Emergency Procedures for Kayaking

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Kayakers face potential dangers such as rough currents, weather conditions, inexperience, fatigue and injury. Kayaking emergency procedures are implemented to assist a struggling kayaker (paddler). Emergency procedures and rescues begin with assessing both the paddler and the situation in order to provide the most efficient assistance.


Giving the appropriate assistance requires understanding the mental state, physical state and rationality of the troubled kayaker. Individuals assisting should approach the boat carefully, at 180 degrees, and determine the problem and solution by asking questions and making observations. A shivering kayaker may be suffering from hypothermia and needs to put more layers of clothing on. A dehydrated, sun-burnt or heat-exhausted paddler benefits from drinking water, covering his head with a hat and skin with clothing or pouring water over himself to stay cool. Eating assists the paddler in gaining energy and strength.

Once the situation has been assessed, the individual providing assistance should steady the kayak of the person in distress by placing a paddle on his cockpit and leaning across the foredeck. This allows the person to take care of his own needs without worrying about keeping the boat steady. The paddler may be able to continue onward or may require further assistance such as a tow.

Towing Assist

An incapacitated or injured paddler may not be able to proceed on his own. Emergency towing of a paddler requires considering a number of issues, including weather conditions, current, course, length of time and able rescue kayakers. Towing techniques include single kayak towing or the "V"-tow procedure, which implements two able kayakers connecting to the boat of the incapacitated kayaker.

Simple tows require tying a rope from the rescue kayak's stern handle to the bow handle of the incapacitated paddler's kayak. "V" tows include wearing kayak tow belts and clipping a rope from the belts of the rescue paddlers to that of the distressed paddler. Kayak tow belts have quick-release features in case of an emergency where the tow line needs to be separated.

Kayak Rescue

Paddlers face situations such as capsizing, getting trapped underneath their kayaks or sustaining an injury from a rocky coastline. Emergency techniques include various types of strategies. The "T"-rescue requires the capsized kayaker and rescuer to work together to overturn a capsized kayak. The rescuer pulls the capsized kayak onto the deck of his kayak and both the kayaker and rescuers work to turn it right side up. This capsized kayaker manoeuvres his way back into the cockpit of his own kayak.

Scoop rescues occur when a capsized kayaker can not haul himself from the water back into his boat. This emergency procedure requires the rescue paddler to line the boats up bow to bow. The rescue kayaker pulls the capsized kayak to the side of his boat and holds it so that it is sideways with the cockpit facing the capsized kayaker in the water. The troubled kayaker puts his legs in the cockpit and lays back, allowing the rescuer to bring the kayak to an upright position with the kayaker inside.

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