Wet exit protocol question.

If a person is acting as a safety while a paddler is attempting a wet exit and cannot release the sprayskirt, what should the safety do to get the paddler upright (and not harm the paddler)?


Assisted rescues
If it’s a practice session decide ahead of time what the person going under water wants you to do.

Generally they bang on the hull when they need help and leave their hand out of the water and the safety puts the bow of their boat in their hand so they can pull themselves up.

The safety could also come alongside and just clasp hands an let the person underwater pull themselves up.

Their is also the “Hand of God” if the person practicing is Incapacitated.

ACA rescue classes are worth the money.


– Last Updated: May-20-16 12:51 AM EST –

When I was learning rolls, if I couldn't get myself up, I would tap on the hull and my spotter would give me their bow so that I could pull myself upright. I agree that hand-of-gods are a good suggestion too if the person is not responsive. I've practiced a few and they can be challenging though. I suppose if you tried those things and failed you would have to do a wet exit yourself, get in, and help extract them.

Before any paddle, make sure the LOOP IS OUT! Also, practice on dry land what to do if the loop is NOT out. I had a scary moment once and gave my instructor a fright. We had been doing re-entry and rolls for a while and at some point I tucked in my loop and didn't look before the next one. I couldn't get it and pushing my knee up wasn't working. If I had been CALM I would have remembered to just pinch the sides to get the skirt off, but in that moment I had panicked and tapped on the hull. He gave me the bow of his boat and I pulled myself up but I realized that panic can be more dangerous than anything else. We got on dry land and practiced pulling the skirt off without having a loop exposed as a safety precaution from that point on.

Not deep water exit
Thanks - am thinking of a practice when it’s done in shallower water with safety standing, not in a boat.

pirate is right
Establish the understanding first. But if you’re standing beside the boat, you can still right the kayaker if they make their hands available.

If you cannot - then you’re in too deep and should be assisting from your own kayak.

Matters who you are practicing with

– Last Updated: May-20-16 10:34 AM EST –

The above answers sound like they are assuming a class situation where everyone there has gone thru a certain progression, including practicing the part of coming up by grabbing someone's bow. That does not sound like what you are talking about, seems like more ad hoc on your own stuff.

First, the simplest solution if you are doing this without a lot of support is to use a skirt that is loose enough it will push off the coaming if someone panics. Yes they should pull the grab loop and all, but if you forget to check it or the other person has a surprise response, a looser skirt will avoid a big mess.

And coming up smoothly on someone else's bow has to be practiced by itself to be certain that someone can do it. It looks effortless if someone already has started towards a hip snap, but the result is entirely different when someone is panicking and just grabbing. People can also be very one-side dominant, and really not be able to figure out how to get their head out from under the assisting boat on their "other" side. So don't assume that will work unless it has been done a few times, and calmly.

I would also caution you to maintain strong balance if standing next to someone new to this, even in shallow water. I wish I had a photo of one night in the local pool session, where a woman panicked once she was upside down and literally climbed up my husband while still in her boat. Luckily a low volume WW boat, but when we looked around in response to the screech she had wrapped her arms completely around Jim's head and neck and was hanging on him with the boat half out of the water.

It sounds like you are thinking of taking out a friend and being the safety person? Just to ask a silly question, would they be in a boat they didn't just fall right out of?

I’m not the safety. I’m the paddler.
My kayak has a deep rim on the coaming, especially at the top. I have a very nice stretch nylon skirt of the correct size that was so tight over the coaming, my L2 instructor would not let me use it in class last summer. I’ve worked on keeping it wet and stretching the rand so I can get it on and off upright (but need two hands). But I won’t trust it until I know I can get it off upside down.

I have a non-paddler who will stand in the water while I try - but don’t want a dislocated shoulder if there’s a problem. Wasn’t sure what the instruction to the safety should be, but being able to grab a hand sounds like it would work.

I do have a lower quality skirt which I can remove with one hand, but it pools water.

they should not be in a skirt where they can’t exit easily or have enough practice in on land. They can also practice even on their side with someone holding them up to get use to the idea of the water. Instructor rolled my wife and she panicked. It took over a year to get her back in a skirt. Now she where’s a lose skirt for starters. Some are hard to get off if you are not that strong or smaller size. She doesn’t go out in real rough stuff so at least it keeps the water out of the boat even if pooling occurs.

Myself I went out twice with the loop tucked inside with a fitting seals spray skirt. After realizing it I tried a want if. Not that easy but I have strong hands and don’t panic in water. I think they should have a different color on the loop instead of all black.

People can even practice on grass with eyes closed and roll them on their side to get use to it.

I would practice training the safety
First, make sure they can right you before you try the tight skirt.

Grabbing the hand of someone sitting in a boat to pull you up would be completely different than grabbing the hand of someone standing in hip deep or deeper water. That may not work. You would have to climb your way up to their shoulders without them losing their footing.

Do this then

– Last Updated: May-20-16 12:05 PM EST –

1) To start, practice just wet exits with the looser skirt, don't grab onto anyone. Wear a helmet though. Have your helper stand back and away unless you hit your head or something.

2) If dislocating a shoulder is even a possibility, you do not have enough control of the boat with your lower body to impose on a non-paddler for support. Or a paddler without practice in rescue work.

You need to learn that against a stationary object - edge of a pool, end of the dock, gradually immersing and really rotating the boat just with your hips before you bring your upper body along.
Once you have gotten the hang of starting the motion with your lower body, you can consider adding the friend.

Honestly, if that other skirt is so tight you need two hands I don't see why you are paddling with it at all. It is not practical in a real situation even if you aren't tired, which is commonly the state someone is in when the real situation happens, because at least one hand is likely to be busy hanging onto your paddle. I would lose it and get one you know will come off when you are tired and things are bad. Yes those skirts will be a little wetter, but unless you are doing WW it won't be enough to be a capsize risk. I paddle with skirts as loose as they can be and still be dry enough when paddling solo for the same reason, it is a matter of safety.

There is a curious perception that becoming a good paddler requires taking on unnecessary risks, like learning scary things totally cold turkey or using equipment that requires a lot of effort to make work for you. Sure, there are stages where you have to do things that are a bit scary to grow. But not nearly as much as some people with a certain gender of hormones will say. There is a difference between proving something for the sake of it and learning, don't let anyone confuse you on which is which.

Spray Skirts
Can be removed more easily by pushing hard on the foot pegs while you lean back across the back deck. I have never seen anyone who could not dislodge a spray skirt in this manner.

If using the standard exit procedure:

  • ensure the pull strap is not folded into the boat before you launch
  • grap the strap and pull forward to the bow, not up, to dislodge the skirt with the strap
  • keep your feet on the pegs and push as you pull the strap forward

    Here is where I differ from the recommended “curling forward toward the front deck.” This works really well IF the front end of the skirt was dislodged when you pulled the tab. You come up, head out of the water with the boat right beside you. It’s elegant and about as classy as you can get with a wet exit. If the front of the skirt did not disengage from the boat, you end up struggling to dislodge the back of the skirt from the boat by leaning forward and pulling in the direction it is least likely to release. This is a lower power move than:

    Pushing hard on the foot pegs with the legs. This is always a stronger move than any motion with the arms - when in doubt, use big muscles. I doubt the spray skirt can withstand 300+ lbs. of force, even if you don’t pull the strap (assuming that any adult with full use of their legs can produce that much force without the additional adrenaline). For those incapable of generating sufficient power from the legs, loosening the skirt and performing the forward pull MUST work.

    I’ve always used a very tight spray skirt and need both hands to attach it. Getting out the approved method works, but as I aged, I found that bending in some directions (due to back injuries) was easier than others. Done right, the pull tab is all you need, but, failing that, lay back, push hard with the legs, and that skirt will just pop right off.

    While the exit is inelegant and you end up face down near the back of the boat with your legs still inside, move of it is underwater and hard for others to to see.


Traiing your safety person and . . .
Rookie, you got a lot of good advice in this thread. The single best piece: use a looser skirt. Really.

Training your safety person is a good idea too. The idea for the safety person is stand firmly planted and offer their hands at the surface for you to grab and roll up with. That requires you to roll the boat up with your hip and thigh.

But the real problem here is a skirt that’s dangerously tight on the kayak you own – even if it’s the “correct” size. For me, I’ve found that a Seals skirt is always sized tighter than I can easily handle. I have to go up a size from the recommended one, say to a 1.7 from a 1.4, to have a comfortable (safe) fit.

Not always
Have been in a boat with a skirt that would not push off. A skirt with a whitewater rand. I felt my way to the grab loop and got out, but it was way too close for comfort.

Skirt issues
Most skirts that are hard to put on come off like a slingshot with very little effort once you pull on the loop.

If your skirt is causing you fear/tension etc. Chuck it and get a entry level neoprene skirt that fits your boat and comes on and off easier. You don’t need a fancy skirt to make your life difficult. Actually if you let other paddlers know you are looking for a spray deck, someone may have an old one they can loan you or let you have cheap.

Interesting question
It’s an interesting question. If my wife was upside down and I was the safety I’m pretty sure I could just flip her kayak upright. Whether she could do the same for me I’m not sure.

At the class we took, the instructor wanted us, as soon as we were inverted, to put our hands in the air and bang on the hull three times as an alert to others that we were in some trouble. Then he wanted us to reach for the loop and pull away the spray deck. While I can see that logic, I think that it was as much so he could see that we weren’t panicking.

Goodness this…

– Last Updated: May-20-16 12:48 PM EST –

Unless you're whitewatering or surfing I can't imagine that a regular neoprene skirt wouldn't be adequate. It doesn't need to be so tight. Sure a bit of a water might pool but I'd take that over lacking confidence in my ability to exit if I took a spill. There may be something going on with your paddling technique to get that much water pooling on your skirt also.

If you are banging you are not panicking. Flailing-in-panic hands look very different, often not even above the water.

Drip rings
Also, one tip my paddling group and instructors shared with me right away was to REMOVE the drip rings from my paddle if you haven’t already. They tend to have the opposite effect and end up soaking your lap, especially if you’re a high-angle paddler.

If I were to assist someone in getting upright by that method, I’d go through that drill first.

here’s how I do it

– Last Updated: May-20-16 2:31 PM EST –

typically I wade in at least up to my belly button or a little deeper. Make sure the area is clear of rocks and other obstructions (like logs). I Stand on side of the boat that is the persons control (dominant) hand.
Usually have them flip toward me (half roll position) They Hold paddle with one hand and reach with the dominant hand for the spray skirt loop by sliding hand along cockpit rim and leaning forward.

If trouble is incurred (can't find loop) or they get temporarily stuck, I usually grab the individual by the torso or shoulders and hold them up while they get a breathe. During this time I tell folks to relax, remember to lean forward and feel the cockpit rim for the grab loop. Some folks try to push their way out of the boat by leaning backwards. While this may cause them to be unsuccessful at wet exiting, they are usually easy to elevate enough with assistance so they get a breath(carping air- a bad kayak habit) since their head is toward the rear of the boat. During this time (while I'm holding them up for a breathe) I remind them to relax, reassure them, and tell them to lean forward and feel for the grab loop on the cockpit rim and visualize forward rolling out of the cockpit. If they have difficulty wet exiting- require direct assistance, I have them repeat the exercise or put them in a ducky or SOT.

You're probably more at risk as the helper (from flailing paddles) than the wet exitter.

In a few instances I've had to pull the sprayskirt off so they could wet exit. We usually look for a looser spray skirt if that happens and repeat the exercise.