It is important to know how to tow when you are on the water in a kayak. When you have the skills and ability to help someone out of whatever trouble they happen to be in on the water via pulling them through your kayak, you become an important and valuable kayaker with a skillset that can come handy in a variety of situations. Of course, the need to tow someone with your kayak might not be a common occurrence but the first time you find yourself having to make use of this ability you might find yourself thankful for being prepared and having the necessary equipment with you along with a knowledge of how to use it effectively. The two main situations during when you might have to tow someone are in open water and in white water conditions; both conditions are very different from each other and this article will discuss the situation that is far more common between the two: white water kayak towing. Some of the techniques discussed in the article will be relevant to paddlers who sit in and who sit on, but some of the techniques will only be useful to paddlers who sit on their kayaks.
The primary scenario that will be discussed in kayak towing involves the use of simple tow lines. The most common reason for towing people via kayak involves a group situation where there is a paddler who might be having a hard time either keeping a straight line or keeping from falling behind from the rest of the pack. It is always a good idea to paddle slow enough that the slowest paddler in the pack can keep up, but there are some times when you might need to tie up the slower paddlers, such as when the water becomes choppy or fast or dangerous or when the weather turns sour and you need to get out of the water as quickly as possible. Sometimes you might need to tie up slower paddlers simply because they are becoming frustrated at their progress.
Some people may feel as if it is a failure to require a tow, but it truly is not anything of the sort. The goal in towing is to reduce the workload by sharing it, much as you would if you were operating a tandem kayak where both partners contributed to the propulsion of the vessel. As a result, any kayaker who finds himself or herself in need of assistance should not stop pedaling but should rather continue if it is in any way possible. This way two individual kayaks are essentially turned into a tandem pair, which means there is no reason for anyone to tease anyone else or for anyone to feel bad.
If you are towing in a sit on top situation all you really need is a simple rope to get the job done. You can use a bowline that is tied or clipped to the handle of the tower on the stern side. Attach the other end of the rope to the bow handle of the person being towed. A 25 foot rope along with clips, a float, and a shock cord segment works wonderfully for this purpose. You can also use such a setup to extend an anchor line or for a drogue line or a rope that comes in handy for jobs when you are camping. However, you will need to either untie or unclip your rope at the bow and the stern to undo the rope when you are done towing and this might take a minute or two of your time. As a result, this method is best used when you do not need a quick release, such as in non emergency situations.
You can easily build a home made tow ring through assembling a rope, a float, an improvised quick release, and a segment of shock cord. If you decide to build this kind of tow rig on your own, you should use a rope that consistently floats, such as polypropylene. It is also a good idea to add floats beside metal clips. You also will want to use the heaviest shock cord you can find.