There are several reasons for towing when sea kayaking:

  • Getting a sick or injured paddler back to shore.
  • Assisting a paddler who is in trouble on the water by towing them away from danger.
  • When a paddler has lost or broken their paddle.
  • Assisting a slower paddler, especially if the group is under time pressure e.g. from impending darkness or a storm.

In an emergency situation the best towing method is the one that gets the paddler away from the source of danger quickly.

About Towing  Single line tow  Assisted tow  'V' Tow   Safety Common Mistakes

About Towing

If you need a tow or assistance, let the trip leader know sooner rather than later. Towing someone who is having difficulty or is not feeling well is generally in the interests of the whole group.


  • If danger is imminent, take whatever steps are necessary to assist the kayaker in trouble, while ensuring your own safety.
  • Alert others by blowing your whistle.

Group dynamics

On Club paddles, towing is a team activity. The trip leader normally coordinates who will tow and what type of tow is required, and assigns other roles within the group.

  • Everyone in the group should ensure their tow rope is accessible at all times, and be prepared to assist in towing if requested.
  • Someone may need to support the paddler being towed if they are at risk of capsize.
  • Limit group spread and ensure good communication. 
  • When towing, turn and check on the person you are towing. They may feel they have caused enough fuss already so may not complain if they become cold or have a problem.
  • It can be useful to have another paddler close by to chat to the person being towed. 
  • Hypothermia can be a problem for the person being towed.
  • If they are able to, encourage the person being towed to paddle as this keeps them warm and involved and takes the strain off the person towing. Even the slightest contribution can make a difference.


  • The Club uses tow lines connected to the kayak as they reduce stress on the person towing.  In some instances tow lines connected to a paddler’s PFD or waist belt are used, usually for short periods or emergency towing. These need to be able to be released.

After towing

  • When you are finished towing, repack your tow line properly so it's ready to redeploy again quickly.
  • When packing up your tow line, don't look down for too long, to avoid seasickness.
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