By Helen Wilson
Few pieces of gear are more critical for serious sea kayakers than a tow-line, and paddlers have lots of options. Recently I've been using the Jeff Allen Throw Tow Rescue System designed by one of the most-serious paddlers on the planet, British expedition kayaker Jeff Allen. Last week I had a chance to talk with Jeff —we were both teaching courses in Anglesey, Wales – and he took me through the nuances of this hybrid rescue system, which he says has 14 different uses.
It's certainly a well-built and versatile tow system. It can be worn under the arm, across the chest or on the belt, depending on the paddler's preference. When worn on the belt, the anchor point is designed to swivel around the paddler's waist. This prevents the line from getting hung up when the paddler changes direction. It also makes it possible to swivel the bag to the front of the body, which is necessary when using the device in the throw function.
The system worn on a rescue vest. Photos by Mark Tozer
When worn under the arm, as Jeff prefers to wear his, the line is more visible and the user can see any snags when the rope is deployed. The system can also be used as a contact tow, a throw bag, a short tow (providing 7.5 meters of tow), a long tow (providing 15 meters of tow), a sea anchor, a drogue and a stirrup.
I've had mine since January and have found it to be a wonderful piece of equipment that really does do all of the things that it's supposed to. It is easy to wear and easy to use. That said, this device does require practice, and to fully understand all of its functions, and to be able to use it effectively, practice is required. In Jeff's words, "No matter what your tow system is, you've got to really understand how you're going to employ it. Get to know your system quite intimately."
Those are words of experience. Jeff has been paddling at a high level for more than 35 years. His many personal expeditions include a circumnavigation of the four main islands of Japan, South Georgia, the Scandinavian Peninsula and Ireland. He has also guided trips in Chile, Alaska, North America, Mexico, the Mediterranean, Norway and Iceland. He is the founder of Sea Kayaking Cornwall in 2003 and the International Sea Kayak Guide Association (I.S.K.G.A.) in 2013.
The Jeff Allen Throw Tow Rescue System is available at www.seakayakingcornwall.com.
Helen Wilson lives in Arcata, California. She specializes in traditional paddling skills using traditional equipment. Helen performs rolling demonstrations, presentations and instructs at events worldwide and has produced two instructional DVDs, Simplifying the Roll with Helen Wilson and Yoga for Outdoor People. www.greenlandorbust.org.
Jeff Allen demonstrates his namesake tow system. Photo by Mark Tozer