Paddle Float Rescue with Heel Hook

learning the paddle float rescue

In the comments of my The Paddle Float Rescue: Why is Everyone Down on It? Jeremy Vore of The Art of Paddling wrote about using the heel hook during the paddle float rescue. I’ve tried the paddle float rescue with heel hook before using Sea Kayaker’s Magazine’s version, which has an awkward start that involves stretching your arms across the paddle shaft. It also locks the paddle under two decklines which makes it hard to get out. Jeremy’s version of the heel hook paddle float rescue is much simpler, uses fewer moves and doesn’t put your arms in an awkward position (and what looks to me, puts your shoulders at risk), although it may require a bit more flexibility. Check out Jeremy’s post on his website.

Basically, the heel hook paddle float reentry works like this:

  1. Exit the kayak and get onto the upwind side.
  2. Stick your feet into the cockpit to hold the kayak while you grab your paddle float.
  3. Put the paddle float onto your paddle and secure it and inflate it.
  4. Stay about even with the cockpit and in front of the paddle shaft.
  5. Stick your paddle blade under the far deckline of your kayak directly behind your cockpit with the float away from the kayak and the paddle shaft perpendicular to the kayak.
  6. Turn towards the cockpit.
  7. Grab the paddle shaft and the near deckline with your aftward hand.
  8. Grab the coaming with your other hand.
  9. Put your bow-ward heel into the cockpit.
  10. Use your heel and leg to leverage yourself into the kayak just as you would when doing the heel hook t-rescue. You move your bow-ward hand to the other side of the coaming while you do this.
  11. You’ll be face down on the back deck as you put your second leg into the cockpit.
  12. Spin your body towards the paddle float and switch your hands on the paddle shaft while keeping your weight on the float.
  13. Finish the rescue as you would with the standard paddle float reentry.

This is Jeremy’s video.

The paddle float rescue with heel hook is a slick variation on the paddle float rescue. Have you tried this? Thoughts?

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  • Nice to see it done. I tried it years ago and in every case I just twisted the boat too hard and it pushed the float completely under water. I’ll have to try it again with my biggest inflatable float and move very slowly and gently to see if I can make it work.

    • Frank, what type of paddle float were you using? I’ve found (using a variation of what is shown at the Sea Kayaker Mag link) that a foam float lacks sufficient floatation for the heel hook unless it occurs quite quickly and fluidly. The foam float starts sinking under the weight/torsion and before you are in, the float is way down. An inflatable float (I use the Seattle Sports one shown in the picture at top) provides more floatation, even with only one side inflated.

      On a related note, some pfs on the market (ie cheap Harmony floats) have only one chamber. Although I normally only use one side inflated, the risk of puncture exists so any decent pf should really have two chambers.

      And, still another related note, two weeks ago I snapped a rather expensive light carbon fibre Accent Zephyr paddle using the method described in the Sea Kayaker mag article that Bryan linked to (without the weird arms on the paddle shaft thing). The paddle snapped at the blade, right where it goes under the deck line closest to me. I look forward to trying the version described by Jeremy, it looks very smooth and easy!

    • One further comment Frank, you mention that you will “move very slowly and gently to see if I can make it work.” That’s not quite the approach you want – you need quick and fluid, or at least smooth and not slow. Notice how easy Jeremy makes it look in the video. When the heel hook (whichever version) is done well, it looks quick and effortless and Jeremy’s version really seems to enhance that.

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