Paddle float question

Is the amount of bouyancy a paddle float has important when compared against the size of the person using it? In other words, at 270 lbs do I need a bigger paddle float than a person weighing 180 lbs?

yes, but…
all things being equal a heavier person needs more buoyancy. But depending on technique even a smaller float may be quite adequate for a heavier person. If you learn to do a cowboy rescue (even if not reliable) then more of your weight will be over your boat than over the float which means you don’t need much of a float.

Short answer
The short, simple and PC answer is that a more buoyant paddle float is easier for anyone to use.

Solid Foam Paddle Float

– Last Updated: Jun-07-12 4:22 PM EST –

Quick rapid deployment and you'll always have
something to sit on when on shore.

It's a myth that people with large body fat composition
need more additional buoyancy in the water.
The toughest people to "float" are massive body builders
with hard dense heavy muscle and little or no fat.
Fat is less dense than muscles - hence it floats.
It's all about the Density of the person,
not the actual number shown on the scale

Most people need only about 11 pounds
of extra buoyancy to keep their head above water.
A PFD with just 15.5 pounds of buoyancy can
provide "adequate" flotation for an adult
-- even a very large person.

true in water but not out of water
once out of the water such as after you have your legs on the paddle with float then heavy is heavy regardless of density.

agree with jcbikeski
A person with more body fat will float more - in the water (muscle is different - heavier than water, so a 270 pound body builder would probably sink like a rock). But once the body fat person starts getting out of the water (as when doing a paddle float rescue), they will need more buoyancy in the float to offset their weight.

When I am teaching basic sea kayaking classes, I have heavier students pump up both sides of a double chambered paddle float. That usually does just fine. Lighter paddlers I have do just one side.

Not sure about the solid foam floats mentioned before. My understanding is they actually had less flotation than a double chamber inflatable, but I could be wrong.

what I can tell the foam floats offer about 15 lbs of bouyancy. The dual bladdered paddle float, I thnk by NRS, appears to offer around 30 to 31 lbs. I did see a single bladder float that said it provided 30 lbs.

My concern is not so much in the water as I am floaty enough naturally but will also be wearing PFD. The question is what float provides enough support once I start lifting my floaty self out of the water.

I was initially taught the following paddle float method:

This is probably the most common method used/taught.

The original method (designed by Matt Broze who, I believe, invented same) was the following:

Foster has an example here

In this, because you lay back in the water and never scramble over the paddle and boat, don’t put a great deal of weight on the paddle. I haven’t really tried this yet, but think it may be difficult to execute if you are, shall we say, less than slim.

It has the advantage of keeping a lot of weight in the water with a lower center of gravity.

On the plus side, for either rescue technique, you don’t need 200 lbs. of flotation to get a 200 lb. paddler back in the boat. The float is, effectively, at the end of an outrigger, ie. lever, and can hold up quite a large load (I was easily able to perform rescues with same at 205 lbs. and the float didn’t come close to sinking).


the paddle float helps provide a reference for leaning a little bit to one side with ALL your weight on the kayak. Increasing the floatation on the end of the paddle with the idea it has to support your weight is a good way to break the paddle. There are a lot of high quality paddles snapped in half by people weighing less than you because they thought they could put their body weight in the middle of the shaft.

I was a Lifeguard for 7 years and can
tell you that it’s all about body compisition and water skills level. Body fat floats.

I had not

– Last Updated: Jun-07-12 10:08 PM EST –

seen the method shown in the second article. I have seen you tube videos of the first method that you linked to.

I like the idea that a lot of the weight is kept in the water i.e. supported by the water while preparing to right the kayak. Just looking at the pictures I would say one just has to be comfortable with being cockeyed in the water until flipping the kayak upright. I can probably do that easier than trying to launch myself up onto the kayak at this point in time. Good to know both methods.


– Last Updated: Jun-08-12 7:57 AM EST –

Given that this is a follow-up to your questions about what skill set you need, where you indicated that you have no on-water self-rescue skills right now...

I'd personally suggest a double chambered float for other reasons than support. The darned things stay on the paddle better IMO than single chambered ones if fully inflated, and if you lose one chamber due to a rip or a tear out on a long trip at least you always have the other side.

For cold weather or winter, I prefer a solid foam float like from Northwater, because you don't have to inflate them. But I readily admit that stowing the one I have on deck isn't the easiest thing to sort out.
But as in my reply to your other thread, you should be relying on your own balance as much as possible, to take the weight off the float some and to avoid the risk of snapping a paddle shaft. The latter is not much of a risk for someone my size, it is much more real for someone your size.

The float doesn’t matter
If you practice enough the float doesn’t matter much. I’m 235 and I use an NRS foam float because it is instantly floaty and durable.

In the past I use my home made foam float that doubled as a back cushion below the deck instead of a back band. Sometime it would come off the paddle, but I’d be in the boat by then.

I prefer the foam float but any float will do the job. Practice until it take you less than 2 minutes including getting the float ready. There are a number of times I was glad I could recover to a paddling position in less than 2 minutes.

I understand your point about the balance and keeping the weight over the kayak. My question was more to the point of, what amount of flotation is sufficient to keep the kayak from rolling while I’m attempting to get back on? From what I can tell from researching paddle floats the foam ones provide about 15 lbs worth of flotation while some of the inflatable ones can go as high as around 30 lbs. The dual bladdered float gives you the option of roughly 15 lbs with one bladder inflated fully or 30 lbs with both bladders fully inflated.

If 15 lbs of flotation simply wouldn’t be enough for someone my size then I would skip the foam and single bladders and get the dual bladder.

If the dual bladdered float stays on better maybe that would be the better choice for me.

Huffing and puffing

– Last Updated: Jun-08-12 12:36 PM EST –

If you fell out, you'll be startled, bewildered, etc.
Then you have to wet exit, and huff and puff to fill.
Better to grab foam and go, get in the boat, be done.

The less chance for water to be inhaled into the lungs
the better off you'll be when paddling.
A person drowning is unable to shout or call for help,
or seek attention, as they cannot obtain enough air.

Almost all Foam Paddle Floats have straps
to secure it to a paddle.
How many "check" that inflatable one first for holes;
before each and every single time out on the water. ???
I don't want the surprise - oh oh now what

If you can do a clean cowboy mount …

– Last Updated: Jun-08-12 1:00 PM EST –

the paddle float doesn't have to do anything. You essentially pull the boat under you (hint, this is a heck of a lot easier for you than me because weight helps here) and plop into a centered position on your body over it in a single move. You do this from a swimming position, not hanging feet down in the water.

The paddle float is fairly useless at helping you get over the deck - you have to get your body up there yourself and in one clean move. Where it comes in handy is to help stabilize you as an outrigger once you are climbing around on top. The better you can balance, the less it needs to do.

That gives me a little clearer idea of what should be going on. On the few attempts I made to get in the kayak from the side my legs were straight down in the water and I was trying to pull myself up onto the boat as opposed to trying to get the boat under me. Thanks!

a variation
I read it somewhere but I can’t find it any more.

I can’t for the life of me DRAG myself up the deck. Or for that matter, push the boat down enough to get my body on it.

What I did, (where I learned it I forgot) was to throw one leg over the paddle shaft first. (to do that requires you to lay on your back with head in the water) The float will keep the paddle shaft from sinking. So now I can push down on my leg (in addition to my arms) to get my belly over the center line of the boat.

How far back are you starting?
It’s some balance time to be able to do this, but I have to start much further back on the boat to get the darned thing under me than the guys I paddle with. Hence my percentage of success with a pure (no props) cowboy and anything bumpy is better in the Explorer than in the less voluminous Vela. Cowboy in the Vela is good for blooper videos.

The paddle-float-heel hook option, which was new to me last season, turned out to be shockingly easy. Unlike most new rescues to me, it went well the first time I tried. And I believe that you are of lesser weight, like me, so the support you get is tremendous.

Haven’t tried
the cowboy lately.

Haven’t been out that much this season so far… bike won the tug-a-war.