How to Get Back in a Flipped Kayak

get in flipped kayak

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Kayaking can be a lot of fun, but like any other sport can be a little dangerous. For instance, do you know what to do if the kayak you are in suddenly flips and you are stuck underwater? This can be a pretty scary scenario, but if you stay calm and follow these procedures, you can flip yourself back over and be safe.

Are You New to the Sport of Kayaking?

There are numerous reasons people get involved in the sport of kayaking. Some do it as a means of getting some exercise; others do it to get in touch with the great outdoors. Do you want to splash around and play with the kids in your kayak? Or do you want to do some serious whitewater kayaking? Whatever your reason is for buying a kayak you need to learn how to be safe while in the water. One of the ways to be safe, is to learn how to get yourself flipped back over in the chance your kayak turns you upside down

This article is meant to be an aid to you in the event your kayak flips over; it will give you some recommendations on how to get your kayak flipped back into the upright position.

How easily can a Kayak be flipped?

People often have the misconception that kayaks are easy to flip over. Kayaks are really more stable than they appear. The reason some think a kayak can flip easily is because with the sit-inside version it can be difficult to get out of it.

The method in which the hull of a kayak is designed is determines how stable the boat will be. For instance, a kayak that has a long, narrow hull is going to be less stable than one with a short, wider one. A lot of the kayaks made for recreational use have a hull that is flat; this ensures greater stability, lessening the chances it flipping.

These next sections are going to describe the different styles of kayaks made and how to safely exit one that has flipped over with you in it.

The Sit-inside Kayak

sit inside kayakThe sit-inside kayak is designed for the rider to be enabled with having control by using his or her knees pressed up against the sides of the hull, which creates greater stability. Additionally, with the sit-inside kayak, the lower half of the riders body is encased in a “skirt” which easily separates should you flip over. One of the shortcomings of this type of kayak is that should it flip over, it will fill up with water. This will require you to bail the water out by hand; to exit a flipped sit-inside kayak you will need to do an “Eskimo Roll” or execute a “wet exit” maneuver in order to safely get out of it.

The Sit-on-Top Kayak

site on kayakThe primary function of the sit-on-top kayak is for recreational purposes. This means that these types of kayaks are much more stable than other designs. These kayaks may appear to be wobbly and unstable when first looking at them; however, the flat hull design actually makes these kayaks very stable and difficult to flip.

Similar to the sit-inside model, the sit-on-top kayak allows the rider to control the boat using his or her knees. The sit-on-top style kayak is usually more stable than the sit-inside one, particularly when in calm waters. With built in foot supports on each side within the kayak, which allows the rider to center himself or herself permitting the use of his or her feet to provide a greater overall stability while in the kayak.

If the sit-on-top kayak does flip over, the rider instantly falls out. For beginning kayakers, this type of kayak is ideal, particularly in the event of it capsizing.

With the sit-on-top model of kayak there is no need for the rider to be an expert swimmer or to have any special skills to be able to endure a flipped kayak incident. As long as you keep in mind that the kayak floats, and if you grab ahold of it and hang on, you will be fine.

Water Conditions While Kayaking

The condition of water you take your kayak in has a lot to do with the chances of it flipping. If you are going to be just paddling on calm water, the probability of flipping the kayak is very unlikely. However, if you are in a sea kayak, and take it out in rougher sea conditions, there is the possibility you could be hit by a large wave or other unexpected change, which could result in your kayak being flipped.

Before taking a kayak out in any water conditions that pose the probability for danger—such as whitewater conditions—ensure you undertake a course in water safety before doing so.

Safety First when riding in a Kayak

As with any other sport, you must think about your safety first. Whenever you go out in the water, you should always wear some form of personal floatation device (PFD). It does not matter how experienced of a swimmer you are, or how calm (or shallow) the water is. There is always the chance that should your kayak capsize you would hit your head and be knocked unconscious. People have been known to drown in just a couple of inches of water; therefore, it is always wise to be safer than sorry. If you are knocked unconscious, your chances of surviving a flipped kayak are greatly reduced if you are not wearing a PDF.

Getting Back in Your Flipped Sit-on-Top Kayak

You are paddling along in your sit-on-top kayak and suddenly a large wave knocks you over; do you know what steps to take? The first step is do not panic. If you start to panic, this is going to cause you to exert a lot of energy, which will cause exhaustion and deem you unfit for a safe recovery. Below is a step-by-step guide to getting you back in an upright position on your kayak in a safe manner.

  • You are first going to need to get the kayak flipped back over. The way to do this is to get yourself near the center of the kayak (where you were once seated).
  • Now that you are in the correct position, reach across the kayak and grab hold of the edge, using both hands you will need to pull the kayak towards you. You will need to use your knees to push against the side of the kayak nearest to you in order to aid in thrusting the kayak into its upright position.

The next thing you must do is get back inside the kayak. This can prove much more difficult than what it sounds like. But these steps will make it a little less so.

  • With the kayak in the upright position, you need to first ensure the paddle is secured.
  • Put one hand on each side of the kayak and allow your legs and feet to come to the surface of the water.
  • Now, pull yourself up with your abdomen directly above the seat, ensuring you are stable in this position before doing anything else.
  • Once you are secure and stable enough, swing yourself around and bring yourself to be seated on the seat, after doing so, you will be able to bring your legs and feet into position and are ready to start paddling again.

Getting Back in your Flipped Sit-inside Kayak

If you are paddling along in your sit-inside kayak; suddenly, you find yourself upside down. Do you know how to safely get yourself back in an upright position? The next steps are going to show you how to get yourself upright should your sit-inside kayak become capsized.

When a sit-inside kayak capsizes, it can be a bit trickier to flip it back over. The more experience kayaker can choose to do an “Eskimo roll.” This can be done by remaining inside the kayak and with the combined motions of the hips and the paddle, enables the kayak to be flipped in the upright position again.

Another method, it called the “wet exit”; the paddler getting completely out of the kayak does this. During this process, the cockpit of the kayak will fill up with water and you will need to get the water out as well as get back in the kayak once it is flipped upright.

You should always kayak with a “buddy” for the simple reason that if you do capsize; you are probably going to need their assistance. Your buddy can help keep your kayak stable while you get inside again, as well as help you remove the water in the cockpit before you do.

Below are the steps to aid you in flipping your kayak upright and getting safely back in it:

  • First, you need to get next to the kayak, near the cockpit. Reaching under the kayak, with a hand on each side, quickly (to avoid getting more water in the cockpit) pulling it and pushing it over so it flips away from you.
  • Next, reach over to the opposite side of the kayak; bring your legs to the surface and pull yourself so that you are lying across the kayak.
  • Once you have yourself stable in this position, turn yourself around, and slide your body into the kayak, feet first. You are now in a position to start paddling again and get back out there.


Now that you know how to safely flip either style of kayak, and how to get back inside you are prepared to go out in the water and enjoy that kayak. Just do not forget to wear your PFD and always go out with a buddy. Best of all, when you take your kayak out in the water, ensure that you have a lot of fun!

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