Minor observations, notes, and a couple of questions from yesterday's paddle (focused on re-entry)

The last couple of outings have been mostly dedicated to practicing some things which I should practice more regularly than I do (solo re-entries). I usually take plenty of notes when I go out and go over them the next day. Here is a sampling from this weekend.

I have come to prefer face masks to noseplugs when practicing rolls. Noseplugs, and I’ve tried many different ones, just don’t stay on my nose very well. In contrast, I never worry about my face mask coming off. One thing about facemasks though is that even with a floating strap (at least the one I had), I can not count on them to float well enough to not lose them if I toss them in the water. I verified that mine floated and then at some point, maybe during a cowboy scramble or something, tossed it off my head next to my boat thinking I would retrieve it in a minute or so. Never saw it again. I think it was maybe more neutrally buoyant than positively buoyant and was just hanging in the water column just below the surface. I paddled back and forth for quite a while in the calm lake cove where I tossed them but never found them.

I tried the paddle float re-entry as I was originally taught it (paddler behind the paddle) and also a heel hook (with the paddler in front of the paddle). Looking at videos of these rescues on the web, I am surprised how little standardization there is. It seems that there are as many variations as there are instructors. I also did some cowboy scrambles and re-entry and rolls. The R&R’s were far superior in my view. As described below, they were easier on my 62 year old body, and more reliable than the other methods…and quicker (no need to inflate a paddle float or secure it to paddle). The main things I have to remember for the R&R is to setup on the correct side of my kayak (for me, I need to setup with the kayak to my right with the paddle in my left hand), and to take a moment or two or three to compose myself and think through what I am about to do, and to make sure I have situated myself in my boat correctly w feet on footpegs before I try to roll up. I generally find it easier to put my head in the boat facing rearwards and then sort of summersault into position as opposed to laying boat on side and sliding in feet first. YMMV as they say.

At one point during a cowboy scramble, as I was pulling myself towards the cockpit with my legs splayed out to the side, I started experiencing some pain in my hip joint which caused me to just stop and wait to see if it would subside before proceeding. Probably an older guy thing and it did go away after a few moments but for me, it’s another reason to prefer the R&R. Also, even on flat water, I have found during this and other outings, that the cowboy scramble for me is kind of hit or miss. I think I had more success in my previous boat but in my current boat, I really have to contend with the tendency of the boat to rotate back on its side during the initial stages when I’m trying to pivot my body such that I’m pointing towards the bow.

During one of the paddle float re-entries, after launching onto the deck, I re-aggravated an old rib (or probably some soft tissue) injury. I had a small but hard plastic bottle of bug spray in my PFD pocket, and as I plopped onto the deck, all my weight got put on that. Nothing terrible, but I’m feeling it during certain motions today (the day after) and will be taking some ibuprofen for the next week or so I think. I moved the bottle to a different location but it got me thinking about having some sort of rear pocket on a PFD. I feel like I remember seeing some coaches/instructors with something like that a number of years ago now. Did I imagine that?

Also, during the heel hook re-entry, I’ve been getting my finger pressed between the deck line that I’m holding onto and the paddle and the deck. I actually ended up with a pretty nice finger bruise last week. Better, more practiced technique would probably fix that but one other thing I noticed with the heel hook method (at least as I performed it) is that I’ve been getting a god-awful amount of water in my boat - much more than when I launch onto the deck from behind the paddle. My guess is that when I go up onto the deck from a more rearward position, I’m raising the middle part of the kayak away from the water so even if the boat rotates a bit (which it always does), the side of the coaming isn’t going to go as deep into the water, so it won’t scoop up as much water. So anyway, I’m a fan of the re-entry and roll.

One last note is that I tried a tip, some might call it a hack, I saw somewhere else a few weeks ago and that is to deflate your paddle float by putting it on the blade, opening up the valve, and slowly submersing the float so that water pressure pushes out the air. Works very well.


Nice review of your practice yesterday. Your practice routine should be conducted by all paddlers at least once or twice a year if one regularly paddles beyond easy swimming distance to a shore.

The scramble is not easy for most. None of us practice it enough. And, stuff in PFD pockets get in the way in many ways…we need to evaluate what really should be in a pocket when we paddle.

It took me a couple minutes to envision your version of the reeenter & roll. If it works for you, keep doing it. I’ll try it for fun later this week.

Only issue I can see with your paddle float submersion technique to get the air out is, when I’ve did that, water got into the air bladder and it grew all sorts of gunk in there because I couldn’t get it dry again.

Thanks again for your recap!

There is the old adage that if you’re not wearing it, you don’t have it. In other words, if you get separated from your boat, none of the rescue equipment stored there is going to do you any good. But I definitely didn’t need to have the insect spray with me. I carry a floating line with a snap hook with the intention that if I were unexpectedly paddling in conditions where I WAS worried that I could get separated from my boat, I could trail it behind me.

That version of the re-entry and roll is not obvious but, at least for me, is easier than it sounds. Sounds like you understood it, but to re-iterate with a bit more detail, start with your boat upside down. Face the stern as you float vertically next to boat. Put your head inside the cockpit with each hand on the side of the coaming. It’s kind of nice in there. No rain, no wind. Good place to collect yourself. Then the summersault. It’s like you bring your feet up to the deck while holding onto the coaming, and walk into the cockpit. So you head goes from rightside up to upside down with you sitting in the cockpit. Try to have a calm presence of mind while you find the footpegs and get setup and then execute the roll. I don’t know if the ease of this method is dependent on body type. I’m about 5’6" and 200 lb and it works well for me. I DO wonder how it would work in a drysuit. You would certainly want to do what you can to get any air out (basically just burp it while in the water by pulling on the neck gasket).

Great that you are practicing all of this!

One reason why there may be so little standardization is that not one way works for all paddlers. When I teach an intro to kayaking class, I am looking for to make sure they finish the day with a way that would work for each paddler. With the “standard” style (starting behind the paddle and cockpit), some paddlers are able to dive on back deck and then put their leg on their paddle float, others need to start with their leg on paddle float and shimmy up, and if neither works, then we are off to the heel hook variation (which does require the boat to be able to take a paddle under deck lines or buckles, which not every boat is ready for). And even with all of this, there will be people who we can’t get any version to work, so we will be talking about perhaps them getting a stirrup.

Kokatat does make a rear pocket - basic one of their Tributary water bladder attachments without a bladder. And the water bladder version I have does also have a pocket to carry things (though the red color one on the web site doesn’t show the zipper pocket, where the out of stock yellow one does show it). Keep in mind, these pockets are not easy to access on the water. Pretty much requires taking PFD off to access anything in them.


I have a small strap mount zip pocket that I’ve used on my PFD strap for carrying small items I want to access easily like chapstick and a cloth to wipe my camera lens. Depends on the design and clearance of your PFD whether it can ride your shoulder without getting in your way. This one is around the size of the one I’ve got.

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