How to Manage a Capsized Kayak

Stay safe on the water this summer by preparing to go under it with these tips on how to exit and re-enter a capsized kayak

Just like you should practice fixing a flat bike tire before you head out on the road for a long ride, learning how to exit and re-enter a tipped kayak is a good skill to know before you hit the water, especially if you’re a newbie paddler or you plan to kayak in a remote area (with a buddy, of course). Even if you’re a skilled kayaker, you can still end up in the water, so here are five steps you should master ahead of your next kayak trip.  

1)    Get comfortable underwater. Tipping in a kayak will have you fully submerged, upside-down and momentarily attached to the kayak, so ensure you can stay calm underwater by diving down and holding your breathe for a few seconds without holding your nose next time you’re at a pool or lake. Blow bubbles out of your mouth and nose before coming up for air, and practice staying calm. 

2)    Secure your paddle and push. Practice capsizing your kayak (with a friend nearby, of course) by securing the paddle in your lap, leaning to one side and rolling over. When you’re upside-down, remove the spray skirt (if you have one), firmly grip from the cockpit coaming and push yourself out to either side of the kayak, keeping your head as close to the surface as possible. Practice leaving your feet inside the cockpit, since you could be tipped in rough weather and you’ll want to ensure your kayak and paddle are still within reach.  

3)    Flip and jump back on. Once you’re out of the kayak and in the water, roll your kayak right-side up by jumping on top of it, grabbing the edge and pulling it towards you to flip it back over. Secure your paddle in the bungee cords/holder before you kick your legs in the water and jump up on to and over your kayak while at the same time pulling the cockpit under you. Keep pulling yourself across your kayak until you are centered and balanced.

4)    Keep calm and rotate your body. Stay lying across your kayak until you feel calm and stable enough to get your butt back in your seat. With the hand nearest the bow, grab the near side of your cockpit with palm reversed, slip the hip nearest the stern into your cockpit, and at the same time rotate and plop your butt into the seat. Remain sitting in this position, and practice paddling a bit until you’re ready to bring your legs into the kayak.

5)    Re-enter the kayak, one leg at a time. Lean back slowly, rotate your body and bring one leg into your kayak. Once you feel stable again, rotate some more and bring the other legs into the kayak. At this point, you can get your spray skirt back on (if you have one) on and bail or pump out water if needed.

For an excellent step-by-step tutorial on how to exit a tipped kayak, check out this site. For a demonstration on how to re-enter a kayak, watch this video.




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