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You have probably heard it said that we are all between swims. Truth! Whether you are Dane Jackson or just got in a boat for the first time yesterday it is just a matter of time before we all will find ourselves having another out of boat experience. The thing is, Dane might be swimming something most of us wouldn’t even think of paddling (but lets hope not) and if you just started to paddling yesterday the frequency of your swims might be a bit higher. And that’s ok. Flipping over and swimming is part of learning to kayak provided you are paddling appropriate whitewater. And while a combat roll is sweet, even if you have been diligently working on it, it can take some time to have it super solid in all kinds of whitewater.


Enter one of my favorite tools, the T-rescue. I will not discount that lots of swims right out the gate can be frustrating, feel like they take up time, are tiring, and at times a blow to your ego. Remember, we have all been there. But the T- Rescue can help. When I was still learning to roll I took advantage of it all the time. If I could not roll I would wait and wait for my friends or instructors to paddle over to my upside down boat until I was probably blue in the face. Sometimes I probably should have just swam….

What is a T-rescue? When someone flips over, does not wet exit and uses another kayakers bow to help them right themselves.

T rescues are great because:

• They build comfort being upside -down and underwater.
• They are faster to learn than a roll for most and are helpful when learning to roll.
• They can open up space for new paddlers to challenge themselves more knowing if they flip they do not always have to swim.
• They can be useful if you loose a paddle and flip.
• They promote teamwork and keeping an eye on your buddies.
• They build a foundational hip snap for a roll.
• Great for cooling down on hot days!

As long as you are comfortable wet exiting you are ready to try a T-rescue. Find a buddy and a calm section of water that is at least waist deep. You can practice together and build it up slowly working backwards from all the way upright to all the way upside down.


a. Have your buddy approach your boat perpendicularly to form the “T,” so that their bow is pointing to the middle of your cockpit just to your side. Grab their bow and hold it like a burger with both hands, 8 fingers on top and thumbs on bottom.

b. Lean all the way over gently so that your head is resting on your friends bow and let your boat flip all the way over so that it is fully upside down. It will feel a little awkward. Get comfortable resting here and trust their bow’s support. Now, using your hips and without engaging your arms or head at all, flip your boat upright and back over, upright and back over, like a clamshell opening and closing.

Make sure that your knees are pulled in towards your chest so you are in a tucked position. Only right your boat with your hips, do not push with your arms. Your buddy will be able to tell you if you are pushing because they will feel their bow get pushed down. Make sure your head is the very last thing to come up by keeping your eyes locked on your friend’s bow.

2. Once you are comfortable on both sides righting and flipping your boat with your head out of water ONLY using your hips, you can move on to the next step. Go back to the same set up- hamburger grab, your boat flipped and your head on your buddy’s bow. Now drop your lower hand (right hand if you are flipped to the right) wave to the fishies underwater and put your face in the water to blow some bubbles. Lower yourself increasingly into the water as you are comfortable leaving your top hand (left hand in this case) on your friend’s boat.


3. Once that feels good on both sides you are going to add the step of letting go with the left hand, tapping the sides of your boat and then bringing both your hands back over to their bow. Your friend’s job is to make sure the bow stays just where you left it. Once you find their bow again, don’t rush. Put your head back on their boat and then gently right your boat with your hips.

4. When you feel comfortable leaving the bow and finding it again on both sides you are ready to practice flipping over entirely on your own and having your rescuer paddle over to you.

a. Your rescuer will: Start from a close distance so that he definitely gets to you quickly. And paddle with intention but not so much force that he bumps your boat away from his, rather his bow should just kiss the side where your hands will be sweeping.

b. You will: Take a big breath and flip over. Tap firmly on the side of your boat (this is for the future so when you flip on accident you can alert you friends to your upside down status) Then run your hand back and forth along the side of the boat so that you can feel that bow when it gets to you. If your flat palm is perpendicular to the boat, it is a little less likely your fingers will be squished by the incoming bow.

c. Once you find their bow you will work backwards through the previous steps:
i. Grab the hamburger
ii. Rest your head on top (Get a breath here. No rush. Now you are breathing and not swimming so finish strong.)
iii. Hip snap all the way up


5. Voila! That is your basic T-rescue. Your next steps are to practice in a little current, then on an eddy line, build up to a small wave train, then a bigger wave train and beyond. Practice being in the rescuer and rescuee positions. As the water becomes more turbulent the rescuer will need to work harder to put and keep the bow where the rescuee’s hands are. What about your paddle? If you are feeling super snazzy and calm you can tuck it under your arm while you T-rescue, but a lot of people end up dropping it and getting it back when they are upright .

Here are some basic guidelines to go along with T-rescues that I would recommend:

1. The safety of the rescuer is the first priory. Do not rescue someone else if it might compromise your safety or turn you into another swimmer.
2. Be aware of the riverbed and where it might be a good place to hang in for a rescue, such as a deep wave train, versus where getting out of your boat quickly is a priority so the river rocks and your head are not so close together.
3. Let folks know if you are going to wait for a T rescue if you flip so that it is on their radar to come get you.
4. Sometimes you will try to rescue someone or they you and be just a little too late. It happens. Be nice to yourself.

Happy T-rescuing!