Rethinking PFD Knives and Rescue Hooks

After a recent L-4/L-5 coaching weekend I changed my mind about carrying a knife on my PFD. For years I have avoided carrying a knife and have seen them get in the way too many times for rescues, self-rescues and generally being active in the kayak. I felt the usefulness outweighed the potential danger, and had seen instances where they came out of the sheath.

During the coaching session I had my first ever opportunity to wish I had a knife or cutting hook quickly accessible. We were paddling under a bridge with the outgoing tide and there were people fishing off the bridge with lots of lines in the water. Because of the angle of the sun and the strong ebbing current, you couldn’t see the lines until you were right on them, and it took a bit of finesse to move through them, once you saw them.

Everyone in our group made it through safely, except for the final two paddlers who were a bit behind the rest of the group and perhaps didn’t see the others dodging the lines. As I looked back to warn them, one of the paddlers snagged a line with her paddle and before she could react, the hook and sinker came up from the bottom and across her paddle.

The sinker and hook then flew through the air (there was a strong current so we were moving pretty quickly) back toward the bridge, and hit the second paddler, bringing the line across his chest and paddle and almost up under his neck. It was strong enough to pull him backwards and ripped the paddle out of his hand. Fortunately the paddle was the victim, but it could have easily slid up his chest and around his neck.

All ended well and I was able to paddle over and remove his paddle from what had become two tangled lines and we continued on with the day, but it was a close call and got me thinking. After quite a bit of research, decided to order a rescue hook (link below) and plan to mount it on my PFD. I choose the hook for the scenarios I’m most likely to encounter on the water as a paddler and coach, while minimizing the possibility of hurting myself or others accidentally. I may change my mind again after putting it into practice, but for now, consider me among the converted. I’ll share an update and photos once I have it mounted and run through a few practice drills.

Here’s the model I ordered, the Benchmade 7 Hook. Btw, this was actually cheaper through Amazon than the ACA Promotive pricing!