How to deal with a capsized kayak like a pro

November 3, 2015

Capsizing is a part of kayaking, so knowing how to right yourself is an essential part of enjoying the sport safely. Here are some basic techniques to right a capsized kayak that all paddlers should know.

How to deal with a capsized kayak like a pro

Rolling and self-righting a kayak

One of the best ways of dealing with a capsized kayak is to stop fighting it and go with the way the water is pulling you — but throwing your weight along with it.

This means throwing your weight in a way that can feel unnatural at first. But, with sufficient force, a shift in body position in the direction of your tip can cause your kayak to roll a full 360 degrees, allowing you to resurface and regain control.

However, you must consider the depth of water before attempting this because it's easy to hit your head on the ground in shallow waters. Also remember that throwing the upper body backwards so you lie as flat as possible against the back of the kayak can help minimise your risk of swinging your head into the ground or a rock.

Use the water's surface tension

If your kayak is laying three-quarters on its side with your body still upright, you can try this method:

  • Extend your paddle in the direction you are falling.
  • Lay your paddle flat on the water and, holding it in both hands, push downwards to lever yourself back upwards.
  • If your paddle submerges, lift it back to the surface to try again. The water's surface tension is often enough to allow you to self-right using this technique.

Wet exiting

In some circumstances, rolling and self-righting are not the right course of action, and it's best to get out of the kayak.

This sort of exit is usually your best option when you're in choppy or fast-flowing water, or when the only way of taking a breath is to wet exit.

  • To do so, grab the spray skirt's tab and pull to release it.
  • Then push on the edge of the cockpit with both hands to force yourself out in a forward roll.
  • If possible, tuck the paddle under your arms before doing this so that you still have it after your exit.
  • Also, as you make your exit, try to keep your lower legs or feet tucked into the cockpit so that your kayak doesn't float away.
  • Once you're out, grab hold of your kayak so that you can drag it to the water's edge or flip it over before it fills with too much water.

Safely enjoy kayaking

Learn these techniques for dealing with a capsized kayak well, so that you can safely enjoy your kayaking adventures. And remember that no matter what method you use to right yourself when you're about to capsize, you should always keep control of your paddle and never let your kayak float away.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
Close menu