One of the most vital skills that any kayak angler must learn before heading out is that of self-rescue. What is self-rescue? It is the ability to be able to pull oneself up onto one’s kayak unassisted after capsizing. As has been mentioned before, it is never the intention of the kayak angler to capsize but these things can and do happen. Two miles out to sea in a heavy swell is not the place to realise that you cannot self-rescue. Do yourself and your loved ones a favour by perfecting this technique in shallow, sheltered waters. Coming off the kayak is never too serious a matter and the worst injury usually inflicted by this type of fall is a badly bruised ego! The technique for getting back up is very simple to execute and a short practice stint every now and again is ample to keep yourself acquainted with the manoeuvre.
If you find yourself in the water the first thing you need to do is right the kayak. With a sit on top angling style kayak any water that has collected in the cockpit will drain away through the scupper holes. Using the kayak as a float, move yourself around to one side of the cockpit. Holding on to the side of the kayak, let your legs rise up behind you in the water. Reach with one arm to the opposite side of the cockpit. Now give your feet a couple of kicks to propel yourself out of the water and into the cockpit. A deft turn as you rise up out of the water will put you back into the seat and ready to paddle again. One trick that I like is to use one of the bow bungees to hold my paddle at a perpendicular angle to the kayak. When the paddle blade hits the water it acts as a stabiliser of sorts and greatly assists getting back onto the kayak.
The best place to learn this skill is in sheltered water that you can touch the bottom with your feet. Then try deeper water followed by rougher water. I first attempted it in a local canal and the process took just minutes to learn. I practiced it repeatedly until I could perform it flawlessly. I spend a few minutes going over the drill every few weeks and I am safe in the knowledge that no matter the conditions, I can extract myself from a potentially tricky situation. If you know how to handle yourself, keep a cool head and are able to self-rescue, then capsizing is little more than an inconvenience. If you don’t know how to react, an innocuous capsize could soon see you immersing into a world of trouble. Learn this simple and vital skill to prevent your next trip out possibly being your last.