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How To Tow A Kayak (SAFELY)

Nicola Burridge
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Picture this: you and your kayaking crew are out on the water, enjoying the serene surroundings, when suddenly someone gets hurt or exhausted.

Scary, right?

But don’t fret – with the basic skill of towing a kayak, you can handle any emergency situation with ease.

Not only can it help bring an injured paddler to safety, but it can also give them a chance to rest and recharge before continuing on your journey.

So, let’s dive into these tips and make sure you’re ready for anything that comes your way!

How To Tow A Kayak - Pinterest ImagePin

Why Tow A Kayak

You could find yourself in some situations when a tow is needed for kayaking. This could be if your paddling buddy gets into difficulty, or if they get injured or become too fatigued to continue.

A kayak tow could also be useful if conditions become too tricky for a less experienced paddler to navigate, such as rapids on a river trip.

Girl towing her brother in a kayakPin

When you practice kayak towing, it can be better to start on calm flatwater and eventually work your way up to rougher conditions as you improve your skills and build your confidence.

Types Of Kayak Towing

There are various kayak towing methods. Some are designed for towing people, such as a swimmer to help them get to safety. Others are for towing kayaks, either with or without a paddler inside.

There are generally two categories of kayak towing: a Quick Tow, usually for rescue scenarios; and an In-Line Tow, generally for distance towing.

1: Quick Tow

Quick Tow methods can include both contact towing and short-line towing. Contact towing is where the paddler grabs hold of the deck near the bow of your kayak while you paddle. The paddler remains inside their kayak while you paddle into a safe zone.

This contact tow method can also be used to tow a swimmer out of danger. The swimmer, in this instance, grabs hold of the bow handle while you paddle in reverse to take them to safety.

Another method that falls under the quick tow category is short-line towing. This is where a tow line is used to tow a kayak alongside your kayak. The tow line is connected to the deck lines on the bow of each kayak. Both kayaks are parallel to each other in this case.

2: In-line Tow

In-line towing can be better for towing a kayak over longer distances. This is where a longer length of tow line is attached to the bow of the kayak being towed, with the other end of the tow line attached to the towing kayak or paddler.

Equipment Needed To Tow A Kayak

In general, you will need a tow rope with a carabiner clip at either end of the rope. But it can be a good idea to have a tow belt, as this can be easier to release in an emergency compared to a tow rope that’s connected to your deck.

A tow belt is worn like a waist pack and can be worn at all times beneath your life jacket. This makes it easy to access when you need it. It also means the rope stays connected to you rather than your kayak.

Most tow belts will have added safety features for rescue situations, which can make them preferable over a simple tow rope.

A quick-release buckle can be a useful feature, as this can allow you to release the tow rope in an emergency to avoid becoming tangled or trapped.

On a tow belt, one end of the rope is attached to the waist pack and the other has a carabiner attached. Some will also have floats to prevent the carabiner from sinking if you have to throw it to a second paddler. Others may have a bungee section in the tow line to prevent jolting.

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Video: Towing A Kayak

How To Tow A Kayak

This method is for towing a kayak using a tow belt, as this can be the safest way to tow a kayak.

Step 1: Paddle To The Kayaker

Paddle over to the kayaker you plan to tow. Let them know you’re going to tow them in their kayak.

Step 2: Attach The Tow Rope To The Other Kayak

Open your tow belt and take out the tow rope. Attach the carabiner clip to a fixed point on the deck at the front of the other kayak. You should keep the tow belt secured around your waist.

If the kayak has static deck lines, this can often be the best point to attach the tow rope. However, not all kayaks have deck lines, so you may have to find another suitable attachment point, such as the bow handle.

Bungee rigging might not be the best option because it is not a fixed point and could make it more difficult to tow.

Step 3: Deploy The Skeg

If the other kayak has a skeg, this would be a good time to deploy it. This can help with tracking, helping to keep the towed kayak straight while you’re pulling it along behind you.

Step 4: Start Paddling And Towing

With the tow line securely attached, start paddling in the direction you want to head. The amount of tow line will determine how far you’re able to paddle before you reach the tension point on the rope.

Once you feel the tension, slow your pace and gradually build your speed back up to a steady pace.

Make sure the kayaker you are towing is comfortable. The towed kayaker may or may not be able to paddle along with you, depending on their injuries or capabilities.

Conclusion: Don’t Get Left Adrift Again

Knowing how to correctly use a kayak tow line can be lifesaving, in some cases. There are many ways you can tow using your kayak, whether it’s to tow a swimmer out of danger or an injured kayaker.

A tow belt can be a useful piece of equipment to have and wear so that you’re able to access the tow line quickly and easily when you need it. Remember to attach the tow line to a fixed point on the other kayak, so that it’s easier to tow.

Have you ever had to tow a kayak? Leave us a comment to tell us about your experience.

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