NRA’s KNOT AFRAYED | Ropes and Knots for every Kayaker

Close up of the “z” in Z-drag. Notice the prussik, used to connect the rope via a carabineer.


Before coming to Chile, New River Academy was fortunate enough to get to do an awesome rescue course with resident West Virginia expert Moose.  For more on this course, check out Sara’s blog here: <>

Not only did Moose teach the students the skills they would need to do a vertical lower or an extraction, perfect for some of the canyons we will be paddling in over the next few semesters, but he took the time to go over some of the more important basic knots that every kayaker should know.

Moose strung a throwline across our training camp, and gave each student a piece of  7 mm cord to use. The first knot that Moose had us tie was a figure 8 follow through, useful for anchoring, and for climbers. This is one of the more basic knots, named for the “8” shape it has when tied properly.

We also learned a water knot, which is the best way to tie a piece of webbing into a loop: not only is it the strongest knot, it is easy to see that it has been tied properly. The knot should be a nice flat triangle with tails coming out of opposite directions.

To tie a piece of rope together into a loop, it is best to use a double fishermans knot. You might recognize this knot from friendship bracelets as a kid. The trick to this knot is to flip it over when you tie the second side, to make sure that your “barrels” and your “x’s” line up!

Once you have a piece of rope tied into a loop with a double fisherman’s knot, you are perfectly set up to begin tying a Prussik. Prussiks are used as brake knots, and also for connecting two pieces of rope to each other via a carabineer when setting up a Z drag.

When you don’t have a prussic cord handy, you can also tie an Alpine Butterfly.  Moose showed us how to use the Alpine Butterfly to create multiple anchor points in a rope. We can use the anchor points to attach a kayak to the rope, in case we need to lower a boat down a drop, or extract a boat out of a canyon.

A useful knot for lowering or rappelling a load such as a boat is the Munter Hitch, created by looping a piece of rope over a carabineer. The cool thing about this knot is that it is reversible, meaning it can flip over the carabineer, moving from a knot that can be used to ascend, from a knot to be used for descending. Careful though! This is why you never want to use a Munter Hitch to ascend or descend a person.

To help make your munter hitch even safer, add a prussik on (connecting the rope to the carabineer) to act as a brake.

For more information on knots, and for a breakdown on how to tie some of the knots listed here, head down to Fayetteville and ask for Moose.  Or, check out this website :


Munter Hitch: Used for belaying, ascending and descending a load, not a person!

For  photos on the knots mentioned above, scroll down!

Figure 8 Followthrough, or Figure 8 on a bite. Good for attaching to a Z drag to your load, or for tying off a person into a harness for rapeling.

Best for tying a piece of rope/cord into a loop. Once tied, this becomes the loop for your prussik! Note that the "x'"s line up on the same side.

Bowline with a single fisherman stopper. Useful for tying off rafts.

Moose demonstrates how to tie a Mule Hitch, great for tying off a munter hitch quickly. Originally used to tie off horses and mules, designed to let them go quickly incase of a problem.


Pulling on a munter hitch, with a prussik brake.

Using the Alpine Butterfly to create attachment points in our rope for a kayak.

Prussik Knot. Used as brake knot, especially in Z-drags

Water Knot: Best for tying a piece of webbing into a loop, useful for creating anchors.


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New River Academy
Rt. 2 Box 245
Fayetteville, WV 25484
(304)- 574-0403
Fax: (304) 513-2247
New River Academy

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