Unconscious and upside down - now what?

Suppose the two of you are out paddling and your partner is knocked unconscious while trying to roll , or perhaps she just capsizes and hits something. I am talking about sea kayaks btw. The fact is - she is now upside down and not coming up. What would you do to bring her back up? Leave the boat and swim under? Use some technique to bring up the other boat while remaining in the kayak? I am asking about a case where it’s just two paddlers but what if there are more paddlers around who can help? Maybe it depends on some other aspects of the scenario such as weather/water condition but I’m interested in some ideas here. I have John Lull’s “Sea Kaykaing Safety & Rescues” book - really good - but I could not find anything about righting up a boat with an incapacitated paddler. I hope this never happens but it would be good to have an idea of what to do in that case



Hand of God. From a side by side position, lean over, grab the paddler by something with the far hand, push down on the his/her neck with the close hand and, hopefully, you have the strength to right the person.

If you need to do CPR, it’s going to be rough by yourself. If you can’t roll, you need to be extra careful not to go over yourself and come of the boat.


I call it the Hand Of Gosh.

decklines and PFD make great handles to help right the vic.

we just spent time yesterday practicing them with a group of Instructor candidates. this skill is VERY important, a must have.


HOG works
After instructing our guides on this tech. the wkend came an a group went up a small creek , woman went over an guide saw she wasn’t comin up (how long ?-your call ) , he he grabbed the outside o her cockpit pulled an pushed down on the inside rim (the position changes once ya get em halfway up at which point ya can grab them anywhere ya can while still pullin or pushin -whatever works for your body strenght ) , her head had gotten stuck in the mud an she just froze . Nother time dude had a siezure , an was able to get em up an ashore no problem , residule effect of being in an accident (car-minor) the day afore and being an active alcoholic . Found all that out afterwards from his buddy . Practice ! Ya also want to support vic. once ya got em on top o water -don’t let go ~! Hope that helps some , just using different words to help support 1st reply --------Right on ! ------M

Where is this taught?
Steve - I see from your profile that you went through BCU training. I am in that program but only up to 2-stars. Is this technique (HOG) taught anywhere in the BCU system? I would have liked to know something about it already.




practice with friend
but be very careful about over-extending your arms, a friend with an already weak shoulder dislocated her shoulder practicing it with me. I played dead,was brought up part way and abruptly dumped,I thought it was a game so after wet-exiting and laughing I noticed she wasn’t laughing,and her shoulder looked WRONG, we towed her in and it reset by itself.

Is really much easier than it sounds or looks…

A great maneuver to know…

this is so true, not an easy technique
This technique is potentially difficult, can injure you, and may result in the victim coming up only half way. If you are small and the victim big special modifications necessary.

Make sure their hips stay in cockpit as bringing them up, lean them forward or backwards to decrease righting effort, have assistants hold you up and get on other side of victim to help.

Some paddle boards have discussed a method of diving down your own body weight to right the boat. I am not familiar with this but would like to hear from anyone who has used this.

For people w/o long arm reach…
I looked at the pics in the link, and noticed the person doing it was Wayne Horodowitch. At his size there’s not much he can’t reach. Also read the above posts, and am unclear about the rescuer reaches either the person’s neck or gets to each side of the rescuee’s cockpit coaming while staying in a (hopefully) upright position. It seems that the rescuer has to be willing to be fully over on their side for these latter two ideas to work.

Obviously I have negelected this skill - on that thanks for putting up this post so I am reminded to try this out before the water freezes over.

So for a 5’4" or shorter woman… should this work if I were to grab the coaming on the far side from my boat with one hand, and push down on the near side of the overturned hull with the other? (while pulling back hard with my own boat in the likely case that I am dealing with someone a good bit heavier than myself).

Thanks in advance.

You Have To Really Commit…

– Last Updated: Aug-31-05 10:42 AM EST –

to leaning your boat and reaching over to grab the paddler (or far gunnel) with the far hand, and pushing down with the near hand. I have relatively short arms and reach across because I am willing to commit to the lean. I am willing to do that because I know if I blow it, I can roll back up (either side).

The same thing with doing a T rescue where you lean way out to grab the bow and slip your deck under the capsized boat to pop it up. What I have noticed is that folks who are not sure of their rolling ability do not want to commit to a far lean for the fear of going over and becoming the next victim.


PS. Your strength vs the victim's weight of course play a factor.

PFD shoulder straps work pretty well for something to grab. Fortunately, I’ve only had to do this one in practice sessions!

One question, I’ve been looking at Astral PFD’s (300T in particular) and they talk about their stretchy shoulder straps as being more comfortable than most. It’s a great fitting PFD, but in this kind of a rescue, you would have to pull an extra few inches before it will stop stretching and be useable for this. Anybody have experience with this? That extra few inches might make a huge difference with the awkward angle you’d already be at for rescuing someone this way.

I Have The Astral
the shoulder straps do stretch. However, you have probably a better chance of reaching and grabbing a side strap (doesn’t stretch), or through the armpit opening that someone’s shoulder strap, I think.


Who got to keep the boat
if God is looking somewhere else and his hand doesn’t arrive on time?

I know a few paddlers with nice kayaks :wink:

deep kayaks
are hard to do this one

In shallow water
is what you seem to be describing… Get out of your boat and help the victim out of theirs… as gently as possible and get them to shore supporting their neck as much as possible ( This is assuming a head injury and possible neck injury. In deep water use the HOG.

If you are paddling with someone and they suddenly start feeling weak, short of breath, dizzy, sweaty… These are symptoms of a heart attack. Do not mess around with towing. Call for help immediately. Stay where you are and wait for help. CPR just is not going to work cockpit to cockpit. It is exhausting even under the best circumstances and buys a few minutes at most.

push down on his/her neck? —
well, that’s a new one for me. i’ve been taught to push down on the nearside cockpit rim while pulling the person up by whatever you’ve grabbed.

how’s pushing down on her neck while pulling up on her PFD gonna right her? sounds like it’s either gonna give her a heck of a neck ache, break her neck or snap her head clean off. :wink:

Body position
Leaning the victiom forward or back makes them easier to roll, especially if you have short arms. Once the victim’s boat is on edge pushing down on the edge of the hull is more effective than just trying to pull on the PFD straps. It’s one of those things that you have to try for yourself to figure out what works best for you.

You really do have to commit your weight, but there’s another boat right next to you – if you don’t let go, you’re not going to capsize.

not just shallow
Thank for the good info. I’d like to address deep water as well please. We were just paddling in a reservoir that has sections over 100 feet deep…


will emphasize rescues. at 2 star, you’re just sorting out some fo the basics of strokes and some limited boat control and basic rescues (t or x rescue)

3 star training will hone those skills in flat water and will introduce you to a # of other rescues including hand of god. haven’t read all that’s been posted here about that but for the rescue you are side/side…lean over the capsized boat and using the pfd, bring the unconcious victim low on the rear deck of their own boat as you push the near side of their boat under them. once you get their torso closer to their boat, it will roll under them and over pretty easilly.

of course, that’s only the first part of the problem, ain’t it? they’re still unconcious and then that brings in the whole host of issues you then have to deal with…are they breathing? is there heart still thumping away in there? do they have a head wound? why are they unconcious? mostly involves getting on the radio and getting immediate evac (a great and applicable phrase from WFA) if available.

4 star you’ll practice all that “in conditions”

5 star you’ll lead a group of 4 stars on a voyage in conditions.

anyways, the bcu will emphasize this and a whole range of other rescues.