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“Swim-On” Cockpit Re-entry

“Swim-On” Cockpit Re-entry

Attempting to re-enter your kayak after a capsize can be a very exhausting effort, even with the aid of a paddle float or stirrup and despite the support of a second paddler alongside as a rescuer. Oftentimes fatigue sets in as a result of numerous failed attempts to struggle on board by pulling yourself out of the water and up onto your boat. This “climb up” effort into your cockpit can be a very exhausting and failed exercise!

During pool sessions in shallow water, most beginners simply push off from the bottom as they grab onto their boat and pull themselves upward into the cockpit. This can create a false sense of accomplishment - in a real life situation your feet will be dangling freely - in deep water. Rather than trying to jump up vertically, better to get horizontal with the water’s surface and kick/swim up onto your boat.

As your swimming thrusts you forward, you can do a “push up” on the deck which lowers the boat edge as your body slides up onto the deck.  Even when using a paddle float or with your foot in a rescue stirrup, getting vertical and kicking with both legs (float) or free leg (stirrup), your  horizontal position and extra leg thrust can give you the momentum and angle of approach you can use to more easily enter your kayak.

Adding this swim-on/kick method can be practiced in a pool or shallows as long as you don’t rely on the solid pool or lake bottom as a “jumping off” launching pad for your re-entry. The key to a successful“swim on” re-entry approach, like most rescue techniques, requires a strong, fluid motion that plants you securely upon your deck and back into your cockpit.

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