Rescue stirrups

am making my own rescue stirrups and was wondering if anyone knows of a useful knot to place on the rope so the rescuee has a wider base to stand onto. Thanks for the help.

try using a …

– Last Updated: Mar-08-07 9:49 PM EST –

Try a plain old lashing strap with the buckle that you tie you kayak down with. That is what I use, they are cheap, adjustable and easy to use. The store bought ones include a nylon bag and some sort of float and maybe a lash strap. None are necessary but may be nice to have. I roll mine up and wedge it between the seat and hull. Never needed to use it, but practiced with it and had other try it. I have a roll, and a good paddle float re-entry, so I use it for others that have a problem getting up onto their boats for whatever reason. At camp, I use the strap to hang gear up on to dry.

Bowline with an eight inch PVC pipe
Recommend a PVC pipe of about 6 to 8 inches long secured by a bowline knot on either end. Picked up a used tow line from some water skiers. Works great as an alternative means for re-entry. Good luck Mark

Stirrups are a BAD idea
- They’re nothing but a crutch for poor rescue technique.

  • They won’t work in the kind of conditions you’re likely to need to rescue yourself.

  • Essentially, they’re worthless for use in anything other than dead-flat-calm water.

  • They pretty much REQUIRE you to use poor technique, staying upright in the water and trying to haul your entire weight straight upward.

  • They create an entanglement hazard.

  • They’re also a great way to break a paddle.

    If you’re having trouble self-rescuing, there are better ways to get past the problem. For a standard aft-deck rescue, first make sure that you kick your feet to the surface so you’re prone in the water. Then you kick and pull yourself up and across the aft deck in one smooth motion.

    If that doesn’t work for you, you can use the “heel hook” method where you hook a foot into the cockpit and use your leg strength to roll yourself up onto the aft deck.

    With a little practice, you can get past the need for crutches like stirrups.

Rescue stirrups are a good idea…
if you’re leading (or venturing out with) groups with a variety of paddlers who may not necessarily be proficient in getting back into their kayak.

Our guides all carry stirrups, which we’ve found to be just “another arrow in the quiver” when it comes to rescues.

For a stirrup we us a loop of climbing rope that feeds around the cockpit coaming of reentry kayak. A small section of aquarium tubing (available at any hardware store) helps hold the loop open for a better foothold.

The previous post raises concerns regarding entanglement. I couldn’t agree more. Many stirrup configurations are unwieldy, time-consuming, and hazardous. In particular, systems that require attaching stirrups to paddles strike me as a bad idea. For that reason, I prefer the “round the cockpit” method, but that necessitates having the victim climb up INTO a loop of rope…which seems an invitation to entrapment.

Our solution was to use a single line with a bowline at one end, and a sailing rope-end ball on the other. The rescuer simply slips the ball through the bowline and runs the line around the cockpit. Under tension this holds the line in a loop that the victim steps into for a boost. Once their in the cockpit, the rescuer can release the line with one hand, simply by pushing the ball back through the bowline (which releases the loop) and pulling the rope back to their boat for quick stowing.

This may not make a lot of sense in writing, so I’ll take a few photos of our rig and repost.

To recap: you should be able to self-rescue without a stirrup, but for guiding / instructing, its a good tool to have in your kit. I prefer simple, quick, and safe set-ups, and have developed a quick release stirrup design that deploys around the cockpit of the empty boat.

Sometimes needed, w/cautions

– Last Updated: Mar-09-07 11:24 AM EST –

People who are fit and hale and no older than their 50's often forget about the population of older and less fit and hale padddlers out there in rec/touring boats that are sufficient to get them out on rivers and larger but protected lakes, but still not neatly set up for self-rescue because of high decks, maybe limited deck rigging etc. I have worked with older women for example who had a knee that just doesn't bend fully after surgery, or maybe enough arthritis in one shoulder to make it hard for them to pull up, and they are in a fairly high decked boat like (correction - a Santee - see below).

These folks often paddle with others who don't have the upper body strength to fully pull them up past the physical issue, and for some I know around here always in pretty calm water. In this situation, as long as they are with someone else that can provide a bit of support and have practiced with the stirrup in a safe environment, it may be the diff that gets them back into the boat.

I am hearing my own come-back on this - for example they shouldn't be outside of swimming distance from shore to start, etc. And I think a stirrup could be seriously dangerous without someone else there to stabilize the boat and hold the swimmer's PFD so that entaglement dangers are mitigated. But there are places where it is a useful tool, even with the risks.

Rescue stirups are a good idea part II
I appreciate where Bnystrom is coming from - stirrups do have their limitations - I still believe that they have a place for certain applications.

Some people will never adventure out into the difficult conditions I am sure he enjoys, yet they still need a method to re-enter a boat. Some paddlers are not atheletic enough to vault onto the rear deck of a boat without a stirrup. High-volume boats complicate the matter. Some addlers will never learn to roll, so a re-enter and roll is out of the question. Some paddlers may simply be too fatigued to enter without a stirrup.

I agree that a stirrup is mostly useless in challenging conditions, but to tell a boater that he/she needs to become more proficient, become more atheletic, loose weight, master a roll is simply not an option for many folks. Being able to re-enter a boat is a basic lifesaving skill, and if a stirrup is needed, so be it.


Celia, one quibble
if I may, as I greatly respect your posts.

When you say “high decked Tampicos” you are confusing the Tampico models (the S and L, both at 13.5 ft) with the shorter and pumpkin seed type by Hurricane Aqua Sports called the Santee. The Santee comes in a few different variations (116, 116 Sport) and they are the high decked ones. Very popular w. rec kayakers as they are wider and more stable than the Tampicos.

I paddle a Tampico 135S and at the front coaming it is just 11" high. The back is lower by two inches IIRC. The Tampico135L does have a slightly higher foredeck to accomodate longer legs but does not differ much if at all on the back deck.

My first try at a self entry took less than 15 seconds from flopping seal like on the back deck to corkscrewing into the cockpit, feet on pegs.

It is absolutely conducive to good technique using paddle float or assisted rescue. I would like to try an Eskimo bow rescue w. it.

The S also edges nicely, has thigh braces, and can be rolled… none of which applies to the Santees.

the Santee is another shape entirely and there your good observations do apply.

Can someone please explain to me…
… why people who are unfit enough to do something as basic as get back in their kayaks are encouraged to paddle anyway? Paddle float is crutch enough.

People need reality checks, and basic self rescue skills are a good place for this sort of self evaluation.

I do agree with the “more arrows in the quiver” thinking, but that’s as far as I can go.

The point about guides carrying them almost made sense, until the part about the “rescuer” needing to be there, release the stirrup, etc. If you have someone to assist - and a trained/experienced guide no less - there’s even LESS need for using these things. Just use one of several assisted rescue techniques - many of which work very well for those who may be a bit athletically challenged.

Jsaults comment about needing to “vault” onto the rear deck illustrates perfectly the bad technique of a stirrup. Swim across the deck - don’t climb up on it. This does NOT require a lot of strength. I does require calm, timing, and some balance from there. Don’t have those things? Then why are you kayaking?

Brian’s right on all points. Stirrup = flat water crutch with potential for serious complications.

If someone needs one to be able to reenter on flat water (since it won’t really work elsewhere) - I have to go back to my original question.

meditations on stirrups

– Last Updated: Mar-09-07 11:18 AM EST –

If someone is acting as a rescuer and guide, and thus has that higher level of responsibility, I agree that the rescue stirrup is another feather in their quiver. In that instance the person carrying it has previously demonstrated higher levels of skill and proficiency over time and can plan ahead to compensate for the deficiencies of their students/patrons.

What however about the case of a beginner or two out paddling on their own? If the stirrup is the onlyway they maximize their chances to get back in, then a reconsideration of their readiness to paddle on their own is needed IMO.

Just because someone wants to do it does not mean they are fit or athletic enough to do it. Bravo for trying, but life doesn't owe us everything we want. For instance, I cannot do pair skating no matter how much I wanted to. Didn't have the ability and decided the physical risk vs. the reward didn't pay off in my calculus.

"just calm flat water"... people capsize in dead calm water. It may be hard for the experienced folks here to visualize it, as they are so practiced and calm in the water, but beginners do unwieldly things...because they get distracted, ram into each other, the paddle clocks way back, they turn around too fast to get water or suntan lotion, swerve to dodge an insect, etc.

They take ungainly unbalanced positions in their boats w. legs dangling over or sitting on the high back decks. It happens. Not ridiculing, just stating what I've seen.

How much risk are they putting themselves and paddling companions (and other paddlers) in if they have but one very marginal form of re-entry?

This not a question for me to answer, but at the very least it's one they should ask.

Just sayin', not flamin'....

Edit: and I really was keyboarding this while Greyak's post popped up LOL... I happen to agree w. it and I AM a beginner. Reality checks are good & necessary at all levels.

You’re right
One of the women in a pair locally has the Santee, the other the Tampico, they paddle and come to practice sessions together and I tend to get 'em mixed up.

Thanks for the fix.

Solo v. in group
As so well stated above, solo paddling is another matter. Yup - it’d be easy even in calm water for a solo paddler to get into boadacious trouble with a stirrup. But as greyak says, there is a certain level of personal responsibility that comes with paddling solo. I tend to land in the camp that if paddling alone, you either need to have considerably better rescue skills than if in a group, or stay within swimming distance of shore.

That said, I do see someone trying to use a stirrup by themselves and getting caught up in it as being different than someone using a rescue stirrup with a second, or maybe even a third, paddler holding onto their PFD and helping enough that the swimmer isn’t dropping totally dead weight into the stirrup, and is not likely to fall back where things could get very nasty.

None of this is going to change opinions about stirrups by the way - we could start rudders and skegs and end up with the same lack of conclusion.

and we all came right out of the womb with a bombproof roll, a GP in our hands and the word “advanced” stamped on our ass.

Unfit people
I don’t think the method of re-entry is important. The important issue is the match of your skills to your paddling environment. If you are unfit but paddling on a flat lake of warm water with friends who can assist - then if a stirrup works for you, by all means use it. I’d hope it would only happen once in your career - capsizing on flat water shouldn’t be about skills, it is more often just a dumb moment.

Unfit people should paddle because it is a way to get more fit. It also might simply be something they enjoy, so why not? Most are probably on a flat lake with a fair amount of other boats around too. They don’t share your vision of self-reliance, they think it is OK to ask for help if you need it and I wouldn’t think any less of them if I could assist.

Then there are the disabled. I’ve kayaked with a friend who is paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident many years ago. Great arm strength and a stirrup, of course, is no use to her. She is very strong but re-entry would be difficult without someone to assist. But consider, if you don’t have use of your legs isn’t sitting in a kayak and paddling great exercise? So she takes the precautions one should take and enjoys it tremendously.

There are lots of ways to enjoy paddling, the one thing we can agree on is to do it safely. Safely in one set of conditions may be very unsafe in other conditions.

How true, how true.
Kayaking is an elite sport. Reserved only for the elite atheletes of the water. Do not even think of getting into a kayak unless you are highly fit and qualified.

Refererence: “Don’t have those things? Then why are you kayaking?”

Reference: “… why people who are unfit enough to do something as basic as get back in their kayaks are encouraged to paddle anyway? Paddle float is crutch enough.”

I have a great deal of respect for Wayne Horodowich, who advocates stirrups as one of many tools. I will go out on a limb and say that he has probably had more sea kayaking students than any other teacher in the USA. His feeling is “Use what works for you.”


Is that what that says !?
I keep trying to read it in the mirror but…


I used a piece of 1/4" nylon with a short piece of pvc for the step. I carry it tucked in between the hull and seat support with the paddle float. I have used it twice and it seems to do the trick.


S’Okay! :smiley:
you got my back when I get all the Nordkapp editions confused, right? :smiley:

hard to read backwards isn’t it?
or maybe we just aren’t advanced enough to do

that :smiley:

Guiding reality check…

– Last Updated: Mar-09-07 4:45 PM EST –

It'd be great if we were all leading groups of people named Nigel. A few points about guiding:

1) It's not necessarily big stuff that knocks someone over...a good guide keeps his or her inexperienced clients out of those sorts of danger. But when that first-time kayaker leans out to snag a stray water bottle, they'll capsize faster than you can say "boat over!"

2) Not everyone that comes on a tour is proficient at climbing back up on a boat. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be out there enjoying the sport, it just means they shouldn't be out there without a guide or competent group.

3) There are lots of ways to get someone who doesn't have the strength to climb back into a boat, and our guides learn and practice them all. The right method is the one that gets the swimmer back into their boat the fastest (especially if the water is cold). You could do a scoop, but then you've got a boat full of water to deal with. You could try to negotiate them through a "between the boats" rescue, but for someone cold, wet, and confused, this can take even more time, and leaves you with a fatigued and cold paddler once you get them back into the boat...and that's a recipe for another capsize.

4) The round the cockpit / quick release stirrup deploys in no time and is easy to coach a first timer through. The rescuer does everything the same as he/she would in an assisted T rescue. Since they're already stabilizing the kayak, it's just easier for the rescuer to release the stirrup (this can be done even before the paddler is all the way seated) to minmize the risk of any kind of entrapment.

5) We always attempt a non-stirrup rescue first, but there's no point in having someone struggle and get exhausted.

The best rescue in any situation is going to be the fastest one that leaves the paddler with a dry boat. There are times when that might be a scoop, stern press, ankle-hook, or any other rescue. But there are times when a simply stirrup works better and faster. So you balance the risks.

PS I will try to photograph my rig in action this weekend so you can see what I'm talking about...