A paddle float aid is a critical self-rescue/re-entry tool for the lone kayaker. When used as an “outrigger” support for your kayak, it can help you re-enter your boat. It uses your paddle to provide additional flotation support that extends out beyond your kayak. Besides stabilizing the kayak, it is especially useful when you may not have the strength to perform a re-entry without a little extra assistance.
Paddle floats are either an inflatable pillow or a solid, foam-core block, both of which have a sleeve or “mitten” into which you slide your paddle blade. The paddle is secured by a float strap wrapped around the shaft. A word of warning, check inflatable floats regularly as abrasion (even from just being stowed in cockpit) can create leaks that prevent inflation. Solid floats take up more room and are often stowed aft deck, right behind the cockpit.
There are several ways to utilize a paddle float: 1) use it as a free-floating support on your paddle to help you brace against the deck when re-entering; 2) attach it to the aft deck as a fixed support (most have “X” or “H” patterned bungee cords installed and configured for this purpose); or 3) used in a kayak re-entry roll as extra paddle support during the uprighting sweep of your blade.
Your legs play a critical role in a paddle-float recovery: 1) hook your foot into the overturned cockpit to hang onto your boat while you install your float; 2) try to get horizontal in water, and kick-swim onto, rather than “jump up” into, cockpit. Also, keep low on deck, lean towards side with the float until fully re-seated in your cockpit. Spend some time practicing each step until you are comfortable performing them.