You might have to tow a fellow paddler, be it a friend, family member or another water user, for a number of different reasons. This could include injury, fatigue or lost kit.
This simplest way to tow somebody is to have them hold the rear handle of your board whilst they’re on their board and lying flat on their stomach. This is really useful as it doesn’t require any additional kit but can be tiring for the person getting towed (not ideal if they’re already tired) and the towed board can knock on the assistants board which can make it more difficult to paddle. If you need to become detached it’s simply a case of asking the person being towed to let go.
A simple piece of kit to carry would be a basic tow line consisting of a tape or piece of webbing and a carabiner. This can be specifically designed for the job like the Palm 5m Safety Tape or a cut of flat tape or tube tape from a climbing shop which can be cut to your desired length. If you’re on a budget you could even use floating rope. Add a carabiner to the pre-sewn or self-tied looped end and you have a towline.
Using this style of towline is fairly simple. Next, attach the carabiner to the board of the person in need, ideally usually a D-ring at the front of the board or the handle if a D-ring isn’t an option, if neither of these are options the D-rings by the bungee cords will have to be used. Then kneel on the tape and paddle. The advantages to this system are the board of the person being towed is further away from you so you’re less likely to collide and if you do need to stop towing for whatever reason, you can lift one knee up at a time and you will be disconnected. DO NOT tie the tape to your board or on your person as you won’t be able to release it when needed.
Another option is using a quick release belt (QR belt). This is simpler to a basic towline but is connected to the waist of the person doing the towing. It is more comfortable than kneeling on a tape and can be quicker to deploy as it is already around your waist rather than in a bag or buoyancy aid pocket.
QR tow belts come in numerous sizes usually ranging from a 3m-15m line. At sea a longer line could be useful to keep the boards further apart and less likely to collide, however on a river the long piece of rope between two boards could pose a snag hazard.
Even though a QR belt is easy to release, the loose end of the belt can become jammed in the buckle if the tail end is too long and gets twisted or knotted. Before using a QR belt, adjust the belt or cut if needed to ensure the tail end doesn’t extend too far past the buckle. Bear in mind that you are likely to be wearing more layers in colder weather and cut the length accordingly. Regularly training with a quick release belt is ideal for improving confidence when using one as well as making sure you are able to release it when needed.
Whichever way you tow someone, you should always tow whilst kneeling as there is a chance of the boards colliding and you losing your balance. You also have more control on your knees.
Being prepared is key when it comes to rescue situations. Our SUP Fundamentals course is a great way to learn these techniques and put them into practice in a calm environment. It’s good to know which ways work best for you but to also be aware that it might always be the best method.