Paddle Float Recommendations ??

I am looking for recommendations for a paddle float - Inflatable, with 2 independent blow-up chambers - the blow-up tubes should be flexible/strong enough to not snap [break] off if caught on something.

I saw an add for a product with the initials “GAIA” on it. Any experience with this one?

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thank you in advance,


Gaia Big Swell
Excellent design. Compact when deflated. Quick and easy to inflate. Easy to deflate. Has mesh between the chambers so water does not get trapped.

Big Swell
I also have the Big Swell. I’ve only used it a couple of times but it seems to work well enough.

Yet another vote
for teh Big Swell.


GAIA big swell on sale
I just found the GAIA on sale at Colorado Kayak Supply for $15.95 which seems like a typo - if that’s the real price, it’s a steal.

That’s the other one on sale
Same name, different product. List for about $25 instead of $59.

Problem with Big Swell
I’ve have a Big Swell for about 3 years. This year one of the valves broke where it connects to the float. I have sent 2 emails to Gaia to see if this is covered under warranty and thus far have had no response. The first email may have been sent at a time when their server was not handling email properly and could have been lost, but I followed it up with another email and am still waiting to hear back.


Why so much less? nm

on sale…more than one shop for them
they close some shops over the winter…

i was just in their Salida Colo store…blowing stuff out…

anything used a lot will break. No matter how well a device is constructed in a panic situation it can be broken.

So if you haven’t done a paddlefloat rescue in rough cold water you’re more likely to rip the hose off if you’re panicked than if you’ve practiced it in those conditions.

I like the basic two chambered one with twist valves. It rolls up small.

Inflatable vs foam floats
Inflatables are nice for Summer or warm condtions. However, depending on your location, conditions, roll ability, partners or not, water temp, air temp, and how you are dressed for immersion. I like the North Water foam paddle floats. I teach noobies the basics of paddling and beginning self rescue. Most folks with inflatables spend more time diddiling with the valve and blowing it up, than it should take to get back in the boat. This is scary because in cold water your fingers are the first to stop working, and your lips are not far behind. There are drawback to the solid foam PF, such as windage, storage etc. If for what ever reason I could not roll back up, in winter or cold conditions, I would prefer to have the foam PF and get back to paddling sooner.

Not wanting to start a skeg vs rudder debate…

Inflatable vs foam paddle float
I have never used a foam paddle float but am interested in one and wondered if it is equal in its flotation abilities to a dual chambered inflatable paddle float?

It has less floatation
but it’s certainly enough to do a re-entry or even a re-enter abd paddle float roll.

Effectiveness …
may depend upon the weight of the paddler. Foam floats may not work well or at all for heavyweight people.

Heavyweight ?
So what weight limit approximately would you consider a foam float to be ineffective? Over 150 lbs? Just wondering as i would like to have a paddlefloat for both boats and the only one we have has two chambers/red long valves but no name and i cannot remember whose it is plus the concept of not having to spend time in “cooler” water blowing one up appeals to me as quite sensible. My husband at 225 ish i guess would be a heavyweight so perhaps he would get the inflatable and me (midweight) not lightweight could use the foam float. It appears the numbers for my weight disclosure, on the keyboard are malfunctioning!!

yes,yes, yes
this is where the paddlefloat reveals itself as a sales aid enabling solo paddlers to buy a $2000 package as much as a self-rescue aid.

Kayaking originated in very cold water climates REQUIRING a minimal set of skills to stay alive. Floating around in the water puffing on a tube is not a rational option. If it’s all you got,then it’s by default. I agree the foam float makes more sense in very cold conditions.

The conditions that dump an unskilled paddler make the skills required for self-rescue in those conditions greater than those required to roll a kayak. Basically if you can pull off a good pf. self-rescue you’ve got the skills that will keep you from going over 90% of the time and you should have learned how to roll in the time it takes to develop proficiency with a pf.

I remember a couple of classes in mildly bouncy water where a client ripped the valve off the tube or the tube right off the float.

When I was 200lbs.
the North Water foam float worked, but not as well as a two chambered inflatable. I’m currently at 170 and heading South, but haven’t tested it at that weight. I expect it will work well at my new weight. I checked North Water’s website to see if they give a weight range for it, but they do not. It’s always going to provide some level of flotation, but possibly not enough when you really need it. It would be best to try each type before you buy because the foam float is faster/easier to use in cold weather as long as it will get the job done. I’ll be in the pool again in a couple of weeks and will try to remember to bring it along to try.


BTW, I like the Gaia Big Swell a lot, but like all inflatables they are subject to leaks as mine does now after three years of use and practice.

Paddlefloats, weight etc.
My first instructor told our class in cold water immersion every second counts. Seconds spent in blowing up chambers were seconds wasted.

So we drilled w. foam floats going for 90 seconds and under consistently (we were raw beginners after all)from capsize to full re-entry. I got down to about half that. Later I practiced getting in with just the paddle, no float at all which is harder but quicker when it works. I’m working to get better at it.

Paddle in SE Michigan, small paddler (110 lbs). Use foam between midNovember and May 1 and then switch to an inflable. I use North Water for the former and a new (old stock) Mariner inflatable for the latter.

I carry both with me when I travel. I’d favor carrying both in active water and when alone. The foam float also can serve as a life preserver to distressed people in the water, esp. if they do not know how to swim. It buys a little time.

As to a person’s weight - two of our instructors are solid guys 210- 230 lbs and they used the foam with no problem. Of course, they are skilled and have done this many times.

It’s not just the device, it’s practicing the skill. If the paddler is comfortable in the water and has some agility, a foam paddlefloat will work as well as an inflatable.

If it is something they try a few times at the start of the paddling season and forget, then neither is going to be good enough when it counts.

Don’t get a Big Swell
they replaced the push pull valves with one way valves that take for ever to deflate. The advetising they show, shows one ways but they don’t come that way anymore. They NEVER answer their email. Myself and others have repeatedly sent emails with no response at all. Why the new cheaper one? It’s probably because they want to sell all the old ones despite the fales advertising.

Remember if conditions are bad enough to knock you over, they are still going to be there while you’re getting back in your boat and deflating your float. My advise is to get a single chamber float with a high flow valve. Seal Line has a good one out on the market. Or go with the non inflatable float.

Only my two cents woth!

Paddlefloats Pros and Cons
I switched to a foam paddlefloat several years ago and am glad I did. First and foremost it is much faster to deploy. In most conditions I keep it behind me so I can reach behind and unclip it easily. This allows me to do a sort of handroll using the paddlefloat in case I’ve become separated from my paddle. I can also foresee doing this modified handroll using the float with my paddle tucked under my arm. I would thus be ready to go with my unencumbered paddle as soon as I’m up.

Quick deployment can also help when you want to take a break. You can easily get outrigger support by deploying the paddlefloat. No hot air required!

If a beam wind is an issue I tuck the paddlefloat in front of my seat and it becomes a thigh support.

On shore, the foam paddlefloat makes an acceptable camp seat that is more comfortable to sit on than bare rock or cobble.

I do keep my old inflatable paddlefloat tucked behind my seat just in case. It is always good to have a spare.

I’m 180 pounds and the foam paddlefloat provides sufficient support.