No Muscle & Rec Boat Recovery Methods

Thanks to folks around the country and our local assistants we have come up with several no or low muscle techniques for sea kayakers, AND for rec boats. Hard to describe accurately in words we will have them up on the web shortly.

  1. Double Paddle Float/ Side scopp Rec & Sea Kayak Recovery

    Use of a double float bag one on each end of the paddle allows the sea and rec kayaker to hold a filled boat on its side with one hand and the shaft of the paddle in the other and SLIDE into the cockpit. Since the boat is on its side, the side of the cockpit is low enough in the water to not have to raise one’s hips to get in. The amount of water in the boat is reduced by having it on its side. The paddler is able to simply push down on the paddle to get the boat vertical. The double float helps to stabilize the paddler during pump out. This alleviates all problems with high rear decks, bulkier paddlers, injured and sick paddlers.

    Assisted versions can make use of another bow for the paddler to hold onto, and other kayakers helping to rotate the paddler up. If necessary with a very large paddler, placing some water in the aft and bow compartments may allow the paddler to slide in, although this is obviously a last resort due to increased pump out time, etc.

  2. Triple Rolly Polly (hooking a leg in cockpit and rotating in and up into boat while the kayak is rotated over to the waterline as they hook a leg into boat

    The use of two kayak assistants allows no muscle and bulkier folks to hook a leg into the boat as it is rolled over to waterline. The first kayaker can have a short tow line to then hook the boats together allowing him and an assistant to devote all energy to getting the victim into the boat.

  3. Triple Step Ladder Pry The primary rescuer places the victim at their bow while emptying the victim’s boat and then placing it at right angles right side up pulls the boat 1/3 of the way across the bow (creating the ladder). Then an assistant helps the victim to slide over the now SUBMERGED STERN OF THEIR OWN BOAT. Once straddling the stern the victim’s boat is let back down onto the water (the pry is now done). The two asistants on either side of the victim help the victim to shimmy and slide foward and to get into the cockpit. The arrangement is very stable even in rough seas.

    Hope these were somewhat clear descriptions. No claim of originality here, perhaps nothing new is under the sun, just new to us here even after scouring the country for both super low effort and rec boat with high deck, high rear seats, and perhaps bulky paddler methods.

    Contructive feedback always appreciated.

Family uses rec boats
I appreciated your post and will share w/them. Thanks!!

Good job describing

While you did a good job describing the techniques we should get some photographs or possibly video to help illustrate. Check with Alan, he has a friend who does a lot of video filming. We should try to illustrate with inexperienced folks in rec boats as well as touring yaks.


Interesting, thanks.
It’s good to see you thinking outside the box and trying different ideas. I think there probably is lots of value in your efforts.

A couple of things.

It is pretty different working with people who have practiced techniques than talking someone through them for the first time. It is particularly important to encourage people to try things out in controlled situations as the technique gets more complicated - “triple rolly polly”?-). An instructor pointed out to me that even the heel-hook is hard to describe to someone who is a complete novice, and I can see that from my experience.

I don’t think pumping out a rec boat will ever be easy and may not be possible in waves, - particularly without floatation.

I confess to be a bit skeptical of #3 but defer to practice (yours) over theory (mine) I’m not sure I could pull off emptying a fully swamped rec boat. Then I’m not sure many people could pull off the cowboy part of the rescue.

Good to have options, but I’m still not convinced that rec boats are appropriate for conditions where a deep-water rescue is needed.

Absolutely right!
Yes, all the things you say are serious considerations for me and my pod mates.

I am an instructor and this training occurs on a warm, small lake, with a buddy system group support, and many assistant instructors and myself.

We break down every skill into small components and focus on each one builiding a foundation and then the first floor, etc.

WE do NOT propose that rec techniques be used to promote safety in large conditions not should they be taken as easy.

We understand that the more skills a person has the safer they are ONLY if they understand the limits of those skills, their boat, themselves, etc.

This is ONLY in response to the FACT that thousands of rec boaters will take their boats into conditions that appear OK and don’t know the limits. Hey, many of our sea kayakers have their own set of not knowing what they don’t know too.

Thanks for the postive response.

I have a video cam and will be taking some shots. I will try to post them to a web page and post it here in a week or so.


Two assistants?

– Last Updated: May-29-06 12:55 AM EST –

I applaud your experimentation - but have to question the ultimate usefulness for rec paddlers of techniques that require a paddling posse.

If I read #2&3 right, they require a victim and 2 other rescuers? "Three on the sea" or however that goes is nice, but also may not be realistic. The stories of people who get into trouble tend to be two paddlers, and solos. Would people who can't self rescue and still feel compelled to paddle be very likely to heed a three paddler minimum?

I'm having some trouble picturing #3 - and a lot of trouble picturing that in waves with boats crashing into each other.

I think you're #1 has the most potential as is is it can work solo. It's basically a re-enter and roll with float. I also think it can work fine with a single float. Put it on the paddle and hold shaft closer to the float or hold the float itself. Putting it on the paddle lets you hold both with one hand which is key. Then you can use the float to right yourself, or extend it out with the paddle for more of a paddle float roll - whatever works. All slow and easy.

Did you do these with a true rec boat with no bulkheads or float bags and little or no deck rigging the way most actually use them? With three similar rec boats assisting each other? With paddlers of similar skill/fitness/experience (and not people versed in other rescues who normally paddle sea kayaks).

I'm sure these all can get someone back in and back up, but getting someone in and up is often just the beginning...

Just thinking out loud. I don't have a rec boat to play with and am looking at this from a mostly solo paddlers perspective.

Keep it up.

Both solo and assistants
Yes I agree, we want to see if there are ways for solo rec folks as well as assistants.

The main advantage we are finding to the two paddle float method is it requires less strength coordination and practice than one paddle float. Also, the greater weight and sheer unwieldiness of getting the rec boat on its side is eased with having more bouyancy in the double paddle floats. In larger wind and waves it is especially important I find, as many rec paddlers, as many sea kayakers are simply never going to be all that comfortable with going underwater to effect a recovery. Something about no oxygen, and feeling trapped upside down I hear. So try these yourself and let us know your mods to these ideas.


Send me a rec boat!
Then I’ll play. I doubt I’ll ever buy one.

So you’re saying you’ve done this double float rescue with a rec boat in “larger wind and waves” - because that’s how you last post reads. Have you had the sort of person who would need to do this try it in same conditions?

Not trying to be a pain, but if these experiments are being done on a pond by paddlers who can already do other recoveries it may not mean much (and not picking on you either as most recovery methods paddlers think they can rely on have the same flaw of not being practiced in conditions, and rarely practiced at all for that matter).

If you work out new options, great- but I think the problem is with the paddlers and their attitudes/ignorance/limited fitness. Many just don’t know what they don’t know - and won’t know whatever new tricks you might come up with either (try anyway, of course).

With your float rescue I’m not suggesting anyone have to go under/upside down either - just that you could do the same thing you’re proposing with one float. In waves though - keeping head above water may not be 100% in your control with one or two. For recoveries to work - people need to stop fighting the water and accept that working with it means getting wet.

I’ve done a standard paddle float rescue in maybe 3’ waves (before I learned other options). Waves went over my head several times while inflating and attaching the float. I’d have been under less doing a reenter and roll if I’d been able to then. The biggest pain in the butt was getting the float off and stowing it after I was back in - while trying to brace and not get knocked back over or re-flood the cockpit. Two floats would be twice the hassle. Second biggest pain was pumping out. Rigged float made a stable outrigger while pumping (try that on most rec boats without rigging) - but even the small waves kept coming in almost as fast as I could pump. I ended up leaving a few inches of water in, sealing the skirt (can you even get a typical large nylon rec skirt back on in waves? Even use a skirt?) and paddling less stable until I got to a quieter landing spot. That was in a sea kayak with bulkheads and deck rigging. If I’d been in a rec boat without bulkheads or deck rigging and a huge cockpit I’m pretty sure I’d have been swimming the boat in to the beach - or very likely abandoning it. Even small lakes can get those conditions quickly - so this IS relevant to all but pond and flat river paddlers.

I’m beginning to think there is only one realistic recovery solution for people who want to paddle rec boats: Stay VERY close to shore - and be prepared to drag the boat in - or just leave it. If that fits your needs - fine. For many it does. Not much different than swamping a canoe or small skiff, which I used to do for fun as a kid on a farm pond.

A better option for folks who want short wide plastic kayaks and want to venture out a bit farther or in waves: Buy an SOT and get your scramble down pat. If you can’t scramble a recreational type SOT - you really need to rethink your hobby.

I think we agree in principle
We believe in a GUIDED discovery process. Our definition of an intermediate paddler, the goal our Th night series is to help both rec and sea kayakers to get to a place where they can realistically know their own and their boat’s stength’s and limits, along with these recovery techniques.

In this direction we are not making claims nor telling people what they should and should not do. That said, they see we make a hero’s effort to be fair and balanced in our efforts to help both rec and sea kayakers to explore how they can self and assisted rescue.

In my view, so far, this process is producing some pretty sophisticated paddlers, with increasing skills, intimate knowledge of their boats capabilities and limits, and better and better judgment about when and where to take themselves. Of course time will tell, but the definitely not elite but active guidance is really attracting several hundred folks over a season here to learn about themselves and to become interested in further lessons, symposiums, and equipment. We are totally pysched by this as ordinarily many of these folks would go for years with little skills or knowledge otherwise.

Thanks for your post, it has helped up refine and think out what we are trying to do!

In principle and more
Keep it up.

The main difference I think is I tend to look at everything from a solo perspective. Group safety through individual safety. Other paddlers are a bonus backup after several other options. The reverse thinking I see in some groups sort of scares me - where people rely on others to let them do things they couldn’t and shouldn’t alone.

I have no large group I paddle with like you describe. I’m self taught - going from an inflatable to SOTs to narrow SINKS - up through rolling on both sides. I practice with others - but we mostly practice solo stuff together. Other stuff, or helping anyone with specific needs - as happened last weekend with a reentry issue - as it comes up. We had about a dozen people last weekend, but get togethers of this type with more than 3-4 paddlers are pretty infrequent. Maybe a few a year.

I learn from others, and share what little I may know freely - but I have little or no shepherd instinct, and have no compulsion to take others under my wing. Even with Kim I only offer support, and advice as asked. I may propose options, but she decides what she wants to work on, and when, and how long. She was only interested in SOT a first, but never touched hers again after one paddle in and ocean cockpit SINK. She had zero interest in rolling until she saw me get my first rolls, and then immediately wanted to try. She learned on both sides at the same time as it made no sense to her to just do one. She wants a solid roll to fee prepared to paddle the ocean, busy port, etc. She’s still very new to paddling and learns fast as she has no preconceptions or ingrained habits. No garbage about “not needing” that stuff. It will be interesting to see her first unintentional capsize - as I think it will take a lot to flip her. Some beach play is in order for both of us soon (getting too hot for much else!).

Anyway, I feel that if people see the usefulness of certain skills they’ll logically adopt them - and ask for help to do so as needed. If they don’t, not my problem. I’m not into the hard sell despite how I may sound on-line. I draw a much harder line here due to the mixed audience and sheer number of lurkers and new paddlers that read these posts.

PS - I mostly keep replying to keep your thread up in hopes of other suggestion/experience contributions from people doing as you are, not to monopolize the thread or divert it!