Self-rescue routines for beginners for safety on sit on top kayaks

Published September 12, 2016

sit-on-top-kayaks-1Sit on top kayaks are popular kayaks for beginners and people of all ages. Sit on top kayaks such as the inflatable kayaks, are considered extremely stable and can therefore be used for various purposes such as sport fishing, recreation, leisure tours and assorted adventures. As with any other kayak, it is important for paddlers to know how to manoeuvre them and also perform self rescue in case they capsize.

There are many advantages of sit on top kayaks, both for hard-shell and inflatable kayaks that are not found in the sit in kayaks. For one, it is easy for a paddler to get in and out of sit on top kayaks. Paddlers also have a lot of freedom of movement atop the kayak.

According to their design, majority of sit on top kayaks such as the sport pescador have their seats high above the water surface. Therefore upon capsizing, the paddler will be thrown into the water while the kayak stays afloat.

Since there is not enough weight to stabilise the kayak, it tends to move with the water waves and the wind. This makes it difficult for a paddler to climb back to their seat after they capsize. Inflatable kayaks on the other hand tend to bounce on the water making it difficult for the paddler to get inside them after capsizing.

The primary self-rescue for a sit on top kayak is the bellybutton-backside-feet (BFF) recovery. The name of this technique originates from its three main parts.

For a paddler to perform BFF, they have to get over the kayak with their bellybutton on the seat of the kayak. Then one flips around and turns to sit on the seat. When the paddler achieves some balance, then they can bring in their feet into the kayak.

Paddlers are advised to be keen especially when paddling on rough waters. It is important to study the whole paddling area so as to have a clue where waters are or can become rough. Paddlers are advised to grab their kayaks when they start losing stability.

Grabbing the kayak ensures that it doesn’t get away from the kayaker, especially when it is windy. Unoccupied sit on top and inflatable kayaks move quickly in windy conditions. Having paddle swimming skills will enable a kayaker to go after their kayak in such situations.

Thigh straps and foot braces are very essential especially when paddling a sit on top kayak. They do not only help a paddler during self rescue, but also allow maximum performance. Thigh straps give more stability to the paddlers in addition to having greater control of their vessel.

Some sit on top kayaks and inflatable kayaks have their seats too high above the water surface making it hard to perform BFF. Scramble recovery techniques can help in getting into the kayaks.

It is however difficult to perform most of the self rescue techniques on an accessorised kayak such as a fishing kayak. Mounted objects such as rods and other gear make it difficult for a paddler to climb onto the kayak.

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