Re-enter and roll self-rescue video demonstration

Alec Bloyd-Peshkin and I shot several rescues in the marina on Lake Michigan this weekend. This is the first of these self rescue techniques.

The re-enter and roll is probably the best self-rescue technique after a roll has failed. It is simple and relies on no special equipment. The paddler simply re-enters the cockpit and then rolls the kayak up full of water.

Sea Kayak Re-Enter and Roll from Keith Wikle on Vimeo.

Note the time signature on the video from the moment the paddler is out of the kayak until the kayak is upright. 15 seconds.

There are some slight drawbacks. Once you are up, you have a kayak full of water. You must get the skirt back on. But both of these seem minor to being back upright in the kayak.

This video may seem elementary to some. And perhaps advanced to those without a roll. It is actually a very basic rescue. There are fewer things to remember than with a paddle float re-entry. You spend less time in the water fidgeting about with gear and more time getting back underway. I actually think this method is better for rough water than a cowboy scramble. With a re-enter and roll the paddler is already back in the boat, no precarious balancing act, and then wiggling back in. The paddle is already in your hand and you are ready to brace if need be. Note the supporting sculling strokes for balance after the roll to ensure the paddler stays upright.

This was a great day with bright sunshine. The water was only in the 40s and the air in the 50s. Good fun. See any major Chicago landmark in the background of the video?


  1. I also learned to roll last year in the pool. Its amazing. Interesting facts.I have bookmarked this site.

  2. Dave-

    I too have been thinking about adding an electric bilge pump for quite some time, but anecdotally I have heard many stories that they are more often than not, not worth the trouble.

    However the one pump I want is this one

  3. I learned to roll last year in the pool. I too found that it was not a real stretch to learn and do a reenter and roll. Of course, as you point out Keith, you are in conditions with a boat half filled with water. How about an electric bilge pump to empty the kayak? I understand this is quite popular in Australia, but has not gained much popularity here in the states. Both hands remain on the paddle for support if needed. Your feet are not busy pumping as they would be with a foot pump. Of course this is NOT a replacement for a hand pump. I would always keep one handy should the battery or bilge pump fail.

  4. If you find that emptying your cockpit is a challenge and you are without footpump, I would highly suggest buying a skirt with one of those pump holes built in.

    Seals has one here., It may not be all neoprene, but I know that you can get the full neoprene skirts with them possibly through special order. This allows you to stop the waves coming in but still pump out your boat.

  5. Recently, I learned to roll in a pool (Yay!). Immediately, thereafter, I made sure I could do the re-enter & roll (again, in a pool – second Yay!). However, if I was really tired, quite a bit chilled, and therefore not so coordinated, I might need the help of a paddle float to get me back up on the roll part in more realistic outside conditions. But either way, the re-enter & roll is much, much easier than the usual paddle-float re-entry. The only way this won't work is if you're already freaked out by being in the water.

  6. I did a re-enter and roll in surf, and found the emptying and skirting to be a real challenge. Once you are up, your boat is still unstable, and since it is so low, tends to take in water with each wave. A foot pump is the ultimate solution if you are paddling alone, but ideally you would have some friends show up quickly to give you a hand.

    I agree that re-enter and roll is much better than a paddle float rescue because it is critical that a person get out of cold water as soon as possible. Even if you have friends to help, this technique is faster than most other rescues.