Whatever level of paddler you are one thing’s for sure: if you’re playing in surf then at some point you’ll be going for a swim. There are two courses of action, depending on the scenario. In some cases your boat may disappear off with the white water resulting in a swim. Heading shoreward it’s simply a case of following your craft before setting up to do battle once again. In some instances you may end up with your boat beside you. At this point you’ll need to perform a self rescue in deep water and get yourself back aboard. You could wait for the waves to wash you in but this isn’t the most efficient method and does sometimes result in fatigue setting in. Plus a marauding sit on top kayak ploughing through a line up isn’t great for other water users.
There are different techniques and tips for getting back on your stead. In the following images we show how we do it with the particular boat we’re using: Dagger’s Kaos 10.2.
1 – In the first image you can see we’ve been dumped and our boat looks as if it’s heading off for a journey to the beach.
2 – As luck would have it the wave released our kayak and we’re able to get next to it. Now comes a tricky part. We’ve got to right the boat before the next wave washes through, ideally, so time is of the essence.
3 – For us the easiest way is to push down on the edge of the hull closest to us whilst reaching across to the opposite rail and hauling it over, using our bodyweight to get the Kaos sitting on the water the right way up.
4 – Once in position we again reach across the hull to steady the boat and get ready to clamber aboard. It’s important to try and balance your weight accordingly otherwise the boat is going upside down again.
5 – Having taken hold of any solid fixture (in this instance a thigh strap) we give a big kick and pull the top half of our body across the kayak’s cockpit. You now need to steady yourself, maintain composure but assess the horizon for oncoming swell.
6 – Probably the trickiest part of self rescue in waves is getting back to a seated position. The aim is to keep your weight low and head positioned above the centre line of your boat. Once in position you can tuck your leg underneath your bum and begin sliding it across the boat…
7 – as is happening in this image. It needs to be a swift, smooth movement without unsettling the boat’s stability.
8 – Having successfully got to a straddling position paddlers should be able to waggle themselves about to find the seated area.
9 – Take stock, but don’t hang around too long, and begin paddling…
10 – ready to take on the next approaching set.
Stacking it in waves is part of the fun. Confidence comes with experience: the more you get under your belt the more of the former you develop. Practicing on flat water before heading into the surf is a good idea. Buoyancy aids do help, although there’s an argument to say they prohibit the ducking under of surf should you need to. Helmets are another bit of safety kit you can add to give piece of mind. As with riding conventional surfboards, however, if you take a dunking then don’t pop straight up. And cover your head when you do so, just in case your boat is closer than you think.