Falling out of your boat is never fun, unless of course, you’re drilling rolls. But most capsizes aren’t planned and they often happen when you least expect it. And if you’re particularly unlucky, you’ll capsize on a cold water day with an unsecured load. 🙁
Apart from ruining your trip, such an event is also potentially fatal. Through overconfidence or lack of awareness, many amateur paddlers don’t have a plan in place for capsizing. If this sounds like you, then our article will provide ways to avoid capsizing and guidance on what to do if it happens.
6 Tips to Avoid Tipping
1. Go Wide
Your kayak should be selected based on where you’ll be paddling, the type of kayaking you’re doing, and your skill level. Generally, wider kayaks are more stable. Sit-on-top yaks that are 600mm and wider are extremely steady and great to learn on. If you’re a beginner, go as wide as possible.
2. Keep Low and Centred
Moving around while keep the boat balanced can be tricky to begin with. The obvious solution is to minimise your movements. If you must move, keep your weight low and balance over the centre of the boat. That means no moving your shoulders outside of the centre line along the long axis of the boat.
3. Always Have 3 Points of Contact
Always stick to the three points of contact rule for easy stability and control over your boat. It is much easier to enter and exit your boat from a dock with other members of your group holding your yak until you’re securely in your seat. And if you have to get of your seat while in your yak (to access the rear storage, for example), always have three limbs spread wide to stabilize the boat.
4. Keep Your Paddle Busy
Much like riding a bike, a moving kayak is easier to keep upright than one at rest. You don’t need to race by every sight just to avoid tipping, but a couple of momentum maintaining strokes even when you’re cruising will improve stability.
5. Tie Down and Balance Your Load
Your gear should be tied down to avoid losing anything if you capsize. Keep your load low to improve stability, and balance it evenly between the bow and stern to stop the kayak from rising up at one end.
6. Tackle Waves Head On
If you’re dealing with waves, tackle them at an angle or head on. Try not to let the wave hit the side of the boat as you’ll be rocked. Needless to say, if you’re a complete newbie, you shouldn’t be paddling on the open ocean or lakes where passing boats could generate large waves.
What To Do If You Capsize
If you’re close to the water’s edge, grab hold of your kayak with one or two arms and swim to the shore using your legs (and free hand if you’re holding on with one hand). Once you can stand up, tip the boat upside down to empty it of water, and then you get can get back in and on your way.
If you capsize in current, keep your body horizontal to the surface facing upwards to prevent drowning. Hold you kayak with one arm and then back stroke to shallow water.
If you’ve got your buddies with you, re-entry from deep water is much easier: Grab hold of your mates kayak while he takes hold of yours. Get your buddy to place your kayak on top of theirs perpendicular to their kayak so they don’t tip, and turn it upside down to drain it. Then, set up your kayak parallel to theirs so you can easily hop back in.
If you’re paddling a sit-on kayak with scupper holes, re-entry will be much easier. Simply turn the kayak right way up, allow to drain for a few seconds, then pull yourself back on top.
Wrapping It up
With kayaks and canoes being light, small, and easily tipped, going for a swim is fairly common – especially while you’re learning to paddle.
With this in mind, always prepare for capsizing by wearing a PFD and clothing that you can easily swim in. Paddling in a group and with experienced kayakers that know the area well are other precautionary measures that you should implement. And even if you’re only an occasional paddler, you should think about enrolling in a course that teaches water safety and rescue procedures.
When it comes to staying safe in the water, you can never be too careful.