Master the Art of Kayak Towing

by Jay Murdock, SDKC Safety Editor

Are you ready to take your kayaking skills to the next level? One essential technique every paddler should master is kayak towing. Whether it’s a quick rescue or a longer distance tow, knowing how to tow another person in their boat can be a game-changer in emergency situations.

The Two Categories of Towing

Towing someone in a kayak can be divided into two categories: the quick tow and the in-line tow. The quick tow is reserved for rescue situations, while the in-line tow is used for longer distances. For the in-line tow, you’ll need a 30-50 foot line specifically designed for this purpose. You can either purchase a tow line or create your own using a floating polypropylene line, a toothless carabiner, a bungee cord, a float, and a jam cleat. By ensuring you have the right equipment, you’ll be prepared for any towing scenario.

Tow Line

The Quick Tow Methods

When it comes to the quick tow, there are two main methods: the Contact Tow and the Short-Line Tow. While both methods can be used for longer distances, the in-line tow is more efficient in those situations.

The Contact Tow is the fastest way to tow someone still in their boat and is primarily used for rescue purposes. The person being towed leans across your boat’s fore deck and holds onto the deck lines. The further forward they lean, the easier it will be for you to paddle while they hold on. Take a look at Jane demonstrating these positions while Alfredo paddles.

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Contact Tow

Another great use for the Contact Tow is to back a swimmer away from a hazard. By having them hold onto your bow handle while you back paddle, you can keep them at a safe distance. During practice sessions, it’s important to tow just the swimmer in hazardous conditions and bring the boat along when the situation allows.

Towing a Swimmer

Mastering the Power Back Stroke

When it comes to pulling a swimmer away from a hazard, the power back stroke technique is invaluable. By twisting your torso as you back paddle, you can peek behind you to avoid collisions. Leaning out on the paddle shaft as you sweep it toward your bow adds power to the stroke. Remember, it’s always best to approach the swimmer going forward to maintain visibility. A powerful back stroke ensures a quick and safe rescue.

Power Back Stroke

The Short-Line Tow

The Short-Line Tow involves a line of 5-10 feet and is perfect for quick rescue situations. You can either tie off a section of your longer tow line or have a dedicated short line ready to go on your fore deck. It’s advisable to keep a dedicated line on your deck for immediate use. If you decide to make your own, remember to file off the carabiner gate tooth to avoid snagging the line. Always hook the carabiner to the deck line from beneath, with the gate facing up. Below are some photos that demonstrate how this method works.

Short-Line Tow

Safety First!

Remember, safety should always be your top priority when it comes to kayaking and towing. If you choose to use a line for towing, make sure to have a knife readily available in case you get tangled. Safety is crucial, and being prepared for any situation will ensure a successful and enjoyable kayaking experience.

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This article is a transformed version of an original article by Jay Murdock, SDKC Safety Editor. The content has been recreated to provide unique insights while retaining the core message.