Self rescue questions

I am a little new to kayaking in rough open water with big waves. I am finding self rescue to be challenging. I do not have any instructors available to me now, so I am trying to learn by youtube and articles. Yes, yes, I know that an instructor would be best so let’s skip those comment for now.

Here are some questions:

1: During wet exit recovery, would it be more efficient to pump the water out of the cockpit BEFORE getting back into the kayak? Most instructions show getting into the kayak when it the cockpit is full of water. The kayak is so unstable with water in it, I wonder…

2: When you are entering the kayak after a wet exit, what side should your paddle with the float go on? Toward the oncoming waves or leeward? Is it best to point the bow of the kayak INTO the waves with the paddle/float 90% to the waves? All the instructions I have seen are done in swimming pool or calm lake without this detail pointed out.


Flip the kayak upside down

– Last Updated: Aug-24-16 8:21 PM EST –

to dump the water if needed, then right it and do the rest. But in some boats you can skip that because they don't scoop enough water if you don't recapsize that it matters. Three of the household sea kayaks wok that way

And you should be able to paddle with a bit of water sloshing around in the boat. You should not need bone dry. Because when the is sea is lumpy, it is not going you the right conditions to bone dry. You may have to paddle a bit to find them.

As to in waves, most I know would go for cowboy or wet reenter and roll (you can use the paddle float to help) over the garden variety paddle paddle float reentry.

Another Thread
Here’s a thread from a while back with the same basic question.

For me:
1. I always pump as much water out of the boat as I can while I am still in the water.

You are correct; the boat will be much more stable with those few inches out.

2. I would try to reenter on the side away from breaking white caps

That’s me, others may do it differently.

I’m almost always with a partner, so we usually practice assisted rescue, but basically do it the same way

Jack L


check out Gordon Brown DVD’s
as at least first one (have not seen 2 or 3) shows rescues in progression of calm to rather challenging conditions.

Good for you and desire and efforts to be a better and safer paddler. Would encourage you develop more than one solution to a given scenario. And to rely more on skills than gear like paddle float.

Please keep us posted as you learn.

Re-Enter and Roll
No paddle float necessary.

Re two of the above posts…
1) Roll Aid device: I have one, and it is a useful tool were I to need it. (So far I haven’t.) But it is only good for one use, so having it does not replace being able to get back in different ways.

2) Re-enter and Roll: It will be most important for the OPer to make it back up on the first try. Otherwise more water in the boat and you get tired and everything gets more complicated. I know from my own practice that rolling up from a wet re-entry is shakier than just a straight roll for me, and despite rustiness I am still pretty reliable on my right side. I suspect the OPer does not have a roll yet. So the cost of the time to inflate and secure the paddle float may be more than worth it to also get up on the first try.

For Me
The more water I have in the boat the easier it is to roll up. For me… I’m not going to paddle in “likely-to-overturn” conditions without a roll.

I agree with Jack. It’s nice to have your paddling partner raft up and help stabilize your boat while you pump out water.

Different approaches
Personally I am with you on skills determining where you paddle. But it is not to be counted on.

My husband and I got caught once under-prepared early on, and we got away with it. But we came home to start looking for different boats and I found the first pool class to try and learn to roll maybe 10 weeks later. (There were other local options I didn’t know about right then.) But even between the two of us, I decided a roll was mandatory earlier than he did. He got his roll way faster than I did once he started (very frustrating), but I started on it much sooner.

Then there are the times, more than once now, when I have found out halfway through a paddle that companion can’t swim or would panic if they capsized. Like they plan to panic if it happens.

IMO, neither of these types should be in a kayak any distance from shore, the first not in a kayak at all until they can at least manage survival swimming. And ideally both I and my husband should have decided to learn to roll at the same time, since we obviously paddled in the same place.

But kayaks make the water very accessible and not everyone makes the same decisions about preparation.

Think I’ll Start a Thread About This
I’ll share a couple of scary episodes.

R&R with float
Reentry and roll with a paddle float is another option that doesn’t require delicate balance and can often be done by paddlers who have only a rudimentary roll. It’s often more reliable than a normal paddle float reentry in real conditions. That said, like all skills, it requires some practice.

I know a number of paddlers who carry a paddle float, since it was recommended to them, and have never even bothered to inflate it, much less try it.

Greg Stamer

my $0.02
Every boat is different but as Celia says some don’t scoop much water when you do a reentry and roll. HOWEVER - there are those who will advocate putting your spray skirt on while upside-down so that you roll up with it attached. I’m working on that part, but so far my reentries with an open cockpit haven’t been particularly hard to deal with regarding pumping out. Helps to have a deck or foot pump.

I really like doing r&rs. Everything seems to slow down when you’re upside down, you have more time than you might realize. For me a paddle float reentry in conditions is just too much of a PITA.

When it gets that bad.
It probably depends on the boat, but I’ve been in what I consider pretty big waves and never even come close to capsizing. If it gets to that stage, I’m probably already headed in for the day.

Anyway, why not just stay in the boat and just brace up, or lean back. like I said, it probably depends on the boat.

playing in surf
…sidesurfing, backsurfing, reversing from one to another, sooner or later if you’re pushing yourself you’re going to capsize. I’ve never dumped in point-to-point paddling.

I still have uses
for my paddle float(s), but I rarely use them for their intended purpose. I am of the general belief that they can be used for re-entering the boat, even in relatively harsh conditions, but you have to not use them in the way I was trained to use them. They were really intended to provide additional lift for a legs first re-entry (one of the Brose brothers developed the product and technique), but it is seldom, if ever, used in that manner.

I do use one when I must empty the boat. When used like an outrigger, a lot of stability is available even in a swamped boat. You do want a method of securing the float/paddle to the boat while pumping, but it works quite well.

When used in the “Brose” method, one puts the paddle under the bow bungees (or straps) and puts the paddle under the armpit. Staying low to the water, legs are inserted into the cockpit. The paddler than leans back on the paddle/float and slides leg and butt into the cockpit, keeping a lot of weight out on the paddle as they do this.

I’ve done this in calm water a few times and it works reasonably well. It is clearly better than the method I was trained to use many years ago. It can also be used to help refine a roll or make a re-entry and roll more secure for those who are learning the skill.

So I won’t be discarding mine soon and I do find they have uses, but it isn’t such a wonderful safety device that it is a must have in your boat (though I’ve never paddled without one).


I second what gstamer said

– Last Updated: Aug-25-16 3:00 PM EST –

Even with a completely unreliable roll adding a paddle float makes it easy. I regular paddle float reentry in rough conditions is much harder than reentering and rolling with paddle float attached to blade.

BUT either way requires practice.

Sounds like OP paddles alone so you definitely want some reliable way to get back into your kayak or you could be in REAL trouble.

Back up
Haven’t tried rough water resistant entry.

Suggesting a Backup is more survival than finesse. From there, using the floatation for re entry when that moment is available … is a potential move.

How ? An open field …

I feel for you Guiding Mike !
You asked two simple questions.

There are more than a dozen answers and I think only one answered the questions that you asked.


I empathize with the OP
Some self-rescue techniques are best taught by a qualified instructor and when there’s none available, you have to work with what you know.

I’ve never tried pumping out water from the cockpit while still in the water. I can get a lot of water out when flipping the boat over, but not all. I’ll definitely give it a try.

The paddle and float are 90 degrees to the boat, not the waves.

I find Jeremy Vore’s heel hook method much easier than what was taught in my ACA L1 class. He states it works in all conditions, with practice.