Swimming with a Paddle

Quick question that’s in regard to surf kayaking. I own a Kaos, which I have a blast with surfing at the beach. My question stems from the inevitable wipe-outs and wholesale beatings that can be taken from dropping in too late, close-outs, etc.

When my boat takes the ride in to the shore, I’m stuck with a paddle to swim back in with me. I have yet to find a way to hold it and swim comfortably in. I have tried tucking it under an armpit and basically swimming one-armed, as well as holding it with two hands for flotation, and kicking in. Neither feels quick or efficient. Just looking for suggestions or ways other persons who surf kayak handle this situation. Thanks

For me, depends on feather
I use un-feathered paddles and I can get a lot of paddle assistance by paddle-swimming. Basically I paddle my way in. It’s something I had to practice a bit in calm water before I was convinced of the effectiveness. I was unable to do it with a feathered paddle.

2nd that
Two ways to swim with the paddle - actively, that is to use paddle for propulsion, or passively, drag it with one hand, swim with other.

If swimming actively, I prefer “backstroke” - lie on your back, push with paddle towards your feet. Feels less awkward that lying on your belly and pulling the paddle towards you. Of course, your experience may vary

3rd that
I’ve mostly done back stroke though lately I had such a wipeout swim and did a forward stroke and found it worked quite well. One nice thing about a forward, belly down stroke swimming to shore is that I find it easier to get small rides from the surf as I come in.

Depends on feather
It’s possible to use a paddle to help you swim.

An unfeathered paddle is more condusive to front crawl. A feathered paddle works better for back crawl.

paddle with it
I prefer the forward-facing paddle-swim (my paddle is unfeathered). Practice it and it’s pretty effective. Just as with paddling in your kayak, don’t arm paddle - roll your whole body with each stroke, just like in a good freestyle swim stroke.

Get a paddle leash …
Phone cord leash … attach it to the bow of your Kaos. When you tip over try to keep your knees in your thigh straps so you stay with the boat . Throw the paddle over the boat and climb back in. You look like a idiot in the surf zone if you let your boat go washing into the beach - many places where lifeguards are present they will kick you out of the surfzone. Letting the boat wash in is dangerous and the sign of an unsafe and inexperienced surfer.


Lots of people will chime in and say a leash is dangerous. None of them surf SOT kayaks. Here is a link for decent paddle leash for surfing.

I have a Kaos!
I do swim with a forward crawl with the paddle, but not with the Kaos. With the Kaos I use a paddle leash so the boat cannot wash into some child playing in the surf and unaware of my kayak.

Thanks for all the replies with different techniques. Never thought to do a backstroke through a surf zone, but will have to give it a shot. Noticed last year a few guys in OK Scramblers surfing a big day had fins on for the long haul in, so knew there had to be some people on this board that had dealt with this problem.

As for the comments on paddle leashes, already own one, just don’t always use it. I’m not convinced they’re as safe or useful as my surfboard leash, but have it for crowded days on the lineup as a courtesy.

Learn how to use your leash.

– Last Updated: Apr-10-11 11:57 PM EST –

WHen you go out of the boat, hang onto your paddle, push it under the water so if a wave pushes the boat you can turn the blades to get maximun force of the paddle for keeping the boat from being swept away from you. If it is a huge wave let the paddle go, but usually you can keep the boat with you.

The trick for being safe is to use thigh straps, so when you tip over you stay with the boat and there is no danger of getting the leash wrapped around you, if you use a phone cord leash the only way you are going to get the leash wrapped around you is if you get out of the boat and move around. It is different than a surfboard leash but it is very, very effective way to keep your boat under control, and self rescue quickly.

If you are a board surfer you know only absolute kooks let their board get washed in. Hang onto your paddle, use a leash and keep your boat under your control in the surf zone.

Swimming with paddle

– Last Updated: Apr-11-11 3:36 PM EST –

The most effective way of swimming with the paddle is more like paddling without the boat. put your feet together and point your toes in the direction that you want to go and paddle. A short video is at

www.secondwindsports.net key elements