Paddle Floats


The paddlefloat is condemned by almost all "rolling" instructors, due to unreliability in waves. The kayaker has less stability than before capsize. Trying to remove the float after trying to retrieve the paddle, precariously attached behind the cockpit, is tough to do! No wonder even experts re-capsize in waves. 

1. Sea Kayaker Magazine, Oct. '99, pp. 48-55 describes the paddlefloat:

"Getting up onto the deck can be difficult enough let alone once it is 
deployed. A strong gust...almost throws me back into the cold water. [I] 
struggle to secure the outrigger...difficult to get the other blade under 
the first web strap...the kayak has spun around. Each wave now lifts the 
[float].I am in constant danger of flipping over especially. It takes a long 
time to [pump out]... [There was a] rather precarious moment of removing the 
paddle from under deck rigging... There are limits...your kayak can come 
crashing down on is easy to submerge the float or even break the 
paddle. The most difficult moment associated with the use ... comes once 
your kayak is pumped out and you are ready to go. In order to retrieve the 
paddle-float paddle, you must reach outward and backwards to detach the 
arrangement...try to time...between wave crests." 

And then Doug is all set to capsize again, in the same conditions. 

Doug says he has been practising this for 17 years. 

2. Doug relates in Sea Kayaker, Dec. '98 how he almost dies practising a paddlefloat rescue. The Coast Guard Auxiliary happened to get there in time.

Seakayaker, April '98, p.19 describes sponsons: "...provide additional stability to help prevent a capsize or to assist with a reentry after a capsize. They have the advantage that it is easy to paddle the kayak with them in place."

3. Seakayaker magazine (April '99, pp.26-31) describing a deadly paddlefloat adventure: "His shivering had grown so intense that Bob figured that if he went over again, it would be the end of him...Given the difficulty of reattaching the skirt...not even attempt to retrieve the pump..." The 4 paddlefloat attempts nearly killed this man: "The rescue volunteers...Bob trembled so violently that they could not measure his pulse..." But Seakayaker allowed the paddlefloat to be endorsed!

A Personal Statement, p. 84, in "Deep Trouble", by Matt Broze admits: "In the effort to encourage the use of this rescue as a backup to rolling, perhaps we have unintentionally..." Matt is referring to David Kelley's death, using a paddlefloat designed by Matt. Paddlefloats are deceptively deadly.

Matt Broze in the recent Book "Deep Trouble", p.91: "A capsized paddler who Eskimo rolls is still in the same conditions that capsized him  or her in the first place, and with each roll he or she will take on more water, lessening the kayak's stability. Bailing won't work when waves are coming in over the cockpit, even if the kayak is somehow stabilized."

4. Repeated Capsizes Until Hypothermia. Seakayaker,Oct.2000,p.48: 
describes another man nearly killed by a padlefloat. Able to get back in many times, but always recapsizing until he luckily is seen, and rescued. 

5. Nearly Dead, revived in hospital: Atlantic Coastal Kayaker, Aug.2000,p.21. Another young man, fit enough to re-enter several times using a paddlefloat, always re-capsizes. An experienced surfer, he paddle to shore lying on the rear deck, but almost dies of hypothermia. 
With sponsons he would have not re-capsized, and his body core would have been out of cold water, warmed by paddling to shore, and insulated by the snug fitting, foam PFD. 

Both articles document people nearly killed by dishonest paddlefloat 
marketing, but these poor victims are all set up to be nearly killed again. 
They are expected to practice paddlefloating and are not warned about other 
sacrificial victims: 

6. Sea Kayaker (Feb.'97, pp.38-41) says the paddlefloat rescue can be "impossible" for people: no paddle to brace, while retrieving the float and paddle; actually more vulnerable than before the first capsize, when they had a paddle to brace with.

Dozens of other articles mention the float rising in waves to flip the paddler back in while pumping out, or fitting the sprayskirt. Wind catches the "balloon" to flip them as well. Wooden and synthetic paddles alike, are broken by the paddler's weight while using a paddlefloat. If a pump malfunctions or is lost, no self rescue is possible, unlike sponson rescues. 

Kayak Safety Recommendations from Experienced Authors and Designers:

"The Paddlefloat is not really a rough water rescue. During trials I found the SEA WING (sponsons) ... very comforting. I paddled out to sea in rough, windy conditions...I was able to sit on my rear deck-not something I would normally do at sea...The rescue potential is obvious." (D. Hutchinson, The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking, pp.104-111) 

"I have seen enough people floundering with paddle-floats in even one-foot seas that..." G. Ruta, Atlantic Coastal Kayaker, Oct.'98, p.4

The paddlefloat actually is dangerous to paddlers after capsize because they have no paddle to brace with, to remain upright while struggling to retrieve the paddle, which is behind them in the capsizing conditions. They simply recapsize.

Sponsons permit re-entry into a much more stable boat, ( belly-up on kayak after deploying sponsons, rotate into seat, and paddle to safety.) No capsizing while trying to pump out, fit sprayskirt, or other risky tricks in capsizing conditions. Paddle and float retrieval from behind the cockpit risks unacceptably dangerous recapsizes.

 "...using the's much harder than it sounds..." (D. Stuhaug, Kayaking Made Easy, 1st ed., p.114) 

 "...paddlers debate its' (paddlefloat) effectiveness in rough conditions." ( K. Ford, Kayaking, p.85) 

Sponson Stability Safety

If rolls were more reliable for most people, the paddlefloat would not have been invented. 

Unfortunately the paddlefloat is so unreliable that sponsons are now recognized as superior safety. Rolls and paddlefloats lack any understanding of kayak and canoe stability. Rolls and paddlefloats contibute nothing to Stability Safety of course: They only set you up to recapsize in the same conditions. 

Paddlefloats  are so unreliable that they have 2 schools of thought: So many recapsize while attempting to precariously retrieve the paddle secured under bungies etc. behind the paddler, that one group advocates "The Big Thumb". 

The Big Thumb means holding a kayak paddle shaft to the coaming of a real kayak in the real waves and winds of reality - the real world. The paddle has the usual paddle float on the end to ensure rise and fall, twisting and turning in real world capsizing conditions, all held by one hand to the cockpit coaming. This means your thumb around the coaming and your hand around the shaft. This is only works in swimming pools! 

Sponson Stability: No Bracing, Flooded Cockpit, No Sprayskirt

Picture 2

No Sprayskirt, Completely Flooded, Completely Stabilized by Sponsons

20 Second Sponsons

These are simply sponsons pre-inflated and secured on the back deck of kayaks.

So after capsize you simply clip on the nearest sponson (each Fastex clip near a sponson end, then shove the remaining sponson under the boat and clip it on.)

A 10 year old child can turn any instructor into a FOOL in 20 seconds.

Clip, clip, the Fastex buckles and any kayak or canoe is stable enough to paddle fully flooded, to safety. The paddler gets warmed immediately. And the body core is out of cold water in 20 seconds. Plus Re-capsize protection.

1. The Instructor is still in the water.

2. The instructor denies the public re-capsize protection, even in a fully flooded canoe or kayak that can be paddled in 20 seconds.

3. The instructor kills people this way.

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Tim Ingram (
Georgian Bay Kayak Ltd.
231 Gordon Drive
Penetanguishene, Ontario
Canada, L9M 1Y2
(705) 549-3722
Page last updated March 19, 2012