Whitewater/Surf HOG Rescue

Anyone know of any internet links for best technique for doing the “Hand of God” when you are in a whitewaer boat or surk kayak. Any similar links for how to best tow a swimmer in a small volume whitewater/surf boat?

My Thoughts

– Last Updated: Feb-05-05 5:46 AM EST –

HOG technique is the same as with a longer boat. You reach over to grab and pull the far rail but equally important to push down on the side closest to you. Of course, everything is that much more dicey in breaking waves. A problem is what to do with the paddle. It's not as if you have a deck to stick the paddle under. You can hold the paddle with the hand that is pushing down on the hull but that paddle is going to get in the way and potentially make your push slide off the hull bottom. You can put the paddle between your boat and the rescuee's but thought of losing the paddle is pretty sobering because you'll have two possible folks in trouble. Losing the paddle is not much an issue for me these days because I use a short paddle leash attached to my wrist. I started doing this to prevent the paddle from been stripped in big waves but it has helped for taking photos in surf and can be helpful if the rare chance comes that I have to do a HOG. The scariest part, of course, is that in short interval waves -- much more common for us in NE -- is that of having both boats be tumbled by a breaker. The potential of injury to both the rescuer and rescuee is pretty likely and serious.

In terms of towing, the best bet for 99% of the times is to do a "swimmer's tow." The swimmer hangs on to your back deck grab loop (you have one, right?) and kicks while you paddle. He has to watch your back, look for breaking waves, give warning and let go if needed for the rescuer to get out of Dodge. The rescuer can always come back to him. BTW, the rescuer should always come in from the side and never from ocean side to prevent running over the swimmer when a wave comes at a bad time. Running over a swimmer with the fins is a horrible thought and possibility.

My thought about the swimmer's boat is to leave it and have the surf take it in, or have another rescueer push the boat in. In white water, the swimmer can hang onto the boat while get a swim tow. In breaking waves, that boat trailing behind the rescuer and the swimmer can be picked up by a breaking wave and smashed on top of the swimmer and/or rescuer.

There may be certain situations where a tow rope could prove useful. But I honestly think the rescuer has to do some serious thinking about the possible (and life threatening) consequences of having a rope floating out there, tethered to you and a half submerged boat.

Anyway, I have done a lot of searches on rescues in the surf. Honestly, there is not alot of info out there. It is a vital piece that is glaring in its ommission almost all of the surf kayaking sites. I think the ommission is due to the fact that options for rescueing the swimmer (and the boat) as one would find for touring folks, are pretty limited or dangerous in the surf zone. The first priority always is to get the swimmer to shore. And, the best way, I think, to do that is a swimmer's tow from the back deck loop.

Given the above, I think it's crucial to not be in big wave situations, or breaks with specific dangers, with folks other than those you have had experience with and trust in terms of them keeping their cool and understanding the dangers. Surfing is a fun game but also a potentially dangerous one, more so for those lacking appreciation, skills and mental preparation to deal with what can go wrong out in the break zone.



– Last Updated: Feb-05-05 7:02 PM EST –

When I took a rescue class I used a pretty large boat , a Prijon Kodiak, I believe . My class rescue partner was about 120 lbs, 5'4 in a very easy to right sea kayak so it was not much of a challenge flipping her upright. I've started surfing with less experienced folks than me now in whitewater boats so I'm looking to make sure somebody knows some more skills, I think I may take an official whitewater class this summer too. My son came down from school this weekend and we got out this morning, the waves were really small, we're hoping to do better tomorrow....


good stuff
I would pretty much agree with everything said.

As far as available info, perhaps one of the best is Lull’s book on SK rescue, page 120. For the 5 listed rescues for surf, the first two prioritised are self rescue.

That tells you something- attempts to rescue someone in the surf from your own boat can lead to far more serious situations. Out in the Pac NW, one issue that is life threatining is logs in the surf. So when is a rescuer in a kayak not also potentially just another log?

Drives home the advice, that when a rescue is necessary, to approach from the shore side of the swimmer.

Yeah, and back deck swimmer rescues, which I have done plenty in the surf, are really tough in small volume boats, easier in sea kayaks. Toggle tows are also tough becuase the power of the surf often seperates the swimmer violently. A back deck tow in a small volume boat can be done, but in a true surf boat the boat basically does a stern squirt. I have done so with the swimmer on the front deck, arms around my waist a la back deck style, legs in the water to act as a drogue, and backed in. Has the advantage that when a wave is about to close on you, ask the swimmer to sink their legs deeper.

Still, the best I have done is, when teaching surf skills, have the class swim in the surf first.


HOG- why?
The HOG is no different in WW boats vs sea kayaks, in fact, I think they are slightly easier in a WW boat. Think of this- I am grabbin the side of a boat, using it as a lever to lift a heavy weight (paddler). With most WW boats quite a bit wider than most SK, I have a longer lever to pull on.

No joke, I really think it is easier.

More important is, why? Operating on a principle of avoiding making one’s self a victim, if someone in the surf needed a HOG, even if it could be done, now what? You are in the surf with a likely incapacitated paddler, holding on… for what? Maybe 2-3ft shorebreak, yeah, but an outer break, 6ft?


What got me thingking …

– Last Updated: Feb-05-05 8:19 PM EST –

thinking... sorry for spelling meltdown...

There was an accident this winter at the Jalama expression session in California this December where a kayak surfer got speared in the gut by another boater, he was very seriously injured. I was watching as he was brought in to the campground by some real experienced people. It has made me stop and think ...what if ..... something similar happened to what could I do. Actually I have participated in rescues in the surfzone with two or three boats rafted up.

mano di dio
is not easier in a white water boat.

really the only thing that makes it easier is having someone light, in a round hulled kayak without hard chines.

A big person in a hard chined flat bottomed kayak will effectively be the hardest to get back up. For example the foster silhouette is one of the easier kayaks to do a hog, in because of the round bottom, the hard chines are moderate, and really only a smaller kayaker can fit in there.

Possible Rare Situations…

– Last Updated: Feb-06-05 6:10 AM EST –

that the "assisted rescues" taught in seakayaking will work in (or near) the break zone. After our incident over a month ago, I got an email from Mike Simpson/RISK who said he has been successful in getting folks back in the boat in the deeper water off point breaks. He said he carries a pump and has gotten folks back in their boat and pump them out. I going to have him show me. Mike is pretty expert so I don't doubt him, though I have doubts about how many folks can pull it off.

In our situation, we had the boat out in the deeper water but with 6' rollers coming in. The swimmer we had already gotten to shore. I can't help but remember how scary it was for me just trying to push the boat. Every so often a wave would lift me and I would land on the submerged boat. Hard enough that I thought I was going to snap my fins. Snapping my fins ain't no big deal but the thought of perhaps ripping my fin boxes off or damaging them to allow a leak was sobering. Anyway, I thought a bit afterwards about how I would try to get a swimmer back in the boat. The problem, of course, is that surf and white water boats are so low volume. Once a swimmer gets back in, the coaming will likely be underwater. So how do you pump this out? My thought is a wet entry and bow assisted roll then somehow sliding the rescuer's bow under, or pulling the submerged boat on top of the rescuer's bow to give additional buoyancy, hopefully enough to get the coaming out of the water. The rescuer has to open his skirt and get his pump out and ready beforehand. From there, you can pump out, reseal the skirt and you're good to go. Right...

Anyway, back to time we out there in the big rollers with the submerged boat. I wish I had eyes all around my head to see when the next roller was going to lift me up while fudging with the boat. I can't not imagine ever opening my coaming to get anything. One breaking wave and I would be flooded and in BIG trouble. The other problem is what to with the paddles while attempting a rescue that is complicated already by the low volume boats and the rollers. I had a paddle leash but the other person didn't. Where to put that when the rescuer is hanging onto the rescuee's boat while the rescuee is trying to pump out since that's a two hand operation? If the paddle were to float away, the rescuer would have to go and retrieve it after the pumping operation. The hope would be that the rescuee is good enough to brace himself with his hands and to not go over again while the rescuer is retrieving the paddle. Anyway, the whole scenario is incredibly dicey even from a hypothetical playthrough of how it would work.

A friend of mine who leads some trips for a local outfitter related an interested "surf rescue" situation to me. On a "intro to surf" class for seakayakers, he had one of these "know it all" types. "Know it all" dude flipped and wet exited in the break zone. He was trying to do one of those standard sea kayak self rescues but kept getting rolled over by the waves. The waves were not particular big but steep. My friend pulled up and asked Mr. know-it-all to swim to shore and would make that the sure the boat gets in. Mr. Know-it-all insisted that he wanted to reenter his boat (pride before the fall) and he wasn't going to swim in. "Alright, alright..." my friend acquieced. He pulled up wave of the swimmer and his boat. (My friend said no way was he going to be down wave of the swimmer's boat...) Anyway, in the midst of trying to get the swimmer, a wave came and picked them up. My friend said one moment he was level with the swimmer and the boat and next moment he was looking down at them. My friend immediate tucked and went crashing down on the simmer and his boat. Very fortunately no one was hurt and my friend hung on to his paddle and was able to roll back up. After that, the swimmer swam to shore as he should have in the first place. Personally, once getting to shore, I would probably kill Mr know-it-all with my bare hands. It must suck to be "leading" someone like that.