These methods are based on at least two kayaks with intact bulkheads and covers.
With only a litte practice it is thus easy to get a capsized paddler back in her/his kayak and resume the trip.
So capsizing should always be considered as part of this beautiful sport that can always occur.
When a member of a paddling group capsizes and leaves the kayak, it is important that all members of the group are notified and come together to assist.
It should further be clear who is performing the rescue and who has other tasks, e.g. to look for traffic, drifting in dangerous areas (shipping lanes, surf, etc.), care for other members, etc.
The one capsizing should grab the kayak and stay there until help arrives.
When able to the swimmer can assist in the rescue as describes below.
The two standard methods
You will handle more than 95% of all capsizes with these two!
To get another capsized paddler back in the kayak, the one performing the rescue first paddles towards the bow of the capsized kayak, grabs it at the lines or toggles and leaves his own paddle floating (as it should always be attached to the kayak be a paddle-line).
The rescuer does not let go of the kayak until the swimmer is back up an ready to continue the trip!
As you have a big floating thing in your hands, even a big wave knocking you down is no problem as you can just push yourself back up again (unless of course you loose the grip,.. just start again).
Now the kayak is brought in a more or less 90 degree position towards the rescuers kayak.
The rescuer pulls the capsized kayak ontop of his kayak foredeck.
The swimmer can assist by pushing down on the stern (do not let go of the kayak).
Also with extreme upward curved bows, it can be easier to righten a capsized kayak to do this, but in general the kayak should stay upside down.
Now take the upside down kayak's lines and pull it upwards until the cockpit is out of the water.
You don't have to lift the kayak to get the water out (which also can be quite heavy with overnight equipment), it will leave the kayak at any angle and when the bulkhead behind the seat is intact and the cockpit becomes almost dry.
When dry, turn over the kayak so that it is upright now for the first time after the capsize and push it back into the water. Do not let go of the lines!
Bring the kayaks parallel to each other with bow to stern and stern to bow.
From here there are two standard ways for the swimmer to climb back into the kayak:
- Get in between the kayak cockpits, grab the outer lines of each kayak, lean back so that your life vest supports your weight, get the feet in your kayak (or across both one on each side) and lift your bottom out of the water and in your seat.
The one rescuing is just holding the outer lines to prevent any capsizing during this action.
- The swimmer gets on the outside of his kayak and by grabbing the lines of the rescuing kayak (across his own) or by a strong swimming motion gets his belly on his own backdeck.
Now turn your head to your stern and get your feet in your cockpit.
Stay low to reduce wind resistance and keep better balance while you rotate in a corkscrew motion in your seat.
Close cockpit, make sure all is fine (have a chat, eat something, etc.) and continue trip.
You don't have to leave your kayak when you capsize.
This is more or less a technique to train to stay calm. To work in real life, the group would have to be well trained with this method.
The idea is that once you capsize, you don't leave your kayak!
You stay seated upside down and push your hands down below your seat (which is above the water when capsized!)
You can drum on your kayaks hull to attract attention.
Now move your hands as far forward and backward as you manage.
It is now up to another paddler to:
- Come alongside and place a paddle over both kayaks and in your hands
- Paddle any part of a kayak in your hands, usually the bow (be careful with the hands between two kayaks).
You can now pull yourself back up!
This means at least two kayaks are capsized and shall come back in paddling position without further assistance.
Quite easy and done according to the standard methods, but of course a bit trickier.
When two are swimming and holding onto their kayaks, they have to manage to come together which can be tricky in rough conditions.
Then one kayak is brought on top of the other one to get the water out. Again bow up, stern down while the kayak stays upside down.
This works best if one swimmer has the lower kayak in front and can pull the bow of the top kayak while the second swimmer is on the other side of the lower kayaks and gets to bow up in the first place.
Once the first kayak is nearly empty of water, again both a brought parallel to each other.
As the second capsized kayak is still upside down, it doesn't matter how these are aligned with regard to stern and bow.
One swimmer should now get hinself on top of the upside down kayak and grab the lines of the dry one while the second swimmer attempts a re-entry by one of the standard methods.
When done, the second part will be exactly as the standard method.
Try this out, it really is no big deal!
Hand of God
This might be necessary when the swimmer is very weak, not able to get himself back in or is injured / unconcious.
This is so called as when you capsized and not leave the kayak another paddler could come and 'like god' turn the kayak including you from the outside.
I call all methods 'hand of god' where you on purpose flood the kayak's cockpit and put it on the side to get a swimmer in.
Then the swimmer gets in his seat and stays low on the backdeck while the rescuer grabs the lines (and when necessary also a very weak swimmer) and turns the whole package back up.
This is also used as a 'standard' method to rescue someone who is unconcious by some associations although I personally find that this task is almost impossible to accomplish when in real conditions.
Even with several assisting paddlers (some as swimmers in the water) we were not able to get a small, very relaxed person back in the kayak in rough winter conditions, so this should always be considered a serious situation and calling for external assistance might be necessary.
When a swimmer is for several reasons not able to get himself back in his kayak with the standard methods, this might help!
After you got the water out of the capsized kayak and when they are parallel next to each other, the rescuer can have a rope handy and make a loop.
Now get the paddles as a bridge between the two kayaks behind the cockpit of the rescued kayak.
The rope shall now be hanging from the paddle bridge into the water.
The swimmer can get the feet in the loop and push himself up from the legs which most will accomplish when not seriously weak, ill or injured.