Deep water rescue may be something you’re thinking about as you head out on your first kayaking trip some distance from shore, “What do I do if I tip”, “How do I get back in my kayak” and even “I’m outside my comfort zone, I’m not happy about this”. First, capsize is much less common than you’d think in a small boat like a kayak, and even long skinny kayaks with a rounded hull shape are more stable than you’d think. ‘Think like a bike’ works – as you gain speed you gain stability and often the best solution to feeling you’re unstable and might tip is just to paddle forward and get up some speed. A short time spent practicing the low brace in shallow water as you start out on your trip will increase your confidence for paddling in rougher water.
On any paddling trip where you’re paddling away from the shoreline and into conditions where you’re likely to encounter waves and swell and wind, your guide or group leader would have discussed with you how to prevent a capsize and what to do if you do find yourself in the water. (S)he is well-practiced in the procedure for deep water rescue and for getting you back in your boat and will give you on-the-spot instructions for what you should do.
On your onshore safety briefing you will have talked about a ‘Wet Exit’, that is, how to exit your kayak in the water. You just remember three words ‘Tuck, Pull, Push’.
If you tip and you’re upside down:
1. Tuck - bend your trunk forward
2. Pull - grab the loop on the front your spray-skirt and pull
3. Push - move your hands to the cockpit edge behind your hips and push up
The procedure for getting you back in your kayak can be broken down into a few simple steps. It’s tricky to describe in words and is best understood visually - there's a video at the end of this post which explains the process.
First - listen to your rescuer he/she will tell you exactly what to do.
Second – hold onto your paddle and your kayak.
1. Your rescuer will tell you to make your way to her kayak, hand over your paddle, and hold on to her cockpit while she gets the water out of your boat.
2. Make your way back to your boat and, facing the stern, pull your trunk out of the water and lie across the back deck face-down with your legs under the front deck.
3. Twist your body around so you are sitting in your seat and… once your instructor attaches your sprayskirt and gives you back your paddle… before you know it, you are in! Congratulations!
With your rescuer instructing you every step of the way the process is not as hard to do as it sounds and in practice the whole process can take just a couple of minutes. We don’t generally do practice runs of the deep water rescue on our trips because of course it means you do get wet.
But we’d be happy to demo if you’d like.