-- Last Updated: Nov-01-12 8:48 AM EST --
I have been out with one group where a relative newbie managed to not only perform a cowboy rescue successfully, but was vertical, dry and skirted faster than anyone who went with a re-enter and roll. It was a recovery exercise off an island in the Bar Harbor area - the coach found some nice swells and ordered everyone into the water for a self-rescue.
But this guy was a young, truly lithe person. He was far more agile and possessed far better balance than most people, let alone the boomer paddlers that fill out so many classes.
What makes the cowboy hard for many new paddlers - as was true for a newer paddler on this board who has been sharing his concerns about his fit in a Tempest recently - is the balance it takes to climb from where you can easily get over the boat to get positioned back into the cockpit. So they either start from close behind the cockpit where it is a bear to haul the torso over the height of the boat, or they start from further back and have to make multiple tries because of capsizing. Either way, their first impression of the Cowboy is that it is a very tiring way to self-rescue. It usually takes time and practice to make it easy.
That said, it is the least accessory-dependent self rescue of the lot, and for that reason alone should be in everyone's skills kit.