The ability to get back into your kayak after a swim is a critical skill. It is necessary if you want to progress to learning to surf and roll a kayak, amongst other skills. Though it can take time to learn, trying to get back in a kayak can be a fun learning experience. Here are some simple suggestions to break down the learning process into bite sized pieces.
Although more steps and gear is required to get back in a rigid or hardshell kayak as opposed to an inflatable, if you have a chance to practice with an inflatable first, it can help with some of the basics. For example, learning what it feels like to hoist yourself out of the water and mount a boat. The practice of “beached whaling”, or crawling over your watercraft like a beached whale while keeping your weight low, is more forgiving in an inflatable and a great first step to learning how to self-rescue.
In order to be prepared to self-rescue and get yourself back into your Eddyline kayak in a lake, the ocean or river, you’ll want to have apaddle float and abilge pump carefully secured in an easily reachable place on your inverted kayak. Once in the water, after the capsize, grab the paddle float and hold onto the kayak with a foot tucked into the cockpit. Inflate the paddle float or opt for a foam float which won’t require inflation. Secure the float to the paddle, usually by sliding it over the blade. Attach all clips.Paddler’s Guide has a great how-to video which demos a self rescue with a paddle float.
Once back in the boat, use the bilge pump to quickly remove unwanted water from the cockpit. Having a bilge sponge can also help get any last bits of unwanted water or sediment out of your kayak.
Getting back in
Once the float is attached to the paddle, turn the kayak upright by grabbing the far side of the cockpit and pulling towards yourself while pushing on the lip of the closest side of the cockpit. Once the kayak is righted, move to the stern and lay the end of your kayak paddle blade without the float just behind the cockpit, and the float end will stick out perpendicular to the kayak like an outrigger. Hold the shaft of the paddle and the cockpit lip/rim with one hand to steady the paddle. With one big heave, mount the stern or rear deck of the boat. Keep your weight low. Face away from the cockpit on your belly and rotate your legs into the cockpit, back into the cockpit slowly while still on your stomach and turning to face forward. Use the outrigger paddle float for stability. This is a delicate process.The How to Self Rescue video by REI is an excellent visual resource.
For more resources check out:
American Canoe Association - How to Self Rescue
This is a fantastic resource because it explores multiple techniques for self rescue.
Sea Kayaking Skills by Kayaking Essentials
As you advance, a paddle float may not be necessary. This is a great video which shows more advanced self rescue skills and other advanced kayaking skills like rolling.
How to self rescue in a sea kayak
If you learn best by reading, this article provides a very technical breakdown with lots of specifics, vocabulary words and play-by-plays for self rescuing.
Happy paddling! See you down river!