Everything said here about the use of a foam paddle float in cold water conditions is right on target.
However, I'd like to share an alternative re-entry that is often easier for those of us with limited upper-body strength: Once you have your paddle float rigged and in place behind the cockpit, position yourself parallel to the cockpit, facing forward. Grasping the cockpit coaming and paddle with one hand, grasp the paddle shaft just up from the paddle float with the other - the paddle shaft will be just below your shoulder blades. Lean back on the shaft and bring your feet to the surface. With straight legs, hook your feet into the cockpit and then push down on the outrigger (with most of your "oomph" on the kayak" and slide yourself into the seat, continuing to lean toward the paddle float until you are settled. Then proceed with securing the spray skirt, pumping and dismantling the paddle float.
The advantages of this method include eliminating the need to roll over in the cockpit and being able to use the large muscles in your legs and glutes to get you back in; it's much easier for those of us with limited upper body strength who may also carry more weight below the waist (ok, folks - that's a lot of women!) Disadvantages - it may not work well for a larger paddler whose weight is too much for the paddle shaft to support well. May also put some lower-back strain on the paddler if those muscles are not in good shape.
I learned this in Canada, and currently live and paddle in Alaska.
Bent Shaft Canoe Paddles
Gedi Convertible Helmet
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