How to Get Back In A Kayak After It Capsized? (A Survival Guide)

how to get back in a kayak

For kayakers, there's nothing more fun than being able to immerse themselves in the water together with their beloved boat. Depending on the application, rowing on a kayak is a smooth and peaceful experience.

But for some, things are really better if there's an element of thrill present. And there they go. They go to white waters. They cruise through mighty oceans. They venture uncharted water bodies. Any of these situations have certain levels of unpredictability. If you are not careful, you will get toppled over together with your kayak!


If this thing happens, you should know how to bounce back and recover. But do you know how to get back in your kayak after it flipped over? Even if you don't see it, this kind of capability is a survival skill. Drowning here is not outside the realms of possibilities.

So, if you want to rise over the next time, you will go overboard in your kayak, this said skill is essential. Learn how to do it here!

If you are new to the world of kayaks, you might have already wondered if the boat can be easily flipped over. Of course, answering this question is crucial. At most, you will know the very things that take place once you are already boarded in your boat. Do you really need to be prepared all the time? Or you can simply relax until the SHTF situation strikes?

Let's discuss more of this issue on the following sections.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Most of the time, a sit-on-kayak is specifically designed for recreational purposes. Therefore, their structure is ideal for those who only have basic knowledge of kayak paddling and balancing. They are great for amateurs and weekend activities together with your family and friends.

Of course, it is not new to me anymore if some people see sit-on-top kayaks are unstable water amenities. I cannot blame them because of the very appearance of the boat, which is seemingly shaky. However, this kind of kayak has a flat hull. As a result, they can't be toppled easily.

Take note that things will have a different turn when you take this boat on rapid waters or areas with strong currents. The unpredictability and strength of the current will challenge the stability of any sit-on-kayaks. Even if you position your feet on both the feet support of the kayak, there's no guarantee that you will remain above the water.

If the sit-on-top kayak flips over, it is already sure that you will fall as well. But don't worry. These kayaks can remain afloat. You can always grab them for safety. If you are not an experienced swimmer, this design of sit-on-top kayaks is indeed a life-saver!

Sit-Inside Kayaks

Surprisingly, sit-inside kayaks share similar levels of stability as sit-on-top kayaks. However, a lot of people have this notion that they are not. Specifically, many are worried about the consequences of toppling over with this boat. After all, it is somehow difficult to get out of this kayak.

Take into account that sit-inside kayaks have different hull designs. Therefore, the stability they can display on the water varies as well. For instance, if the hull of the boat is long and narrow, it doesn't have excellent stability. That's the very reason why recreational and touring kayaks have flat and short hull structures so that they can balance well in the water.

However, sit-inside kayaks are more preferred by racers and thrill seekers. These vessels typically excel on rough courses because of their impressive control. It is easier to stabilize them because you can press your knees on both of the sides of their hulls. If you can master this, you can prevent the kayak from flipping over.

The design of a sit-inside kayak encloses your body with a skirt. You can detach the skirt if every boat topples and you need to get out. But take into account that once the boat gets capsized, the skirt doesn't automatically fall off. Just like I said, you have to remove it manually. Furthermore, water gets inside the hull when sit-inside kayaks flip over.

How to Get Back In Your Kayak: A Step-By-Step Guide

How to Get Back In Your Kayak: A Step-By-Step Guide

You have to be prepared to overcome the unexpected accidents that can take place while kayaking. Fortunately, the survival skills required for getting back in your kayak are not that high. Here's how you can do it.

Sit-On-Top Kayak

  • 1. If you have fallen from your sit-on-top kayak, the very first thing that you have to do is to adjust the kayak back to its upright position. You can do this by going to the side of the kayak where the seat is located.
  • 2. Next, grasp the opposite side of the kayak and hold its edge with your two hands. Once done, you can already pull the kayak toward your direction. I do recommend that you place your knees against the portion of the kayak that is nearest to you. By doing this, you can quickly propel the kayak back to its position.
  • 3. Once the kayak is floating correctly, you need to secure the paddles. They should still be attached on the paddle mounts.
  • 4. Grab one side of the kayak and use it to raise your legs and feet out of the water. Begin pulling your body above the kayak until your stomach is already levelled to the seat. Don't hop in yet if you feel that your body and boat are still wobbling.
  • 5. Depending on your position, you have to turn around so that your back portion will be facing the seat of the kayak. After this, you can pull over your legs and put them back inside the kayak. Position yourself properly before you cruise again.

Sit-Inside Kayak

The situation is entirely different if you flip over a sit-inside kayak. Some techniques are required to overcome this potentially deadly predicament. Many seasoned kayakers recommend using the "Eskimo Roll." This technique needs the kayaker to stay still even while the boat is capsized. They have to get back in the position through the correct body and paddle movements. Of course, executing this method is not that easy.

Check out this video on how to eskimo roll!

For most kayakers that are venturing with their sit-inside kayak, they prefer to do the wet exit. With this technique, they have to escape from their kayak and get back to correct the position of their boat. However, this method causes water to flood in the cockpit.

For me, things are a lot easier and safer if there's someone who is going to help you get back in your kayak. They can either help you regain your balance or assist in correcting the kayak while you are still swimming your way to the surface. It just gives me a sense of relief if there are people who can assist me every time I go down in the water!


Generally, kayaks are designed to be safe. However, there are just some uncontrollable instances where the boat flips over. When this situation happens, you need to know how to get back on the surface and correct the position of your boat.

It is completely important that you remain calm whenever you stuck in this situation. Panic is your biggest enemy here. There are a lot of ways you can survive if you don't let fear sink in. However, you can have more confidence if you already learned how to get back in a kayak after it capsizes. You are prepared, regardless of what happens in the water.

That's it for now. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

Here are some other useful kayaking resources that you should check out!

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