Do kayaks flip over easily? Tips for beginners

Kayaking for the first time can be daunting.

The biggest fear for beginners is being tipped out of the kayak and into the water.

And that’s understandable. Getting tipped out of a kayak can be scary.

Beginner kayakers do worry about falling out of the kayak into the water.

It is common for a beginner to ask how stable are kayaks?

What are my chances of getting tipped and flipped out into the water?

And if I do find myself getting tipped out into the water how do I recover?

To answer these questions let me answer the main question first.

Do kayaks flip over easily? Typically they are not easily flipped. Kayaks are not designed to flip. Kayaks are relatively stable as the center of gravity is below the waterline.  However, if you shift your weight by leaning over to one side beyond the center of the kayak the chances of tipping out increases. If there are strong winds, currents, or waves there is an increased chance of kayak tipping over. If you’re just starting its best to paddle on calm water where the chances of tipping out are much lower.

Now I have answered the main question let’s look into some tips on how to keep your balance in a kayak reducing the chances of getting tipped or flipped out.

Tips on reducing your chances of getting tipped out

How to sit

To avoid flipping its best to keep your balance.

To balance keep your body upright, looking towards the horizon.

Relax your shoulders and stomach. Each stroke keeps your arms by your side.

Reaching for something

If you do need to reach for something, do it carefully with no sudden movements.

Paying attention to the surface of the water and top edge of the canoe.

If you are unable to reach for whatever you’re reaching for try to paddle closer towards the object.

If you are still concerned about flipping the kayak here are some tips below to prevent tipping out;

Practice your kayak balancing.

For those who haven’t had much experience kayaking you can practice your balancing by trying the following;

On land

On land, sit in the kayak with your paddle and pretend to kayak.

Take note of your posture by keeping your body upright looking towards the horizon.

Whilst on land, shift your weight side to side.

Unlike water, the land won’t shift underneath you so it won’t rock as much.

It will however give you a sense of what is like. Hopefully, it will build your confidence.

So, the next step is to practice balancing in water.

In water

If possible practice balancing in shallow and calm water.

Shifting your weight side to side. Each time edging to your tipping point whilst staying upright.

This will help to get used to recovering your balance.

What happens if Kayak tips over?

The first tip is to stay calm. There will be the initial shock of falling into the water but try to stay calm and relaxed.

If you tip out you will float to the surface.

If you are in a river, tuck up your legs preventing them from getting scratched by tree branches sticking up from the bottom of the river.

Grab onto the kayak. Hold onto the kayak so I don’t get away.

If you are near the shoreline, try to swim to the bank with the kayak.

Once on the bank, take a minute to recover and gather your thoughts, making sure you have all your gear.

The next step is to flip it over. To flip it over grab both sides of the cockpit and flip it over (away from you) quickly to prevent water from filling up in the kayak.

If you are unable to get to shore or flip over the kayak, best to stay with the kayak.

Wave your hands seeking the attention of others who can help you recover or take your shore.

If you’re unable to get the shoreline, stay with the kayak, holding onto it.

You can then grab other water users to your plight. Alternatively, you can attempt to flip your kayak.

Final Thoughts

Kayaks are a stable craft that does not capsize easily, however weather conditions can be unpredictable so it’s always good to be prepared by wearing PFD and clothing that will allow you to easily swim.

When starting out for the first time it’s best to go with someone who is experienced in canoeing. It’s also best to practice before entering the water.

After 10 minutes of paddling and getting used to the “feel” of the kayak, your confidence will grow. Within a short matter of time, you will have forgotten about falling out into the water.

You should also try paddling near the shore and also where there are people who can help you if you find yourself in trouble.

Further Information

If you enjoyed this article you will enjoy our other articles. Below are some of our other popular resources;

How hard is kayaking? (for beginners)

Can 2 person kayak be used by one person?

How to paddle a kayak, basic strokes

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