Sea Kayak T-Rescue Video Analysis

<object width=”601″ height=”338″><param name=”allowfullscreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always” /><param name=”movie” value=”;;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=ff9933&amp;fullscreen=1″ /><embed src=”;;show_title=1&amp;show_byline=1&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=ff9933&amp;fullscreen=1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”true” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”601″ height=”338″></embed></object><br /><a href=”″>Sea Kayak T-Rescue Demonstration</a> from <a href=””>Keith Wikle</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.<br /><br />This is Alec Bloyd Peshkin playing a very compliant and skilled victim for a T-rescue demonstration. The rescuer approaches cautiously at first to make sure the victim isn’t panicked. <br /><br />Then the rescuer has the victim move to the stern of his kayak while he rights, then empties the victim’s boat. The emptying of the boat is a pull on the deck lines, then a hand inside the cockpit twisting towards himself. Boats are placed bow-stern. The victim never loses contact with either his kayak or the rescuers. Victim holds on to their own paddle until re-entry. Victim deftly places his foot into the cockpit and torques his torso onto his back-deck, and then corkscrews back inside. The rescuer is committed to leaning over the victim’s boat and holding onto the cockpit. <br /><br />Because of the placid conditions this is very casually performed. In lumpy or textured conditions the time for this rescue could probably be halved. However a total of 1:00 minute in the water for the purposes of a slow demonstration is not too bad. Great view of Soldier Field in the background from the Marina in Chicago.
There is something to be said about losing the big picture when focusing on details. The whole array of saws springs to mind – “not seeing forest for the trees” being the most popular. Here you are  probably wondering – what the paddle I am talking about?  Simple –rescue ends with the swimmer back in the boat, ready to face wind and waves. How the rescue is performed will depend on the conditions – balmy 80F day with water hitting mid seventies might take a really long time while fishing swimmer from the low forties will happen in a snap. Of course, perfect practice makes for perfect execution when the
need arises, but something is to be said about showing variations that might get someone in trouble.

We need to extend our thanks to Alec Bloyd-Peshkin for braving cold water. I suspect he got a little bit chilled towards the end – that would explain his prompt reentry. And, of course, Keith for doing his best to be his worst.

Before reading debrief, watch the clip a few times and see what could’ve been done differently.

Well, here is what I spotted:

  1. Approach puts victim between his boat and the rescuers’ kayak. That is not desirable since waves can smash both boats against each other. Solution – it is best for the victim to be between the oncoming waves and the boat, since loaded and swamped kayak can weigh a few hundred pounds. It is easier to see oncoming swells as well.
  2. Keith demonstrates tenuous approach very well – see how much care he is taking not to bump against the other boat? Solution – don’t be afraid to bump the other boat – as long as the angle is kept relatively shallow no harm will come. If the victim is at your bow you will be able to see what they are up to, eventually it might be a bit easier for him to maneuver towards the cockpit.
  3. Also notice how inconvenient it is to maneuver the victim’s boat –hull does not provide any convenient purchase point. And that paddle gets in the way. Solution – either place your paddle under deck lines, stick it under your arm, or use paddle leash. If the kayak is flipped the otherkayak’s deck lines will provide multiple grab points.
  4. Keith uses just one hand to move the other kayak, that is hardly stable.  Solution – don’t be afraid to lean your weight on the other kayak – it has hundreds of pound of floatation. Two hands will provide twice the purchase points of single hand. Use torso to position the other boat into the T.
  5. Keith lifts the kayak with one hand. Notice how he leans away from the swimmer’s boat. That is neither stable nor safe. Solution – safety is foremost, keep your work in front of you, rotate towards the other boat. This will allow to utilize core muscles to both maneuver the other boat and pull it on your deck – lean towards the victim’s kayak, grab deck lines with both hands, straighten up.
  6. Keith lifts the kayak quite high. Not really a problem, but might not be necessary – why work hard if you don’t have to?
  7. Keith puts one hand inside the cockpit, the other is wrapped around the hull. His right elbow is close to being hyper-extended, might endanger shoulders. Solution – coaming provides for excellent grips, let your fingers grip the inside of cockpit. Don’t forget to keep those elbows close to your body and use body weight to stabilize the other boat.

What went well:

  1. The swimmer and boat never separated
  2. There was no fuss about paddles – swimmer took care of his. Frankly he had nothing else to do, why shouldn’t he hang on to his paddle. And, if by stroke of waves separation occurred he could’ve used the paddle for  catching up with his boat
  3. The last, but not the least – he is back in his boat!

Thanks for reading and see if you can spot what I missed 😉


  1. I noticed that the swimmer put is left foot into the boat very early. I usually seal up and across the boats before sliding my leg in which I feel would be the most stable of the two methods. Cheers nicely done anyway Greg

  2. To add to Keith's comment – when the kayak is hull up you just slide it over your boat, no lifting required. This is one instance when those overhangs on British style kayaks become useful.

  3. why does he flips the kayak while in the water, this is just good to fullill the kayak instead of pulling it up the deck capsized.

    • If I understand the question.

      The up-right kayak is much easier to pull across than an upside down one full of water. You have to break the water pressure of the cockpit that way.

  4. Ray – I was waiting for someone to suggest flipping the boat. Thanks!

  5. I love the colour of the water: it looks so warm!

    Things I noticed (other than what's already been said):

    1) It's easier for the victim to flip his/her boat back over than it is for the rescuer. Just make sure they maintain contact at all times.

    2) We like to get the victim up at our bow instead of the stern so we can keep an eye on them, especially in cold water. They can also help stabilize the rescuer by hugging the bow and wrapping their legs around it. This also gets a lot of their body out of the water, if only for a few seconds.

    3) Keith pulled the boat a lot farther than he needed to, and relied on his strength to pull it and empty it. It is just as effective to slide the boat across the cockpit and roll it, no lifting required, and less strength necessary.

    4) The leg hook re-entry is much more efficient (and faster)than jumping onto the back deck and "weasling" in