Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sea kayak rescue - different methods of getting back into the kayak

Scoop rescue - optimized: swimmer facing the stern of his kayak, embracing the kayak with both arms.

Last week I gave a rescue-workshop with a focus on the different methods to get a swimmer back into his seakayak. The standard method which is usually practised in the teaching-programs of the NKB is the "conventional X-rescue with lie back re-entry between the kayaks". It's important to have a standard, but there are different (proven) methods to help someone back into his kayak. It's good for an advanced sea kayaker to get familiar with a wide range of methods: the more methods you're familiar with, the better you can adapt the rescue-method to the circumstances.

To prepare the participants for the workshop I searched the web for video's and/or illustrated articles of different re-entry methods. This proved not to be an easy search. There is an enormous number of (good) video's and articles on sea kayak rescues on the web, but I couldn't find a single resource that offers a systematic overview. (Tip for the members of the Dutch NKB: the article on Sea kayak rescues in Mededelingen 2008/2, by Axel Schoevers. Axel's article gives a good overview but is not illustrated and only available printed).

The result of my web-research for assisted rescues (excluding the eskimo-rescues - that's for another workshop ;-):

I - Kayaks parallel:
a. Swimmer between the kayaks
Conventional X-rescue with lie back re-entry (= the method practised in NKB courses)

b. Swimmer alongside of the kayaks (side entry)
Traditional side entry (pulling up chest and stomach on the kayak first, legs later)
Variation climbing over rescuer's kayak (entry from the side of the rescuers kayak instead of from the side of the swimmers kayak - offers a more stable platform)
Heel hook rescue (leg in first, to make use of the stronger leg and core muscles) - instructive animation on safety basics - assisted re-entry).

c. Scoop rescues
Conventional (swimmer facing towards bow of the kayak)
Optimized (swimmer facing the stern of the kayak, embracing the back deck)

II. Kayaks perpendicular:

Ladder rescue

III. Panic rescues
Methods for righting a passive paddler in a capsized kayak:
Hand of god rescue
Bow roll rescue

My little summery is not comprehensive. It's what I stumbled across in my Google-search. I couldn't find video's for all the rescues (and I was not convinced by every video I found..). Suggestions for additions are welcome!
It would be an interesting project to make a series of rescue video's dedicated for the Dutch sea kayak community (but time...). Then we could take into account some typical Dutch habits. Like the fact that Dutch seakayakers rarely use a paddle leash. "What to do with the paddles" is often an issue with rescues trainings in the Netherlands. (The solution is simple: store the paddles under your arms, use them across the kayaks to stabilize the raft, etc.. ;-)

Update 9-2-2011:
- replaced the Youtube-video's of the Heel-hook, Ladder and Hand of God-rescue by weblinks to new (better) videos (from


Anonymous said...

Look at this (sorry for the text i Norvegian, but the videos are god)

Hans Heupink said...

Hello Anonymous ;-)
Thanks for your suggestion! I am impressed by the perfection of the The videos are very clear and the techniques are performed in a way similar to what we are used to in the Netherlands (BCU-inspired).
My summery of assisted rescues is now almost completely covered with video's - I just want to add some clear video's of "traditional" side entries (without heel-hook).

Wenley said...

Hello Hans,

Have you tried a scoop rescue with an unconscious victim?



Kepa Acero said...

I am a surfboarder from Spain and I would love to go to Greenland surfing.
Could you please give me some info of the place? is there any surfable waves?

Asbjørn said...


I am preparing for a magasine article where would like to write about rescues of a incapasitated padler.
Could I have your permission to use your photo from this bloggpost as an illustration. I would blur the faces so that it becomes anonymous.


hans said...

Hello Asbjorn, no problem, you can use this picture on your blog (not needed to blur faces), grtz, Hans