Using Bow Roll Rescue to aid hand-of-god or Bow Roll Rescue

Already I have an email from Jim Tibensky with the following suggestions:

1. If someone is attempting a hand of God rescue and another boater is nearby, they should be encouraged to do the bow (or stern) roll rescue as an aid.

2. Likewise, if someone is near by a bow rescue, they can grab the stern and assist by just grabbing and twisting.

Christopher Cunningham, editor of Sea Kayaker Magazine, commented:

At first glance there would be a problem with having the assist if approached from the wrong side. The technique you describe is either left or right handed. If you approach to help out you may be coming in with the wrong hand. It seems possible to assist with the wrong handed side, but that would require describing a variation on the technique.

My thoughts:

I think both Jim and Chris have some good points. Certainly the Bow Roll Rescue could be used to assist a hand-of-god rescue but it would require some attention to the side of approach. As Chris notes, the Bow Roll Rescue is done right or left sided, with roll direction determined by side of rescue. To properly assist a hand-of-god rescue the Bow Roll rescuer would need to approach the inverted kayak so their back was to the hand-of-god rescuer. Assisting someone performing a Bow Roll Rescue on one end of an inverted kayak by approaching to do a simultaneous Bow Roll Rescue on the other end requires the two rescuers to be facing in the same direction. These may be simple requirements in theory and probably something an experienced paddler like Jim could figure out on the move, but my recommendation would be for anyone desiring to use the Bow Roll Rescue as an assist to practice it as an assist many times, planned and unplanned, to be certain the decision on approach direction is always correct and comes without much pondering.


  1. rene:

    Hello John,

    I have read about your BowRollRescue in Seakayaker: great article and a great technique!

    I think you are right that this technique will works for almost everyone.

    To my opinion however there is only one weak point in the technique. Better said: at the end of the technique.

    I think that the victim, once turned up again, could be very, very instable and is very likely to capsize again because of 6 possible reasons:

    – Having panicked or being unconscious, he/she will be not very aware from what´s up or what´s down.
    – Being upside down, it can happen easily that he or she will have lost knee-contact in the cockpit partially or at the whole. Because of that the victum will hang in the cockpit; probably with the center of gravity far aside.
    – I assume there will be waves around; let´s assume 3ft waves.
    – It is likely that the victim, if he/she still has a paddle around, does not use it at first: So not being able to make low braces for stability.
    – Having turned the victim up, the rescuer pushes himself up again using the bow of the victim. Because of this the bow will sink a bit, making the victim´s kayak less stable.
    – The rescuer has at the end of the rescue only hold on the bow from the top: this is not an easy position for stabilizing a kayak.

    Therefor I think this beautifull rescue-method needs some finetuning with introducing a last stage: “stabilizing the victim”.

    I think this last stage should start BEFORE the rescuer pushes himself up again.
    Having his kayak edged very much in the last stage, he has good grip on the bow for stabilizing and the kayak is very manouevrable in this edged position. So, before pushing himself up, he should grap the perimeter-line of the victim´s kayak somewhere halfway the foredeck and pull the 2 kayaks together until the lay next to each other. The “pushing up” of the rescuer can be done while pulling or just after that.
    Finally it will be easier to grap the perimeter-lines at two sides of the kayak and stabilizing the victim´s kayak.


  2. John:

    You are quite right, Rene. I did not initially consider actions beyond the basic rescue as I figured a variety of situations could exist. Your suggestion, however, is worthy of including in some future testing. While many of the instances of Bow Roll Rescue might be similar to a Bow Presentation Rescue where the rescuee is just happy to be up and is ready to paddle again promptly, others might indeed end with a confused and somewhat frantic paddler who needs time and stability to fully recover. I will be doing some experimentation shortly and will likely add this final step as optional as necessary.

    Thanks for taking the time to write.


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