Being able to self rescue after a capsize and a swim is a great and really valuable skill to practice. Not only is it fun to play around in the water, developing this skill its also really handy. If we can self rescue quickly and efficiently it gives us confidence to try new exercises and it might help us out one day if we find ourselves in a sticky situation.
The main types of self rescue we see are back deck scrambles, re-entry and roll and paddle float rescues. Each rescue has its own advantages and disadvantages.
A back deck scramble is a great one to start with. It involves us pushing the bow of our upside down boat up and out of the water, to try and empty the cockpit, before we scramble over the back deck and swing our legs back into the cockpit. The advantage of a back deck scramble is, providing we do a reasonable job of lifting the bow, we are getting back into and relatively empty kayak. This makes life easier for us to paddle in conditions. However many people find a back deck scramble tricky in rougher conditions. It can be a bit unstable and wobbly and, with repeated attempts, is exhausting.
I find it easier to practice the back deck scramble by breaking it down into its 3 parts. The empty, over the back, and scrambling back in. Start with the last part first. So sat in your cockpit get used to swinging your legs in and out. Next see if you can shuffle out of the cockpit and onto the back deck. Now trying moving up and down the back deck. Try the other stages next and try and put the whole thing together. Tip - when you are trying to haul out onto the back deck of the boat don't just pull. Shuffle far enough down the back deck so you can push down and slightly sink the back of the boat. Next kick your legs and throw your body across the kayak. Our video lessons go in to each stage in detail.
A re-entry and roll is generally my go to self rescue in rougher more dynamic seas. Providing we have a reasonable roll the re-entry can be more reliable in conditions as it require less balance. However after a re-entry we are paddling a boat full of water, this is unstable and hard to manoeuvre. We will need to find a calmer environment to pump out the water from our cockpit.
Paddlers can often struggle with a re-entry and roll for the following reasons. They haven't got themselves fully in the boat, they haven't got the blade and blade angle set correctly and/or they rush their roll. Try and slow the whole thing down a bit.
A paddle float can used to assist with either of the above rescues. A large inflatable bag is slid over the end of one paddle blade and is used for support and balance. A paddle float can really help if we find the re-entry or scramble tricky, its a really great tool for maintaining stability. However, I've always found a paddle float takes a bit more time, I have to get it out blow it up etc. Once finished the bag can be a bit cumbersome and awkward to pack away. Not a problem in calmer conditions but a littler trickier in rougher water.
It's worth starting in some nice sheltered calm conditions getting our self rescue perfected. Some people just focus on one method, others like to have a few different tricks up their sleeve. Once we feel happy it's worth practicing in a bit of chop with some friends. As always make sure we are practicing rescues in an environment within our comfort zone with other peer paddlers to help out if needed.
I hope you have some fun experimenting with your self rescues. Let us know how you get on.