Kayak rescue

molly1205molly1205 Lincoln, NebraskaSenior Member
edited October 2013 in General Discussion
Has anyone practiced - or God forbid actually used - a kayak for rescue purposes? I can't seem to find much info on the proper technique for a single kayaker to rescue an exhausted or hypothermic swimmer.

Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska



  • SharkoSharko Tomales BayGuest
    edited October 2013
    I towed a (he clung to the stern of the kayak) exhausted and hypothermic swimmer at the finish of one of our Golden Gate swims...he as a good swimmer but with a very low body fat percentage...he couldn't swim but hung on as I paddled 1/4 mile to a rescue boat...and then he was taken in by an angel who wrapped her ample body around his....as he shivered back to life...the bow or stern is where you want them or if you have a sled you are towing behind that will work....they "can't" get in the kayak nor should they hang on the side as they will flip it!!! Use you paddle to alert someone to come over and help....a whistle on the kayak may be helpful....many of us use marine radios to talk to each other or to vessel traffic....Many of the Alcatraz invitational swimmers have hung on the stern or bow of a kayak to catch their breath and gain confidence

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • I've practiced paddleboard rescues. Could a sit-on-top kayak be used similarly? The basics are: With you on one side and the rescuee on the other, flip the boat upside down. Pull the person's hands so that their armpits engage the gunwhale (this ain't gentle). Keep yanking until the boat flips upright, dragging the rescuee over the top so that he ends up out of the water, crosswise to the kayak. As I say, that works great on a paddleboard, but I don't know if it would work on a sit-on-top kayak and I'm sure it wouldn't work on a sea kayak.

    I'd be interested in hearing other methods, as well as others' opinions regarding the method above.
  • It works, it aint fun, it's not easy and it does hurt. And this only in practice.... never had to actually DO it w an unconscious or injured person.
    We luckily have a GREAT resource in our SFPD guys w the 'skidoos". They can get in close and position the rescue raft within inches of a struggling swimmer. The kayaks tend to be used ( at least on the mass SF Bay swims) as directional, as support and as markers for the PD guys.
  • NeilEugeneNeilEugene Member
    edited October 2013
    I have made a couple of rescues with a sit-on-top (Hobie). It is not easy, but doable without the kayaker getting in the water. Depending on the kayak, you have options to drag the swimmer on your lap or if they have strength left (and you have room), they can hop on the back. The golden rules though: always have a pfd and an extra one for rescues, never take your eyes off the swimmers, and practice, practice, practice. The last thing you want is to become another liability with a flipped kayak, spent fuel (yes, I have seen whole channel swim feeds drift into the abyss via non-tethered bags on some swims), and usually kayakers are not dressed for swimming, so there is extra weight with heavy clothing (like for night support). Which brings up another good point: doing all of the above may seem doable and advised in day time, but everything changes at night - so swimmers, do opt for experience out there if it is available ... it might just save the day and the time / money invested in your swim adventure - not to mention, your life.

    Hats off to all our kayaking support heroes and here's to more organizations opting for their support rather than not having it.
  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    Thanks Neil. For those who don't know, @NeilEugene is widely considered one of the most skilled (if not most skilled) swim support paddlers in California.
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