How to Tow a Kayak: Learn the Right Way To Do It


Kayaking with a buddy has always been a great thing to do on a weekend. But what happens in case you or your partner gets into trouble? Do you know what to do in case you need to tow your friend’s kayak? This is where the importance of knowing how to tow a kayak comes into play. In case you don’t know, there are several types of towing setups that you can make use of and we will be discussing some of them in this post.

In this article, we will be focusing on the tow belt, as its ease of use and access is exceptional in these scenarios. Also, it has the capability to position the line optimally, as well as anchor low and staying centered on the torso, allowing a more stable tow. We will also be discussing when a tow is vital, what exactly the tow belt does, and how to properly use in a typical situation. Keep in mind that using a tow belt or any other type of towing setup entails the knowledge of towing and rescue lessons from an experienced instructor and to practice the skill until you become used to it. Now, let’s proceed with the discussions.

When Do You Need a Tow?

Your buddy or a kayaker you might encounter along the way might be needing your help. Whenever someone can’t get to the shore with their kayak on their own, you must be able to assist them using a tow system.

Ideally, a tow system is beneficial for your buddy who’s already mentally and physically spent and is needing tow assist. It may also be great for someone who lacks the skills to get through a challenging water situation. If your friend incurred an injury along the way, you must be able to assist him or her. And lastly, if your buddy’s paddle is broken or is lost, with no spare paddle available. A standard one with a tow belt would work perfectly for the above scenarios. However, consider yourself lucky if you aren’t requiring special towing techniques like a boat-less paddler or an unconscious paddler.

What Exactly is a Tow Belt?

If we would describe a tow belt, it resembles much of a fanny pack and is made to be worn below the PFD. According to the design, the tow belt may also have these features:

  • A wide opening for easy and quick access
  • A quick-release buckle found at the front portion – this is for when you need to abandon the tow; thus, preventing capsizing.
  • A rope neatly coiled inside, one end is attached to the pack
  • A carabiner, which will be used to clip it onto the other kayak

In some cases, the following features are also included:

  • A float which prevents the carabiner from sinking
  • A bungee section that effectively smooths out the tow.

We do advise that if you’re looking for a tow system on the market, look for one that has a waist belt webbing with 2 inches or wider. This ensures that the tow system wouldn’t be digging into your midsection. You may also want to consider getting one with Velcro closure for quick access. What’s important is that, whatever tow system you choose, you must be able to familiarize yourself with using it, including its design. It would also be beneficial for you if you ensure that the rope is coiled neatly before going out.

How to Tow a Kayak

When your buddy is already physically and mentally spent, he or she may need a full tow to assist to get home. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Paddle towards your kayaking buddy and explain to him or her how the tow works.

This very important first step allows you to assess the situation and how your buddy is doing. Also, it puts you in a position to be able to clip the towline to his or her kayak. If they will be paddling, ask them if they’re able to match your kayak’s direction. If they have a skeg, ask them to deploy it. If they possess a rudder and if they are familiar with how it works, let them use it.

In the event that your friend is too tired to be able to paddle, ask them if they can sit upright and in a balanced position. It would also be fine as well if they’re able to paddle intermittently. However, keep in mind that you might need to ask them to stop paddling if ever they’re going too fast to catch up to you.

2. Undo the tow pack and then pull out the carabiner end.

It would be very simple if you can just use the full rope. While there are also techniques that make it easy for you to learn how to shorten it, ropes that may be longer than 40 feet might be very challenging to use.

3. Clip the carabiner to the deck line at the front of his or her kayak.

If there’s an available front carry toggle or any other solid anchor point that is not a bungee line, you may also use it. However, keep in mind that it’s not always the same case for every kayak. You may also need to get creative, depending on the kayak’s setup.

4. Start paddling forward until you find that there’s tension in the rope.

Then, begin paddling at a steady pace. To be able to perform this one properly, it might help to consider practicing with a friend in calmer conditions. This would be good for learning the proper process, as well as building up stroke power. After, you might even consider practicing on choppy water. This would prepare you for a more realistic towing situation; thus, providing you with a better read on the limits of your ability. In addition, it might also help you to understand when it would be wiser to just call for assistance than to attempt towing your friend’s kayak.


Towing a kayak is an easy task, as long as you have ample preparation and practice before the rescue actually happens. It would be wise to get to know the basics first before you set out on a kayaking trip with your buddies. Now that we’ve reached the end of the post, we trust that you will be able to apply this new learning for when the need to tow your friend’s kayak arises. It would also be beneficial for you if you can practice with a friend so that both of you know what to do in these situations.

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