how to tow a kayak

How To Tow A Kayak? A Definitive Guide With Steps 

When there come situations where a kayaker fails to move his kayak through paddling, towing helps to move the kayak. If you have been through this, you already know how helpful it can be! Towing is the help that a kayaker needs in particular conditions. 

So, how to tow a kayak? You must follow some measures like kayak preparation, positioning the towline, and slowly towing the kayak. While towing a kayak, one must remember the length of the towline and adjust it according to the situation demands. 

There are a few concerns when it comes to towing a kayak. Today, we are all about it!

What Is Towing In Kayak?

tow a kayak

If you are new to kayaking, you would probably wonder about the term “towing.” Towing means pulling or towing another kayak in challenging situations. Sometimes, a kayaker may fail to paddle the kayak due to injury, fatigue, equipment failure, or even challenging weather. Towing is the assistance that the kayaker receives meanwhile. 

In this case, the kayak is attached to the towed kayak through a towline. As a result, both kayaks can be moved together. 

How To Tow A Kayak?

towing a kayak

Towing a kayak requires skills and experience. It has some basic steps that need to be followed. The steps are: 

Step-1: Prepare Your Kayak 

Before you start towing, you need to gather all the required pieces of equipment. You will need a towline to attach the other kayak. The towline needs to be at least 3-4 times the length of your kayak. Also, it should contain a carabiner or clip on one end to attach to the towed kayak. 

Other pieces of equipment that you will need are a PFD (personal flotation device), a whistle, and any necessary paddling gear.

Step-2: Position The Towline

Once you have everything in your hands, you have to connect one end of the towline to your kayak’s bow or stern handle. You can also attach the towline to the other kayak’s handle or deck line. After that, keep the other end close to the other kayak. Now that you have secured all the gears, communicate with the paddler to ensure he’s ready to be towed.

Step-3: Adjust The Towline

Once the towline is clipped on, you have to adjust its length by moving forward or backward in your kayak. Don’t let the towed kayak be too close or too far from your kayak. The distance should be enough to tow the other kayak without collision. 

Step-4: Start Towing

Now that you have prepared everything, paddle forward and tow the other kayak. Keep your distance right, and be careful about any other obstacle in the water. 

Step-5: Monitor The Towed Kayak

While towing, ensure that the other kayak is stable and safe. If you think it needs adjustment, stop and adjust the length of the towline. Also, use a speed that keeps both the kayaks safe and upright. 

Different Types Of Towlines Available For Towing A Kayak

1. Static towline

A static towline is a fixed-length rope or webbing that you have to attach to both ends of the kayaks. This is the simplest one that most people use. But you can’t adjust the length of this while towing. 

2. Dynamic towline

A dynamic towline can stretch to some degrees so you can have the right balance. It offers shock absorption while reducing the strains to keep the kayaks stable. You can use this towline in rough weather. 

kayak tow line

3. Floating towline

This type of towline is made of buoyant material, such as foam or air-filled tubing. It floats to remain visible while towing while preventing tangling.  

4. Waist towline

This is a particular type you need to wear on your waist. You can remain hands-free while towing, which can be helpful while towing a long distance. 

5. Towing bridles

Towing bridles can attach multiple kayaks in a group. There is a central point where two or more towlines are attached. This is effective when you need to tow multiple kayaks at a time. 

When To Tow A Kayak?

what are the best times to kayak

Towing is required in emergencies or in situations where a kayaker requires assistance. The usual conditions when a kayaker needs towing are:

Equipment failure

Sometimes, a kayaker’s equipment, such as a paddle or rudder, may fail to operate correctly. In such cases, they are unable to paddle the kayak, so assistance is needed to get them to the safe area. 

Fatigue or injury

After a long period of kayaking, kayakers often become fatigued. Sometimes, paddling may also cause injuries. In such circumstances, they need other assistance to reach their destination. 

Adverse weather conditions

In cases of strong winds, currents, storms, or other adverse weather conditions, a kayaker may need the help of towing to reach safe destinations.


In cases of emergency, a kayaker needs another kayak to tow them to a safe position. The emergencies may include dangers such as when a kayaker is stranded or in danger; a tow may be required to bring them to the safe area safely.

What Are Some Safety Considerations To Keep In Mind When Towing A Kayak?

kayak tow

Here are some important safety considerations to keep in mind:

Use a good towline

Use a towline that matches the other kayak’s height and keeps the length perfect. Ensure it is long enough to provide ample distance between the two kayaks. Don’t use ropes or other materials not specifically designed for towing. Using ropes may cause breakages while kayaking, leading to additional risks. 

Utilize appropriate towing techniques

You need to have enough experience to tow another kayak. Practice proper towing techniques so you can make a safe and smooth tow. Don’t move the kayak too much. Besides, avoid speeding up to a point the other kayak loses balance. 

RELATED: How to increase your kayak speed

Communicate clearly

Before you start towing, let the kayaker know you are about to start. The kayaker needs to be well aware and prepared that you will tow his kayak. If the communication is disrupted due to extreme conditions, maintain non-verbal communication, like hand signals to communicate your intentions.

Monitor weather conditions

Keep an eye on weather conditions to avoid any unwanted situations during towing. Make sure to take enough safety measures before handling any diverse weather. High winds can make your towing challenging, so maintain the right towing strategy to cope with that.

Keep a safe distance

Maintain a safe distance so the kayaks don’t collide. Also, don’t get too close to the shore. Keep an open eye on the obstacles in the water. 

Wear personal flotation devices

To ensure extended protection, wear a personal flotation device when kayaking and towing. That will prevent unwanted situations even if you lose control and balance. 

RELATED: What to wear kayaking in Florida

Further Queries About Towing 

1. How long should a kayak tow line be?

A kayak tow line should be at least 15-20 feet long. But it’s better to use towlines around 30 feet to provide sufficient space between the two kayaks.

2. What is a tow line used for?

Towlines are used to tow another kayak. It is attached to pull the other kayak during rescue sessions. 

3. What are tow lines made of?

Towlines can be of different types. The common ones are made of steel wire or synthetic fiber. Some of them are also made of foam or air-filled tubing.

4. What equipment do you need to tow a kayak?

You need some special types of equipment while towing. The most important ones are a towline, carabiners or other connectors, PFDs, and communication devices. 

Finalizing Everything 

Now that you know how to tow a kayak, you can go for your rescue journey efficiently. Make sure to communicate well before you start towing so the other kayaker is aware of the process. Also, don’t forget to always take your PFDs with you to remain safe and secure!

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