Paddle float - worth it?

As I make further inroads and investments into sea kayaking and skills develop, someone recently suggested I consider getting (and learning how to use) an inflatable paddle float. Do people use these? I am going to be in the Hudson River NY mostly and have not learned how to roll yet and still learning my braces. My balance and sense of the water is pretty good but there is always the when and what if factor.


You must have one. You also must have a pump. I can roll and re-enter and roll, etc, but I always still carry a float just in case. If you can’t roll you absolutely have to have one.


See my email to you NM

Getting one is highly advised if you can’t roll. Even knowing how to roll I would suggest having one. But, knowing how to use it is also most important. Spend the extra 5 bucks and get a dual chamber one.

Get a Northwater paddlefloat-learn how t
The very first thing our instructor at QWS showed us in class was how to use the paddle float to get in from shore in rocky or muddy conditions where we didn’t want to nudge tight with the shoreline. Then we learned the real use for re-enter technique and we got in our boats much faster with our foam floats than those students who had to fiddle around blowing theirs up. I still use mine for cooling off on hot days as I have yet to master the floating scull and again-foam is the way to go EVEN if you roll like I now can. I just learned to re-enter and roll and once again the foam float was a great tool.

Heck yes

– Last Updated: Aug-16-06 8:35 AM EST –

A paddle float self-rescue is challenged in waves of a certain height, but it's better than having no options. If you can't roll, and paddle alone, you shouldn't think about being out there without at least that option.

As to foam or inflatable - the one I carried until this year was a foam float for the reasons mentioned above. Until I actually rolled in a real capsize and was sure I had reliable alternatives to the paddle float re-entry, I didn't envision fiddling with valves etc to get back into the boat. But it is big and bulky and many will argue that the time involved to blow something up is easier than dealing with stowing a foam float. You may want to take a look at one and gauge how it'd fit on your boat's deck.

I carry two
One for me and one for other people that don’t bring one.

They are cheap.

I have very reliable (so far) rolls in ocean and lakes on both sides. Still think it an excellent idea to carry paddle floats as they can be used as outriggers to steady a kayak, and also to roll up using the float on the end of the paddle if unable to get up any other way.

Can’t imagine any valid reason to not have one or two in your boat. They take up no space, and can definitely make the difference when you need it.

they double as back rests, camp pillows, water buckets…all kinds of stuff.

I have on occasion been known to put the paddle float on the gp or euro blade, jam it under the deck lines forming a very stable outrigger and taking my legs out of the cockpit and getting a suntan in the middle of the lake.


“what if factor”?
You might want to modify that to the “What when factor” - as in WHAT are you going to do WHEN you capsize. Not IF you capsize.

You need to be able to get back in and underway from anywhere - anytime. There are a lot of things to learn on the way to rolling, and while rolling is the quickest and easiest recovery - it’s not alway possible for reasons often outside your control.

Learn many self and assisted recovery methods. Paddle floats definitely have a place in this - and can be used for many other things. Cheap insurance that weighs little and takes almost no space.

What boat?
I didn’t follow your other post on the boat you purchased. Is that a decked kayak? If so, you NEED one.

Whatever outfitter you purchase it from “should” have recommended the minimal safety gear, which consist of more than just paddle float…

But more importantly, you need the SKILL, both in terms of self rescue and also in preventing the need for such rescue in the first place!

Did I just hear Greyak
recommend a paddle float?!?!

Will wonders never cease

Besides …
… a valuable rescue tool BEFORE you have a roll, another oft-overlooked use for a paddle float is helping you LEARN to roll.

When first beginning to teach myself to roll, I started by using a half-inflated paddle float on one blade to slowly roll deeper and deeper into the water while bracing on that blade, before hip-snapping back upright. Soon enough I was completely inverted and half-rolling back up, using a C-to-C Roll. This is a very easy and safe way to work on one’s hip-snap, which is the crucial component of most all rolls. Doing so in shallow water allows you to brace off the bottom to recover from a failed roll if needed, though with a paddle float installed that should be unnecessary.

Once bored with that, I began gradually deflating the paddle float, essentially raising the training wheels on my bike, until I was finally able to toss the float aside and do it ‘naked’, using a C-to-C or a Short Pawlata (the offside hand gripping the shaft just below the offside blade, the on-side hand located near the middle of the shaft). From there it’s a fairly easy transition to a Sweep or Screw Roll.

As with any tool or technique, it’s generally worthless unless you practice with it. So after learning to use the paddle float as a rescue device, be sure and practice in a variety of conditions, so that using it to rescue yourself or another paddler become second nature.

contrary opinion
Once I got a bit of experience, it always seemed to me that a paddle float was a good way to provide the illusion of safety in the event of a capsize. I can’t recall a single time when I got dumped that it would have been practical for me to get back in using a paddle float, which is partly why I learned to roll. In fact, I don’t know anyone with a roll who wouldn’t prefer a reentry and roll to a paddle float self-rescue. With respect to rolling, the roling motion at least for a sweep roll depends on truncal rotation and minimizing resistance on the paddle, exactly the opposite of the paddle float assisted roll. I know folks do this, but I recommend against it as it simply builds bad habits.

Re-Enter & Paddle Float Roll
While working on a roll (like I still am), you may find it possible to use one of a couple of re-enter and roll techniques with your paddle float. Several instructors have told me that the re-enter and roll (even with a paddlefloat) can be a very effective rescue in nasty conditions.


Greyak is tired from all that
indoor rowing.

Yes you saw it here first…paddlefloat recommendation from Greyak.



my first real capsize
with the tempest outside of the surf line by the sand bars in ft. Lauderdale necessitated the use of a paddlefloat rescue. Not fun and not easy to do but I had a new roll and obviously it was not a combat roll. paddlefloat rescue got me back in the boat and able to get back to shore after pumping.

I disagree ephatically that a paddle float has no place and strongly urge anyone to practice with one.

Heck, even after getting an avataq (fake blown up seal for greenland maneuvers in my skin on frame boat) I can now use the paddlefloat by itself (no paddle) to get myself up from a capsize in my composite boats.

stupid to not have one. period


Hi Paul, I agree. I carry one, but in really serious conditions where a beginner/intermediate paddle is likely to capsize, such the surf zone or with 2-4 foot wind chop/breaking waves, a paddle float isn’t likely to be very useful. The larger point I’m trying to make is that a paddle float provides a false sense of security. Paddle float or no, it is better to avoid rougher conditions unless you can swim the boat into shore or are accompanied by someone who can help you back into your boat. As for rolling, I like playing with an avataq, but anyone who can roll up with a float could do it more easily with a paddle! I’m sure we’d agree that learning the standard GP layback roll is pretty easy and a far better solution than relying on a paddle float assisted reentry. Best, John

When you need it you need it, and “it” well may be doing a float-assisted re-entry and rollup because you are way tired and the water is too cold to risk having to go for multiple tries. Or any other number of scenarios. A paddle float doesn’t cost anything in weight and space to carry but could matter in a pinch. And it only has to matter once to be worth it.

Another use or two…
I use an inflated paddle float in my day hatch to help keep things from bumping around too much in the surf. I can still get to my water bottle, a dry bag full of snacks and my camera, and the inflated paddle float helps take up the extra space.

On really rough days I’ve even put two floats in there to keep everything secure. I don’t like going for an edge and then getting caught by surprise when my water bottle suddenly rolls to the down side of the hatch and causes a little extra tilt.

Another use – this weekend a friend lost his hatch cover while we were a mile or so from shore and we inflated a paddle float in the hatch opening to create a temporary fix and prevent his things from bouncing out of the boat.

Just a few thoughts.

Like you said - great pillows
There should be posts from me a few years ago saying similar things. Also some more recent posts mentioning the two new Gaia floats I just bought…

One lives in my sea kayak. Still trying to get in the habit with the SOF.

Not liking or using the paddle float rescue much after developing other options is no reason to dump the float - and certainly not to recommend against them.

The primary rescue method people tend to associate with the float is limited - but the tool itself is still good - for all the reasons already mentioned.

false sense of security…
… disappears quickly with practice - in conditions.

But of course those suffering from a false sense of security aren’t likely to be doing that, are they?