Towing systems are an important part of your rescue and safety toolkit. Always carry towing gear appropriate to your paddling activity and environment and know how to use it.
Your craft should have appropriate attachment points for towing or being towed. Your towing system (and all your safety gear) should be accessible and easy to deploy.
For kayaking on the sea and lakes you should carry both a Contact Tow line and a 15m Tow line in an accessible place - you never know when you might need them in a hurry! Practice with them so you can set them up quickly and tow effectively for some distance.
A 15m length is optimum and fairly standard across kayaking clubs around Australia. It is a length that allows some separation when towing in a following sea - you don't want the towed kayak catching up to you on a wave. Choppy conditions are also the reason we recommend towing with the rope attached to your kayak, not your body - a body tow in waves is very uncomfortable.
Having a standard length towline allows two kayaks to perform a V-Tow side by side, assisting communication and keeping both lines tight.
You should also have a safety knife attached to your PFD in case of entanglements or jams. Practice deploying your tow rope so you can do it in all conditions without it turning into macrame!
Contact / Short Tow line
A short line tow is used for contact towing - when a kayaker is unstable or incapacitated and the best option is to attach the rescuer to provide support. The towline attaches between the deck lines (far side of both) of the two kayaks, with the rescuer facing the rescuer and paddling over the top of their kayak. The rescuee leans on the bow of the rescue kayak for stability. A quick release on one end is preferred (attach to rescuee side).
Short lines are also handy for tying up your kayak at night on the shore or towing it when walking through shallow water.
These tow lines are available in kits or fully constructed and the components are available separately. Instructions for tow line construction from the kit is contained in our Youtube videos:
River and Whitewater
On moving water the emphasis is less on towing distance and more for rescue and getting out of tight places.
In flat-water environments towing systems can be attached to the PFD of the person performing the tow (rather than boat-to-boat). A body tow is attached via a quick release waist belt on a Guide / Leader PFD.