About the 'heel hook'
In the ‘heel hook’ re-entry, the person being rescued hooks their heel or toe under the cockpit coaming to re-enter their kayak. The heel hook rescue is used often in the Club.
The following sections demonstrate this rescue.
As a rescuer, make quick assessments when someone falls in:
- Check for dangers to yourself, others and the kayaker in the water (the swimmer).
- Check that the swimmer has safely exited the kayak and surfaced holding their kayak and paddle.
- Alert others in your group to stop and be prepared to assist.
- Talk with the swimmer as you approach, to check they are OK. Tell them "hold onto your kayak and paddle". Reassure them.
- Decide how quickly they need to get back into the kayak, and the best way of doing so.
- Approach the kayak carefully, avoiding collision with the swimmer or their kayak.
If there is time to empty the kayak, it will be more stable when you get the swimmer back in, and less pumping will be needed before resuming paddling.
To empty out:
- Ask the swimmer to flip their kayak the right way up (or assist them).
- Get the swimmer to hold onto one of the kayaks at all times, so they don't drift away and you can talk.
- Secure both paddles.
- Grab the bow of their kayak (right way up) and swivel your kayak until the two kayaks are at 90 degrees, forming a "T" shape.
- Haul the kayak up across your skirt, until the front hatch cover is over your lap.
- Rotate the kayak so that the water drains out of the cockpit.
- To avoid injury to yourself, keep their kayak supported on your kayak while emptying it.
- Edge your kayak away to elevate the other kayak to assist drainage.
- Slide their kayak back into the water.
- Use the decklines to maintain hold of their kayak.
- Turn the kayak bow to stern to set up for re-entry.
- Swimmer: move around your kayak holding the decklines, until you are floating on your back next to your cockpit, lying feet forwards.
- Rescuer: Hold the swimmer's kayak cockpit and far decklines. Edge your kayak and fully commit your weight to the swimmer's kayak to stabilise both.
- Swimmer: hook your outside heel or toe under your cockpit coaming.
- Swimmer: reach over and grab the decklines of the rescuer's kayak in preparation to roll up onto the back deck of your kayak.
- Swimmer: slide towards the bow until your hips are over the seat.
- Swimmer: staying low, rotate until you are back in your seat.
- Rescuer: keep assisting the swimmer until their kayak is completely pumped out, skirt on, paddle in their hands, and they are ready to go.
- Swimmer: prior to re-entry, float on your back next to your kayak, lying feet forward and looking forward.
- Swimmer: hook your toe or heel under the coaming with your outside leg.
- Rescuer: fully support and stabilise the swimmer's kayak and maintain a firm hold from start to finish. It is easiest if the kayaks are bow to stern.
- Swimmer: 'think long' when getting in and keep a low centre of gravity when rolling onto the back deck and sliding into the kayak.
- Rescuer: stay actively committed until the rescued paddler is ready to resume paddling. Keep a check on them for some time afterwards, to ensure they are OK.
Depending on the size or ability of the paddler, type of kayak and the conditions, you may choose to vary the rescue.
- Some paddlers prefer to do a seal launch (scramble) onto the back deck. Swimmer: float your legs behind you, push the kayak down and seal launch yourself with a strong kick of the legs to get your tummy lying across the back deck. Swivel on your tummy until your feet are in the cockpit. Complete the rescue as for the heel hook.
- It is often better to empty the kayak after the swimmer has re-entered. This gets the swimmer out of the water quicker. An electric pump is good in this situation.
- While not as efficient, rescues can be performed with the kayaks bow to bow.
Remember, no matter what rescue method you use, if it is efficient and safe, it's a good rescue.
- Proficiency with rescues comes with regular practice. Make it part of your paddling routine.
- When you're confident in flat water, practice the rescues in progressively more challenging conditions. These are usually the conditions that will require a rescue.