Paddle Float Tutorial - How to Self Rescue using a Paddle Float

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How to Self Rescue Using a Kayak Paddle Float

How to properly use a paddle float to get back into and bilge out a flipped kayak.
A kayaker uses a paddle float to re-enter a flipped kayak. © by George E. Sayour
Every kayaker who spends any amount of time in their boat will at some point end up flipping over in their kayak. Its just a part of the sport really. There are many ways to remedy the situation, namely getting the kayak back upright with the paddler in the kayak. Kayakers can learn to roll their kayaks, do assisted or "buddy" rolls, or wet-exit and have to make their way back into their kayak. There are rescues such as the T-Rescue where another kayaker assists in getting the flipped kayaker back into their kayak. And then there are the rescues that employ the use of a paddle float. While all of these safety techniques are important to know and practice, it is always essential that each kayaker know how to get back into his or her kayak on their own. It is for this reason that the paddle float was invented. The following image gallery will give a step-by-step look at how to properly use a paddle float to get back into and bilge out a flipped kayak.
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Wet Exiting the Kayak en Route to Using a Paddle Float

The Wet-Exit of a Kayak
Upon Wet-Exiting, be sure to stay next to the kayak. © by George E. Sayour
The first step in any self-rescue that does not involve rolling a kayak is to wet-exit the kayak. While a relatively simply manuever, wet-exiting a kayak must still be peformed properly. First tuck forward and upward toward the bow of the kayak. Hold the kayak paddle with one hand and pull the grab loop with the other hand. Once the spray skirt has released from the cockpit combing push the kayak off at the hips. Upon resurfacing be sure to hang on to both the kayak and the paddle.
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Flip the Kayak Over and Locate the Paddle Float

A kayak instructor demonstrates locating a paddle float
A kayaker locates his paddle float. © by George E. Sayour
After wet-exiting the kayak and grabbing a hold of it, it is time to flip the kayak back over. It really depends on the kayak to determine the easiest method to flip it back over. Some kayaks spin easily from the bow. Others can be flipped over at the cockpit by lift it up to break the air pressure seal and then by rolling it. Practice this step in shallow water so you can figure out the best way to flip your kayak back over. A good amount of water will drain out of the kayak during this motion. Once it is flipped back over, locate your paddle float and take it in your hands. It is for this very reason that your paddle float should be stored securely on the deck of the kayak, probably under the stern bungee cords.
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Put Your Leg Inside of the Kayak to Stay with It

A kayaker floats alongside of his kayak with his leg still inside of it.
Stay attached to the kayak while floating out of it. © by George E. Sayour
With the kayak back over and the paddle float in hand, you now need to secure yourself to the kayak. It might still be a few minutes before you reenter the kayak and you want to make sure that you don't get separated from the boat. Lay back in the water with your head toward the stern. Place the leg closest to the kayak into the cockpit of the kayak. The kayak will tip toward you. Don't worry, just stay connected to it while you secure and blow up the paddle float.
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Secure the Paddle Float to the Kayak Paddle

A kayak instructor demonstrates how to slide a paddle float onto a kayak paddle while in the water.
A kayak instructor demonstrates how to slide a paddle float onto a kayak paddle while in the water. © by George E. Sayour
This is a step you should practice out of the water. Each paddle float will slide and secure onto the paddle blade in a different way. Some paddle floats slide over the blade and blow up on both sides of the blade. Others only blow up on one side of the blade. Be sure to read the instructions for your kayak paddle float so that you know how your particular model works. You want to make sure to place the float on the blade in the correct orientation prior to blowing it up.
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Blow Up the Kayak Paddle Float

A kayak instructor blowing up a kayak paddle float.
A kayak instructor demonstrates how to blow up a paddle float while in the water. © by George E. Sayour
At this point you have flipped your kayak over and have located the paddle float. You are still connected to the kayak by your leg and the paddle float is secured onto the paddle. You will now want to blow up the float. Open the paddle float valve and make sure to keep it out of the water so water does not fill inside of the float. Inflate the paddle float by blowing into the valve. As with the previous step you should know how your particular paddle float inflates and how the valve operates. Practice this on dry land. Once firmly inflated, ensure that the valves are closed so that air will not leak out.
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Place the Kayak Paddle Across the Boat

A kayak instructor demonstrates how to use a kayak paddle float to re-enter a kayak from the water.
A kayak instructor positions the kayak paddle across the stern of the kayak. © by George E. Sayour
Once the paddle float is installed and inflated on the kayak paddle, you are ready to utilize it to re-enter the kayak. You may remove your leg from the kayak at this point and position your body just behind the kayak cockpit. Place the kayak paddle blade without the paddle float on it just behind the kayak cockpit and up against the cockpit combing. The kayak paddle blade with the paddle float should be floating on the surface of the water. The kayak paddle should be oriented at about a 75-90 degree angle to the kayak. Hold the kayak and the kayak paddle in this position.
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Climb Up onto the Stern of the Kayak

A kayak instructor pulls himself onto the stern of his kayak using his paddle float.
A kayak instructor pulls himself onto the stern of his kayak. © by George E. Sayour
You are now ready to begin getting back into the kayak. You should be behind the kayak paddle. Depending on the side you are on, take the closest hand to the kayak cockpit and grab the kayak cockpit and the kayak paddle in that hand. Place the closest foot on the kayak paddle shaft just above the paddle float. Push with your foot on the kayak paddle and pull your chest up onto the stern of the kayak with your hand. Maintain the kayak paddle position with the paddle float on the surface of the water and the other end placing pressure on the kayak.
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Place Both Feet on the Kayak Paddle Float

A kayak instructor demonstrates how to use a paddle float.
A kayak instructor climbs up onto his paddle and kayak using a paddle float. © by George E. Sayour
At this point you have pulled your body onto the kayak and have one foot on the kayak paddle, just above the kayak paddle float. You will need to get the other foot on the kayak paddle shaft because during the next step you will remove the first leg from the shaft to place it in the kayak and you'll need the support of the other leg. Bring the other foot into the place where the first foot is on the kayak paddle shaft. Slide the first foot up to make room.
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Place the Closest Leg Into the Kayak to Enter the Kayak

Using a kayak paddle float, a kayak instructor demonstrates how to enter the kayak from the water.
A kayak instructor enters the kayak using a paddle float. © by George E. Sayour
You are now ready to enter the kayak from the water by leveraging your weight on the kayak paddle float. While supporting yourself on the back deck of the kayak and on the kayak paddle blade, remove the closest leg from the kayak paddle shaft. Bring the knee toward the kayak and place your foot and leg inside of the kayak cockpit.
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Get Into the Kayak Using the Paddle Float for Leverage

A kayak instructor demonstrates how to re-enter a kayak using a paddle float.
A kayak instructor uses a paddle float to get into the kayak. © by George E. Sayour
To get into the kayak from this position, simply place the other leg inside of the kayak. You will still be applying pressure to the kayak paddle float by the pressure you are placing on the kayak paddle shaft. In this position, the kayak paddle is acting like an outrigger with the paddle float preventing the kayak from tipping over. Once your body is in the kayak, it might feel awkward because both legs will probably be in one leg hole of the kayak cockpit. That's ok, the main goal is to get in and to adjust your body once in the kayak. Make sure that the kayak back rest is upright and out of the way before the next step.
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Roll Your Body Over into the Kayak Seat

An instructor demonstrates how to get into the kayak seat using a paddle float.
A kayak instructor braces against the kayak paddle float in order to get back into the kayak seat. © by George E. Sayour
At this point you will probably be laying face down in your kayak and on the back deck. You will need to roll over and into the kayak seat. This can be tricky because there will probably still be water in the kayak which will make it "tippy." Keeping two hands on the kayak paddle shaft begin to reposition your legs and roll over and away from the kayak paddle float. Once half way over, remove your closest hand from the kayak shaft and bring it across your body and onto the other side of the kayak paddle, keeping pressure on it against the kayak. Once you are in the seat the kayak paddle will be behind you but you will still have a hand on both sides of the paddle. One will be keeping pressure on the paddle against the boat and one will keep pressure on the paddle float against the water.
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Using a Bilge Pump and a Kayak Paddle Float

A kayak instructor demonstrates how to use a bilge pump and a kayak paddle float.
A kayaker bilges out his kayak while using a paddle float. © by George E. Sayour
Oof! That was a long process, from wet exiting the kayak, flipping it back over, installing and blowing up the kayak paddle float, positioning the kayak paddle, climbing up onto it, and getting back into and situated into the kayak! Unfortunately, you're not done yet. You now need to bilge out your kayak of the remaining water. To do this you will still support yourself on the kayak paddle float as the extra water in the boat makes it very unstable. Bring your kayak paddle in front of you with the kayak paddle float still supported on the surface of the water. Lean against the kayak paddle shaft that should be across your lap at this point. Unfasten your bilge pump that should be underneath a bungee cord on the bow of the kayak and bilge the kayak out. Get as much water as you can out of the boat before refastening your kayak skirt to the kayak cockpit. Once you are stable, you can deflate and remove the kayak paddle float. Be sure to refasten the kayak paddle float and the bilge pump to the deck of the kayak before you are once again on your way.