How to Re-Enter a Kayak After It Tips Over

Re-entering a capsized kayak by MericanMen - expert kayaks and paddlers

A few summers ago, a friend and I went kayaking on the Magothy River in the Annapolis, Maryland area. If you’re unfamiliar with the Magothy River, it connects to the Chesapeake Bay just a few miles away from the Bay Bridge.

The Magothy can be a great place for kayaking since there are a few islands that are fun to explore, it branches off into plenty of small creeks, and has a couple restaurants and dock bars should you get hungry during your time on the water.

The problem with kayaking on the Magothy River is that since it’s located so close to the Chesapeake Bay, a lot of large boats, jet skis, and jet boats fly through and produce large wakes. With these large wakes come potential dangers for kayakers like me and my friend.

One sunny late morning, a large 55′ Sea Ray Sundancer waked us out and caused my pal’s kayak to capsize. Fortunately for him, I am an experienced paddler and we were able to help him re-enter his sit-in kayak without much trouble.

Had I not been around, my buddy may have had some difficulty trying to get back into his kayak.

Although kayaks are a lot of fun and are much more stable than most people give them credit for, you must prepare for a situation to where your kayak gets overturned.

What do I do if my kayak capsizes?

The first thing you can do in a capsizing kayak situation is to prevent the capsizing altogether. To avoid your kayak from capsizing consider the placement of your kayak gear.

Prevent Your Kayak From Tipping Over

When you add your kayak gear to your kayak, make sure the weight is evenly balanced so that one side isn’t much heavier than the other.

The next thing to remember isn’t so much to prevent your kayak from capsizing, but to tie down all your kayak accessories so that in the case you flip over, you won’t lose all of your kayak gear. It’s also very important that you wear your Coast Guard approved life vest or PFD while kayaking.

Another way you can prevent your kayak from capsizing is to always take waves and wakes at an angle or head on. Do your best not to allow a wave hit the side of your kayak or you’ll increase your chances of capsizing.

You can also use outriggers for kayaks to help stabilize your kayak especially if you know you’re paddling through a crowded boating area. Kayak outriggers will slow you down, so if you plan on racing with your buddy or need to get out of a situation in a hurry, the outriggers may slow down your escape.

Should you take all of the preventative measures and still find yourself in the water do the following to get back into your kayak:

Getting Back Into Your Kayak After Capsizing Instructions:

  1. Stay calm
  2. With two hands, quickly flip the side (closest to your chest) of your kayak upright as if you were doing an incline bench press. The quicker you can flip your kayak back over, the less of a chance you will have at scoping water into the cockpit. When your boat is upside down, air tends to get trapped inside which prevents water from flooding inside the cockpit interior.
  3. Now that your kayak is right side up, make sure your paddle is secured to the kayak paddle holder or taco clip. If you are with a friend or kayaking budding as I was, have your friend hold the front or bow of the kayak to help keep it stable.

    To stabilize someone else’s kayak, keep their kayak parallel to yours, lean over and press your weight opposite the person in the water and make sure to keep a good grip on the kayak.
  4. Grab right behind the cockpit seat on the cockpit rail. The cockpit rail provides an excellent grip to pull yourself onto the kayak.
  5. Lay your legs close to the surface of the water and lift yourself onto the top of the kayak almost as if you are laying on top.
  6. Next, slide your feet into the cockpit and sit back into your seat.

What to Do After You Get Back Inside Your Kayak

After you successfully get back into your kayak, paddle to the shoreline and empty out all of the water that got trapped inside.

It’s often a good idea to keep a hand bilge pump pump on hand (excuse the pun).

Now you’ve learned how to re-enter a kayak after it tips over. We love it when our readers share kayaking and camping stories that help other readers, so we encourage you to please tell us your kayaking stories in the comments below.

Also, between now and Memorial Day 2019, all of our kayaking accessories are on sale. Use the promo code MEMORIAL19 for a huge kayaking gear discount.

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