Discovery kayaking Progressive Coaching and Guiding
Kayak Airbags

Do you carry kayak airbags in your sea kayak hatches?

Kayak Airbags in Sea Kayak

Along time ago when I first started out in a Sea Kayak, I always had kayak airbags in all my hatches. Why was this?

Remembering a conscious decision to put kayak airbags in my Sea Kayak alludes me but I must assume it comes from many a white water escapade.  In those early days where swimming was part of my learning process the best and most reliable way of keeping the kayak afloat to enable a quick rescue was by having stern airbags.

This habit continued into my Sea kayaking and I always have inflated airbags in my front and rear hatches.  There is also a smaller rolled up airbag in my day hatch for emergency use.  Having the hatches partially filled with dry bags and then inflating the airbag over the top of these holds them secure and stops that annoying tendency of kit slopping around in the Sea kayak.

Kayak Airbags

It was only in September 2018 whilst kayaking off Rhoscolyn that the benefit of my decision became apparent.  During our lunch with the group on the beach we saw a strange collaboration of sea kayaks and people coming into land.  Taking several glances, we realised that this was an inline tow with one supported kayak at the rear almost completely submerged.  Summarising what had occurred; during a 5-star assessment the candidate had unfortunately punched a substantial hole into the front of their kayak whilst performing a self-rescue near rocks. This then quickly filled with water and although the kayaker and the team completed a rescue the kayak was now floating below the seam line.  To make matters worse they had drifted in the flow a good few hundred meters and the tow back should be applauded, very tough on all.

Sea kayak Hull Crack

Now for me, last month I put a 200mm slice through my bow but had no idea until the end of the day.  When unloading the kayak at the car, after puling out the front airbag (32” canoe airbag), I saw all my dry bags floating in 100mm of water.  On inspection I realised the small thump I had earlier that morning had breached my hull and now water was trickling out fast and daylight flooding in.

Thankfully my habit of carrying inflated airbags meant I was unaware that my front hatch was compromised and now full.  Most of the volume taken up with drybags, the 32” airbag and the remaining space with water. 

A quick repair at the side of the car when back at camp using butyl tape, a turbo lighter, alcohol hand gel, some surfing wax and gorilla tape meant I could carry on the next day without any trouble. In fact, due to circumstance the temporary repair had to last a further 3 days paddling and only the tiniest bit of water seeped in.

For me this first-hand experience and the witness of a water laden Sea Kayak off Rhoscolyn brought the need to expect the unexpected no matter how many years we have been kayaking to the fore.

The question do you carry airbags in your Sea Kayak? For me the answer is a resounding yes.

If the above anecdotes are not convincing here are a few more reasons:

  1. Stop your kayak from filling up with water in an incident
  2. Use the airbag in another kayak in an emergency.
  3. Stop nuisance kit slopping around in the hatches.
  4. Use as a seat at lunch or pillow on expedition.
  5. Their inexpensive, take up little room but could save a life.

Whether you carry airbags or not keep paddling, stay safe and discovery kayaking looks forward to seeing you afloat soon.

The Finished Repair:

Sea kayak repair

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