paddle floats make a difference?

Because of a breathing problem that limits my ability to swim, I try to paddle in water that’s not over my head. However, I would feel more comfortable knowing that I could re-enter my kayak after a capsize in deeper water–which thus far, I’ve not been able to do. I’m wondering if a paddle float (or even two) would make enough difference to enable me to re-enter. How much difference do they really make? (I did try a homemade paddle float–a styrafoam boogie board–helped a litte, but not enough). Thanks!

paddle float reentry
Is well recognized technique of unassisted reentry.

Both inflatable and solid foam paddle floats exist. Some deck bags can be used as paddle floats.

Both ACA and BCU curriculum carries paddle float reentry on their syllabi.

If interested, browse for the description, or try google video for “paddle float”.

The best way to learn would be to find ACA or BCU certified paddling school and sign up for introductory course; or hire a coach. Usually, it is money well spent.

Inflatable paddle float is good
However, given your situation, it is all the more important that you:

Get Instruction - Other than putting pontoons on your boat (there are some that have these), gear alone is not sufficient.

Don’t Paddle Alone - A wet exit doesn’t involve much time under water, and a number of assisted rescues are accomplished with your head above water. Your partner should know assisted rescues.

Practice rescues - Neither gear nor instruction is sufficient without practice.


Get a foam one

– Last Updated: Sep-04-07 4:14 PM EST –

Lou's right re the overall help they offer. But I'd suggest a foam one.

A lot of people hate these things because they are so bulky, but if you have a breathing issue to start with there is a pretty strong argument for avoiding dealing with something that has to be inflated while you also coordinate hanging onto paddle and boat. Northwater makes one that just slips nicely onto the paddle and will fit under deck bungies if you don't mind it looking a bit clunky.

And yes, a decent paddle float with good bouyancy and a secure attachment to the paddle can make a huge diff in the typical conditions for a paddle float self-rescue. That is fairly calm water. In big seas no, but that's not where you seem likely to be.

Agree with others - find a lesson or two on various re-entry options so that you can mess around with someone there to give you a hand. The videos have limitations.

The paddle float rescue
can be effective if the conditions are right. A persons physical ability, type of kayak and the water conditions are all factors to take into consideration. From my personal experience I don’t count on it to recover me in conditions that I just got dumped in. It’s fun to practice on calm water though.

Foam Paddle float problems
I weigh only 155 pounds and the large foam paddle float I depended on did not have enough floatation for me. Only a giant foam float will work…

can you be more specific
about your breathing problem? It may help to answer your question (there are a few docs and RNs on this board).


Apparently you are not keeping enough of your weight over the boat. I made a “giant” one that has perhaps twice the normal amount of flotation. I use it for pre-rolling exercise as it makes a paddle unnecessary – you just pull yourself back up.

ditto, not enough info
Type of boat, some rec boats really aren’t suited for self-rescue. The breathing dificulty raises red flags regarding general safety and paddling solo.

Many variables…
There are lots of variables to consider. Find someone local who has experience. You might search for a local club.

I believe there is a paddle float
uses a co2 cartridge so you don’t have to blow it up.

Expensive though
There is a CO2 cartridge thing - we have them and one was on my boat religously until I got pretty sure that I’d likely be able to at least re-enter and roll. But the cartridges are expensive and they are generally very hard to re-arm on the water in these type of devices. Once you’ve used it you’d better be able to stay upright for the rest of the paddle.

As to the foam floats - re-entry over the top of a barge with no deck rigging is an issue no matter what device you have. But to the original poster - that kind of boat should never be far enough from shore that you can’t tow it in, especially with breathing issues.

What kind of make and model of boat are we talking about here?

Not to nit pick but the use of the
paddle float is not part of BCU training or assessments. It is for ACA.

inflatable paddle float.

– Last Updated: Sep-05-07 9:33 AM EST –

For now, either will work, but:
The foam paddle floats deploy more quickly, but the inflatable ones can be used for multiple purposes, and store more compactly. If/when you advance past a point where you need to use a paddle float reentry ( i.e. other , better self rescues in your repertoire): the paddle float is stilll useful as: a pillow while camping, a float bag (works well to secure water in day hatch), and a paddle float reennter-and- roll is a good last-line-of -defense self rescue , if your roll, cowboy, and renter-and-roll all fail.

My bad
Didn’t think about having a person with reduced lung capacity blowing up an inflatible (duh!). I have a foam myself.


Have you tried a sling along with the paddle float? A sling will lock the paddle in place and also provide a place for your foot so you can lift yourself back into the kayak.

Try an ACA course - the best way is to practice in a safe environment with an instructor.

Wow, thanks…
for everyone’s advice and suggestions! To answer a couple people’s inquiries: The breathing problem is due to a pulmonary embolism (clot) that got stuck in my lung and never resolved. Lung capacity is about 60%. My kayak is a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 12.5 (26 inches wide). I can get myself up crossways over the cockpit, but any further moves just roll the kayak right back over again. I also happen to be 53 years old and not nearly as nimble or agile (or light) as I once was. In my twenties, thirties, and maybe my forties, this would have been absolutely no problem. I have wanted to take a class but am on extended vacation and wasn’t able to find one with openings before I got here. Still want to, but I doubt I’ll be able to find one till next spring…when I’ll be leaving town again. Nothing around here that I’ve been able to find in small-town Northern Michigan.