Video Review "Capsize Recoveries & Rescue Procedures"
As seen in Sea Kayaker Magazine
June 2002, Volume 19 - Number 2

Reviewed by John Andrew

University of Sea Kayaking Instruction Videos

"Capsize Recoveries and Rescue Procedures"

Volumes 1 and 2

by Wayne Horodowich

Getting wet-who needs it? Well, that's what I thought when I first started sea kayaking. And why do I need to practice getting out of my kayak? lt's sort of like saying, "why would anyone jump out of a perfectly good boat while it's still floating?" Wet exits and imminent recoveries are skills which need to be practiced on a regular basis. The importance of practicing these skills is reinforced for both the beginner and advanced paddler through two new in-depth instructional videos, Capsize Recoveries and Rescue Procedures, produced by Wayne Horodowich.

Wayne Horodowich is no newcomer when it comes to sea kayaking. He has been teaching since the mid-1980s and was the head of the Instructor Exchange program for Trade Association for Paddle Sports (TAPS) for almost ten years. A professional educator, Horodowich has been the Director of Adventure Programs at the University of California at Santa Barbara since 1980 and is the founder of the University of Sea Kayaking, a kayak school owned by Horodowich.

Throughout his two-part series, Horodowich presents the viewer with many different components of recoveries and rescues. Early in the first video the terms "rescue" and "recovery" are clearly defined. He defines a recovery as "the act of getting yourself upright in your kayak or getting back into your kayak with you and your kayak ready to continue on your way." The term "rescue" is used for a "real" emergency, when you are in trouble and need a higher level of assistance in order to survive.

I found both videos to be filled with detailed and comprehensive information on how to perform capsize recoveries and, more importantly, how to prevent those capsizes from becoming real emergencies. The variety of the topics covered in Capsize Recoveries includes choosing equipment, components of recoveries, assisted recoveries, solo recoveries, "bag of tricks," double kayaks, folding kayaks and sit on tops. This first video will help you understand that there is more than one way to get back into your kayak. Some of the techniques demonstrated may be more appropriate for some paddlers than others, depending on fitness level, skill level, wave and wind conditions, wave heights and the type of equipment being used. All kayakers are encouraged to train themselves so that capsizing does not become an emergency.


There are a lot of good skills presented in this video. Horodowich's years of experience and
knowledge on the subject of safety are clearly evidenced in this video. His advice to sea kayakers is for you to know your limitations--don't push it. Watch the weather, and purchase and learn how to use the proper safety equipment and clothing.


Whether you're a flatwater or recreational paddler who paddles on protected inland lakes, bays and rivers, or an open water paddler paddling on the Great Lakes or ocean, your life and that of your paddling partners may depend on your ability to successfully recover from a capsize.

Topics covered in Rescue Procedures include understanding exposure, stages of and treating hypothermia, what to wear, rescue techniques, towing, MAYDAY calls, signal flare demonstrations and a capsize recovery review. The discussion-style format at the beginning of the second video between Horodowich and Rod Tucknott came across as a little dry at first, but it does an excellent job of helping viewers understand, prevent and treat exposure. They explain how the body suffers heat loss, and refer viewers to resources for additional training in wilderness first aid.

One of the primary goals of this video is to educate viewers on the number one cause of death in sea kayaking: exposure to cold water. According to Horodowich, most emergencies are a result of three things: poor planning, inadequate gear and equipment, and poor judgment. He recommends reading the book, Deep Trouble, (edited by Sea Kayaker magazine) to learn from the mistakes of others as a prevention tool.

There are a lot of good skills presented in this video. Horodowich's years of experience and knowledge on the subject of safety are clearly evidenced in this video. His advice to sea kayakers is for you to know your limitations-don't push it. Watch the weather, and purchase and learn how to use the proper safety equipment and clothing.

For anyone who has never seen a distress flare demonstration in both daytime and nighttime this section of the video is superb! After viewing this segment you will be asking yourself these questions, "What will I need to get and put in my signal kit for both day and night paddling?" "What will I need to be seen, heard and found if there is an emergency on my next trip?" It's well worth owning copies of these videos for this demonstration alone!

To sit down and watch the videos from start to finish without prior kayak training from a qualified instructor would be a mistake and is not how the author intended them to be used. Horodowich clearly explains at the beginning of the first video to treat the set like a one-day class. Each video is 120 minutes in length with a time-coded schedule on the back cover for a general reference. (There is a more in-depth schedule at the web site This time-coded schedule was created to allow viewers to select topics of personal interest.

Kayaking is a wet sport, but before you go out and get wet, I strongly recommend that you take an instructional class first to learn how to wet exit and perform the various recovery skills. Study the techniques and skills presented in both of these videos, then go out properly dressed for immersion and practice your capsizes and recoveries!

You cannot learn or remember everything from taking just one kayaking instructional class, nor can you learn everything from just watching these videos. In order to obtain the greatest benefit you will need to watch the desired sections several times, and then go practice and refine your paddling skills.

Reviewed by John Andrew

John Andrew lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he directs a paddling school. He is an American Canoe Association Instructor Trainer and a British Canoe Union Coach 3, Advanced Senior Instructor and Assessor. He is also a Wilderness First Responder, and an American Red Cross CPR and Community First-Aid instructor.

Visit the USK store to purchase your set of "Capsize Recoveries & Rescue Procedures" and don't forget to get a copy for the paddling partner who will save you.

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