[rough water] Cowboy scramble in 7 seconds

Hi there, I was looking for video showing scrambles in rough water and came across this,
it is incredible, its like she is getting on a motorcycle, no struggle, 7 seconds.

i watched it several times to see how she does it. One commenter pointed out, that the kayak had not capsized and was thus dry, so i guess that is sort of cheating.
Having several gallons sloshing around the cockpit makes the scramble the tough balancing act we expect .

There might be other modifications , e.g. lowering CG of the kayak

Also i initially presumed she is doing this at the edge of the rocks for drammatic effect of adding danger, but later i thought, could it be possible she can reach the rocky edge with her feet?

has anyone else managed to repeat this feat? and this fast? if this is genuinely feasible, i definately want to make it my first choice for self rescue



I always though cowboy was from over the stern? She came in from the side?

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yes, she hooks her arm around opposite end of kayak and hauls herself out.

this is something that i thought impossible without a paddle float, or a friend assisting, even in a pool.

she doesnt seem to be kicking her legs in a swimming fashion, she sort of leaps onto the kayak.


There is a lot of skill, technique, practice, and some strength there. It is not easy to get an initial launch as she does to get as far across a wider section of the kayak as she does. From what I’ve seen and experienced, many try to pull themselves onto the back deck which usually only tips the kayak over on its side. I will often start rather farther back, think about getting my feet near the surface, and then try to launch high enough to clear the front of my PFD over the deck. Next, she is able to balance while having her butt in the seat & her legs both on one side. After that she maintains her balance while swinging around & getting her feet & legs in the cockpit. The large coming does help there.

I watched it at .25 playback speed. She has a strong upper body.

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I’ve never been that flexible.

It’s easy if you practice. She is obviously very confortable in the water which allows her to get across the back deck before she rolls her butt into the seat. The cowgirl can be fast if your legs are not too long for the cockpit.

Very impressive of her doing the cowgirl that quickly with a drysuit in bouncy conditions.

Impressive. She is clearly well versed. Obviously, it would take a bit more time than 7 seconds, if the kayak were filled and had to be emptied first before the scamble. Would also help if the unused cockpit area is filled with airbag and/or foam.


She is just very good and strong. The win here is gotten by her getting her upper body well across the boat in the first try. Once you have done that the rest should work as shown.

As to the empty cockpit, yes she demonstrates from an upright boat not one that has overturned. That said, how much water you scoop can vary. If you flip in some boats like the old NDK Romany or Explorer, or some of the TideRace boats, as long as you get back without capsizing again there is often very little water in the boat. No need to pump. In at least two of the boats in my basement, only need to pump water if there are repeated capsizes.

Impressive. Maybe once before but not now…I can’t get into the boat like that with it sitting on dry land. Old guy… small cockpit. :wink:

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Me either. Old guy, big cockpit.

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This is a recent variation called the Cowgirl scramble. Definitely different than the cowboy. More like treating a SINK as a sit on top in how you do the rescue - get your belly up over the seat, flip over to drop your butt into the seat, then pull your feet in. Definitely takes a lot of balance and a fair amount of strength.

The paddler is Jillian, the partner (wife?) of Bill Vonnegut, one of the high end west coast instructors (level 5 sea kayaking), founder of Neptune’s Rangers, etc. She paddles at a similar level to Bill. If you watch the more recent Neptune’s Ranger’s videos, you will see her in that boat doing some crazy stuff.


That is impressive. She makes it look so easy.
I adopted the cowgirl scramble the first time I tried it.
For my personal experience, the most physically taxing part, by far, of a cowboy scramble, comes after I straddle the kayak. It’s the scrambling, or willy-worming/wriggling/dragging myself clear up across the cockpit onto the front deck to get into position where I can sit down back into it. Turns out, the cowgirl method completely eliminates that. Of course, after I’m seated, I still have to get myself turned to face forward, and that doesn’t happen nearly as slick for me as Jillian does it here. But I’ve personally always found the cowgirl method to be an easier and surer bet for me than the cowboy method.

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A nice video with some good technique.
Now change the name and stop insulting people that work cattle for a living.

Love this one. The LADDER


A fair amount depends on the kayak. Boats with a relatively high deck are a lot less stabile when trying this type of rescue.

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Wait! I mean weight! Maybe this is a ‘petite person’ thing. Show me a big guy doing that.

Seriously. Hauling a 90 pound body up the side of a boat is a whole lot less likely to capsize it than a 180 pound body.

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A keyhole cockpit opening or short legs helps. Being 6-4 I can not do a but first re-entry in my boat.

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Looking at the video paddledog52 posted, I always did this in practice and called it a Cowboy Scramble. What’s the difference between the Ladder and the Cowboy Scramble?

Initial video post - very impressive!

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The first video is basically what we call a side saddle remount on a surfski.
The initial setup of your hands plus a hard kick to launch you over the bucket is critical. You dont Pull yourself onto the boat because that would roll it. You kick hard and flop yourself over the bucket.
Here is a good instructional video from Surfski God Oscar Chalupski

Here is another example in less than ideal conditions - after a great white hits your ski!
Sharon is a well known south african paddler and is cool as a cucumber after her boat is disabled by a great white ‘test’ bite.
I count 14 seconds to get her butt in the bucket and 19 seconds to fully reenter the boat. Not bad for being having the leash wrapped, boat filling with water, and a pretty good idea of what just hit you, considering SA has the highest concentration of White sharks :open_mouth: