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Kayak Heel-Hook Assisted Rescue

The heel hook rescue allows a paddler in their boat to help a paddler who's not in their boat get back in their boat, using their lower body and leg strength as opposed to just the upper body strength of the other rescues. The way that you stabilize the boat, if you are the rescuer, is to put your body weight over the kayak, armpit to cockpit, and your outside hand under the thigh brace, with your arm pulled in tight to your side. The guy in the water, you'll direct him to float on his back, with his head towards the stern, and to put his outside heel in under here and then to take his outside arm and roll up and straighten the leg on top of the kayak and keep rolling.

The objectives of an assisted rescue are to get the water out of the kayak and the person back in the kayak. To set this up, you'll want to perform a T-rescue, where the rescuer kayak pulls up to the swimmer's kayak; picks up the bow of that kayak, dumping the water out of the cockpit; then turns the rescuer's kayak bow to stern with the swimmer's kayak to begin the assisted rescue.

The heel hook rescue is what we use more than anything else to help a swimmer-kayaker get back into their boat. It works well for more people than any other rescue because it allows you to use your lower body, your leg strength, to get back on top of the kayak rather than just having to have a lot of upper body strength to pull yourself over the boat.

When, as a rescuer, you come to the bow of the boat that you are going to perform the T-rescue on. You'll want to put your near hand, that is the hand nearest the boat, on top of the rescue kayak so that you can get your other hand under the boat and lift it up onto your cockpit coaming. Then you can rotate the kayak over, after draining the water, and pull it into a bow-to-stern position with the in-water person on the outside of the kayak.


It's done by having the person in the water, with their head towards the stern, putting their outside leg into the thigh brace and their outside arm across the kayak, grabbing either the rescuer's wrist, if that's available, or a lifeline or other part of the kayak, if it's not. And then roll on top of the kayak while straightening their leg. And by straightening the leg, that'll put the body on top of the kayak. And they then keep on rolling until they're seated in their seat. It works really, really well. Of course, a little practice is always a good idea.


This has been Mike Aronoff with Canoe Kayak and Paddle Company (CKAPCO). I hope we'll be seeing you on the water!


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