Solo reentry balance question

-- Last Updated: Jul-07-13 12:23 PM EST --

I was practicing solo reentry with a paddle float today. I noticed that the "tippiest" moment was when I was face down in the cockpit with both legs in the cockpit and about to turn over. I think the reason is that too much body weight is right in the center of the cockpit, with a high center of gravity.

Is it easier to keep your balance if you put in one leg, turn over, and insert the other leg last? I was thinking that that would allow me to keep my legs father apart for more balance. This wouldn't work with a smaller cockpit. Mine is 35" long.

What I Did
Before I learned to roll I did this pretty successfully:

Paddle and float secured behind cockpit.

Put your back against the paddle.

left hand on the far coaming.

right hand on the paddle shaft.

feet in the cockpit.

pull with the left hand and push up with the right and get the butt in the seat.

There’s no turning around tippiness. I was warned that this put my shoulder at risk but I never had any problems.

Two things
about stability.

  1. As you point out, center of gravity may be too high. If so, leaning back over the rear deck, not forward, is what is usually recommended. It distributes the weight better and most of us can stay lower leaning back than leaning forward.

  2. There will be moments of instability every time you lean (shift weight) away from the paddle float. Lean on the float a bit until you are sitting upright in the seat. That should reduce the amount of “tippiness” you feel. Once seated, you can continue button up the skirt, and lean on the float for support whenever you feel the need.


It is less tippy…
…if you keep your gaze on the paddle float as you rotate to the butt in the seat position.

you can easily put both feet in before turning. But make sure the way you turn and do anything else is such that you never take your eyes off the paddle float for even a second. This ensures you are constantly putting a bit more weight on the float side.

It’s tippiest
If you lift your weight up off the back deck as opposed to pressing your weight into the deck/coaming while transferring your weight on the paddle shaft from one hand to another while rolling over.

It is not tippy at all if you just keep.
leaning on the paddle float side as you roll over.

Jack L


– Last Updated: Jul-07-13 11:01 PM EST –

Ditto, Kudzu, the face up paddle float rescue is more stable than the standard type with the roll over - as WB said, that's the most unstable part of it.

PS Celia called this a heel-hook rescue below, which may be a more common name for this rescue.

I wonder if there are as many
successful paddle float re-entries, under battle conditions, not practicing, per year, as there are instances where a kayaker is struck by lightning?

"battle conditions"
I personally don’t think the paddle float re-entry is really a “battle condition” sort of rescue though I’m sure with enough practice it could be a tool (e.g. if you are injured). More commonly someone may have had an isolated boat wake or maybe did a poor job reaching for something and flipped in otherwise benign conditions. This is the sort of “battle” that is more likely for someone not well skilled at rolling, cowboy and re-entry and roll rescues. So it does have it’s value for the right people in conditions suitable for those people.

If you think you’re likely to find
yourself out of your kayak, in spite of having to roll properly, AND if you think reboarding promptly is an issue, why not take a lesson from the Tsunami Rangers?

Paddle a SOT that’s vetted for serious conditions. Not a kayak with a 35" cockpit that many people will not be able to reboard except when practicing.

Paddle float reboading is a solution to a problem that should be approached in entirely different ways.

as we are now talking more skilled kayakers, there are very many including the Rangers that take closed deck boats both short and long into extremely rough waters with 5+’ rock pour overs, reflections etc. and manage self rescues. They do often have to swim a bit to get out of the extreme danger part but still execute the self rescues in very rough conditions.

But I don’t think this thread is about such folks. It’s clearly about newer paddlers that I would hope are in calm waters and just had an “oopsy”.

Not a beginner in calm water
That’s exactly why I posted this question, because I was thinking that if I’m tippy in calm water I will be in trouble in rough water. It sounds like the answer to my question is to keep some weight on the paddle float until I’m completely turned around in the seat. I realize now that I wasn’t doing that, I was balancing in the center.

I totally lost my reentry ability for several years due to hip arthritis. Somehow that improved and today I happily discovered that I am now able to do a paddle float reentry. But I’ve always thought that any conditions that threw me overboard would make reentry very difficult.

Stirrup question

– Last Updated: Jul-07-13 8:55 PM EST –

I need to use a stirrup and have always slung it around the coaming. That doesn't work that great because it puts you too far forward. I saw a YouTube video that showed the stirrup hung from the paddle shaft on both sides of the kayak. I'm thinking that would get me farther back, onto the rear deck, and also make it easier to get an ankle over the paddle. Does that sound right?

if you can, find a group for practice
Whether beginner or expert, as you take a step up in conditions you really want a good group to play and practice with. And you don’t want to take it up a notch until you can handle the rescues in calmer conditions quick and easy. Any time our group would happen to find weather that was enough to challenge us we would stay closer to some safety and have fun seeing all the rescues and such we can do in those conditions. With a good group even if no others are experts you can (hopefully) rely on a good assisted rescue if you fail your self rescue attempt. After a few such sessions that becomes the new normal for us. Compared to others we may know we’re all beginners and we’re all fairly skilled – it’s all relative.

What they said and…

– Last Updated: Jul-07-13 10:12 PM EST –

about keeping weight on the paddle with the float thru the entire re-entry, including the first plop into the cockpit.

But it might be worth trying the version where you use the paddle with the float on the end to support a heel-hook re-entry. Less time lost humping yourself over the back of he boat and in general a faster entry into the cockpit if you do it right.

But to the larger question, I have heard two problems from people who have tried a paddle float re-entry in waves. One was balance because the boat kept rocking. The paddle float can help with that to a degree.... albeit a limited one.

The other was that the cockpit kept refilling with water, challenging stability. The only solution for the latter is likely getting it done faster, and if a roll or a cowboy is out of the question you may want to try the paddle float heel-hook alternative. I've practiced both of these in calm water and would say that the heel-hook one is a bit faster.

I can't comment from experience on the advantages of either version of these in waves - in those cases I've either managed to roll or it has been an assisted rescue.

Given that it takes great accuracy
and sinuosity to get my big feet and huge frame into a typical 35" cockpit, I think my odds of doing so out on a wavy ocean, using a paddle float, are just about zilch.

If failing to roll and being able to reboard, solo, is so critically important, then I’d have to go the Tsunami Ranger route. But I still say this paddle float reboarding stuff just isn’t being used in the real world. Not solo. It seems to be a primitive rite of passage for sea kayakers.

The alternatives are, don’t paddle in conditions where you can’t stay upright, and don’t flip unless you have a bulletproof roll. Which, at times, I have possessed.

rough conditions vs a rough moment
For me in rough conditions I go with either a cowboy (takes lots of practice but doable in wind waves up to a few feet or more) or a re-enter and roll (doable most anytime I could roll otherwise). I’ve used both in surf zone and rock gardening. Cowboy leaves you drier but re-enter and roll takes less energy and is more reliable (assuming a good roll). Even if you first failed a roll the re-enter and roll is good as the roll may have failed due to a moment of mental overload from a big wave and you can re-orient the boat prior to re-enter and roll to favor success.

But lacking those skills a paddler should stay is safer waters. But even in safer waters there can be rather rare moments where the paddler finds themselves in the water. A rude power boat may fly past with a wake bigger than the lesser skilled paddler can handle or the paddler may have just been goofing around and maybe missed a brace. In those moments you are not in ‘conditions’. Typically an assisted rescue is still the best bet but if all went in or you happen to be solo then a paddle float rescue can suffice in the calm aftermath of the moment.

paddle float rescue
Is another tool in the toolbox. What you describe is undue reliance on the rescue. If you open your mind a bit you’d see the move is useful on it’s own, with variation,or in combination with other approaches.

well said
In short, not everyone gets dumped by tsunami ranger conditions. Not even everyone with giant feet.