. Though many a paddler including my family members have watched their boats run away from home with surprising speed sitting upside down in the water.

That is why in training they clock how long it takes to do a re-entry - my recall is that it had to happen within 2 minutes for BCU star awards. Because the longer the swimmer takes to get back in the boat, the higher the risk that they will let go of the boat and it’ll fly. And some basics, like having perimeter lines to hang onto lest the first lunge at getting the body over the boat is a fail.

The paddle float heel hook re-entry does have the paddler letting go of the perimeter line, but keeps the leg in and can be a very fast motion back into the boat.

I am sure there are situations where someone has found that they were able to hang onto a boat by the saving grace of a tether, and yes strictly speaking a tethered paddle would help turn a boat into the wind. But I also suspect that in many cases it was because the paddler also had the good habit of never letting go of their paddle.

Also, talking open salty water, wind becomes irrelevant if the capsize happens with a tidal flow significant enough to start bending over buoys. Then the tide will take the boat and the paddler, but possibly at different rates.

This could be tested out by finding a lake with a stiff wind blowing towards shore. Go out and capsize with paddle and tether, release the boat then see if as a swimmer you can beat the boat to the shoreline. I am pretty sure the boat would beat me.


Tethering the paddle to the boat is a mistake; if anything, you want the paddle tethered to you (I prefer not to use tethers at all). A paddle is a very good swimming aid and if you lose your boat, you’re likely to be in for a long swim. Practice swimming with a paddle and you’ll see.

The bottom line is that you need to practice hanging on to both your boat and your paddle. Relying on a tether rather than practiced skills is a bad idea.