Do Kayaks Tip Easily? (What to Do When You Capsize)

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Do Kayaks Tip Easily

There are so many makes, models, and sizes of kayaks available, each with its own tipping point, that answering this question is impossible.  Some kayaks do tip easily compared to others.  

With enough practice under your belt, you’ll be able to balance on most boats anyway.

Kayaking with friends down the river

Recreational sit-in kayaks are relatively stable in most calm waters, so your fear of capsizing should be minimal.  Sit-in kayaks are lower in the water, which also lowers you and your center of gravity.  Being lower in the water like this really helps in avoiding a flip.  

Sit on top kayaks can also be very stable because they are usually wider. Remember though with sit on top kayaks, you’ll be higher on the kayak raising your center of gravity.

When on any kayak though, all your movements should be steady and smooth.  Reaching too far or making sudden movements can cause the kayak to tip.  Entering and exiting the kayak is usually the time balance is lost, and a bath is followed.

Nothing wrong with swimming lessons

If you’re afraid of getting wet, maybe kayaking isn’t the activity for you.  

If you don’t mind getting wet but the problem is you can’t swim, taking some swim lessons at a local pool or gym is a good start.  Swim lessons are great for building your skills and confidence in the water.  

Once you’re comfortable being in the water and knowing you can stay afloat, the thought of tipping over just became less scary.  

What To Do When You Capsize

Stay Calm.  You have your life jacket on, and you know how to swim, so half the battle is won.  Depending on the type of kayak you’re on will determine your recovery procedure.

Sit On Top Kayak Capsize Recovery

  1. Flip the kayak back over quickly and in a safe place free from other boat traffic.
  2. Grabbing the middle of the kayak with both hands, pull yourself towards the center.  You’ll want to go slow and take a break if you start losing your balance.
  3. Once your body is up and perpendicular to the kayak, the tricky part is now swinging up and around so your butt lands in the seat.
  4. Your feet should still be hanging off the side, so carefully pull them back up and make adjustments as needed.
  5. Once your back on land use the drain plug to remove any water that collected inside

Sit-In Kayak Capsize Recovery

  1. Flip the kayak back over by grabbing the side opposite to you and pulling up and towards yourself.  You’ll want to do this as quickly as you can to avoid more water getting into the cockpit.  Make sure you’re in a safe place that’s free from other traffic.
  2. If you have a hand pump, use this to get the remaining water out.  If you don’t have a pump, you’ll most likely need to get to shore after recovering to remove excess water.
  3. Like the sit on top kayak, you’ll need to pull yourself up across your kayak.  However, with a sit-in kayak you’ll want to position your body behind the cockpit to the rear.
  4. Now you should be laying across the rear of your kayak.  Take your time and gain your balance before continuing.
  5. Slowly bring your leg around the back of the kayak so you are laying flat down on with your head facing the front.  You can carefully sit up now.
  6. Scoot your body forward until your butt can rest in the seat.  Pull your legs back in.

  An “Eskimo Roll” is another way to flip your self if you capsize.  This technique allows you to stay inside your kayak, upside down, underwater, while using your paddle and hip movements to flip the kayak around.  It’s an advanced recovery and since you’re probably new to kayaking, I wouldn’t suggest trying this just yet.  Practicing these techniques on a lake you’re familiar with will help when the time comes.

While some kayaks tip easily compared to others, it shouldn’t be something to fear.  

I have never met a fellow paddler who hasn’t taken a swim once or twice.  As long as you stay calm and remember the recovery techniques that you learned and practiced, you’ll be fine.

Click here for a beginners guide that explains everything from types of kayaks to where to paddle.    

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Jamie Wilkinson

I'm a fervent lover of the great outdoors, having spent countless hours soaking in the tranquility and beauty that nature offers. My passion for kayaking and camping has led me to explore numerous waterways and campgrounds, each journey adding to my treasure trove of experiences. Through, I aim to share these adventures and insights with you. My hope is to inspire fellow outdoor enthusiasts and provide valuable guidance, whether you're paddling your first kayak or setting up camp for the hundredth time. Dive into my articles, and let's embark on this outdoor journey together!

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