Being able to get back on your kayak when you can’t touch the bottom is a skill every kayaker should have. And it is something you need to practice regularly to make sure you can do it when you need to. Here is a video Mark Nelson of the Ocean Kayak Fishing Crew put together this summer of one of his practice sessions. The results of my practice session were similar, I just didn’t have the guts to have someone video tape and share it.
Mark is a very experienced kayaker and as you saw, in near perfect conditions, he did not get back up on the first try. Now imagine his kayak was full of fishing gear, was in current or at night, maybe the wind was blowing or there was a good swell. You can easily see how things could get dangerous in a hurry, which is why you need to practice this skill regularly.
Now the first year I was YakAngling I had practiced this enough that I thought I had it down, I had even turtled during the summer in deep water with all my gear and got the kayak up righted, all my gear untangled (leashes on everything), and back on the kayak safely. However, early that fall I went out and since the temperatures had dropped I had on some light weight waders and wading boots. Well I ended up turtleing again, but this time I could not get back on and the water was in the low 50’s. I was wearing my PFD, and after the initial cold water shock and panic I calmed down and realized I was not in grave danger since I was in a small pond, but in other conditions I could have been. So after dragging my yak to shore I was able to remount it and paddle back to the launch. At that point I unloaded my fishing gear so nothing would get broke or lost and went back out to figure out what went wrong.
Well after a few tries I figured it out, and no my waders weren’t filling rapidly with water and pulling me down, the problem I had was the wading boots were preventing me from being able to kick to help propel me back on to the kayak. So after removing the boots I was able to perform a self rescue even though I had quite a bit of water in my waders at that point. The moral of this story is you not only need to practice the self rescues you need to do it with what you plan on wearing in all conditions, and do it before it gets to cold. Oh yeah and you better be wearing your PFD!