The Incredible Paddle Float: A Must-Have Kayaking Accessory

Kayaking, with its thrill and serenity, captivates adventurers of all skill levels. Yet, many kayakers underestimate the value of a vital piece of safety gear: the paddle float. Even novices, unaware of its existence, and experienced paddlers, considering themselves beyond its need, fail to appreciate the incredible versatility of this essential tool. Just like a Swiss Army knife is indispensable in various scenarios, a paddle float provides an invaluable solution for countless situations on the water. This article aims to shed light on the remarkable paddle float and why it should never be overlooked.

What exactly is a Paddle Float?

A paddle float is designed to enhance the stability of a kayak or canoe, aiding in re-entry from the water. This ingenious device attaches to the paddle blade, increasing buoyancy and transforming the paddle into an outrigger for support and stability.

Two main types of paddle floats are available: inflatable and foam. Inflatable paddle floats consist of a vinyl sleeve resembling a pillowcase that fits over the paddle blade. Attached tubes allow manual inflation of bladders on either side of the sleeve. These versatile and easily packable floats are essential companions on warm-water adventures. On the other hand, foam paddle floats consist of a solid foam block with a sleeve that slides over the paddle blade. They are less versatile and compact, but highly effective in cold water situations where immediate stability is crucial.

Stowing the paddle float in a readily accessible location is essential for swift retrieval. Folding it under the front bungees or laying it flat on the back deck (for the foam variety) is considered optimal. Some experienced paddlers recommend partially inflating the inflatable floats to save valuable time during re-entry.

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The Extraordinary Utility of the Paddle Float

The paddle float, especially the inflatable version, is a truly remarkable piece of gear. Its primary role as a re-entry tool is indisputable. A paddle float is indispensable for re-entry techniques such as the “Paddle Float Re-entry,” “Cowboy Scramble,” and “Re-entry and Roll” as it significantly enhances stability. During solo re-entry, a paddle float expedites the process and prevents multiple capsizes, proving particularly valuable in challenging conditions. However, efficient and reliable partner rescues should always be practiced for ultimate safety.

But the paddle float’s utility extends far beyond re-entry situations. When used in pairs, it enhances stability in rough waters, attaching one to each side of the kayak. This technique can even keep a seasick paddler steady, eliminating the need for a tandem tow. In rolling clinics, paddle floats serve to develop essential skills such as mastering the hip snap and paddle positions. By gradually deflating an inflatable float, less buoyancy is provided as the technique improves. It’s worth noting, though, that overreliance on paddle floats may lead to the development of poor habits, so their use should be limited to the early stages of roll development.

In moments of urgency, an inflatable paddle float can double as a “float bag,” effectively displacing unutilized volume in the kayak and minimizing water intake during a capsize. Additionally, some paddlers have found unconventional comfort by partially inflating a paddle float and employing it as extra support for their seats and backrests.

Embrace the Magic of the Paddle Float

Now that you’re aware of its incredible potential, it’s time to ensure you’re equipped with this indispensable tool. If you don’t already own a paddle float, consider visiting your local paddling shop to acquire not one, but two! The paddle float is an investment in safety and versatility, granting you peace of mind and enhancing your kayaking experiences.

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Happy and safe paddling!

-Kayak Dave

Note: “The Incredible Paddle Float” by Dave Arruda (aka Kayak Dave) was originally published on in August 2012