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How To Get Back In A Kayak After It’s Flipped Over

Mark Armstrong
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While kayaking can be a lot of fun, it can also be a little scary when your kayak flips over, especially if you are new to kayaking or simply don’t know how to correct yourself. So what do you do? How do you get back in?

We know how daunting it can be, which is why we’ve put together some information to help you.

How To Get Back On A Kayak AgainPin

We’ll teach you how to get back into your kayak safely and give you advice so that you’ll be more prepared to deal with any flips in the future.

Is It Easy To Flip A Kayak Over?

Sit-Inside Kayaks

Many people may think that kayaks are easy to flip over but they are a lot more stable than they might look. With a sit-inside kayak, a lot of people may worry about flipping over because of the difficulties in getting out.

The stability of the kayak will vary depending on the design of the hull. The longer and narrower the hull, the less stable it will be, compared to shorter, wider kayaks. Many recreational kayaks will have a flat hull, which will give it more stability, making it unlikely that it will tip over.

A sit-inside’s design means you have more control over the stability because you’re able to stabilize it using your knees against the sides of the hull. This means it’s difficult to topple over.

With a sit-inside, your lower body is enclosed within the kayak and will usually be sealed in with a skirt. However, the skirt would detach easily if you were to flip over.

The main disadvantages of a sit-inside are that your kayak will fill with water if you capsize and exit, meaning you will have to manually bail it, and you will either have to perform a wet exit or Eskimo roll in order to right your kayak.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks are often designed for recreational use, meaning they are engineered to be stable in the water. Some people may think that paddling in a sit-on-top kayak looks wobbly and unstable, but with many of the kayaks having flat hulls, they’re actually quite difficult to flip.

Like with a sit-inside, you can help to stabilize a sit-on-top with your legs. However, not quite as much as with a sit-in, but sit-ons are generally more stable by design; at least on calmer waters. You’ll often find there are foot supports on either side of the kayak that let you position yourself in the center, allowing you to use your feet for extra stability.

If you do flip over a sit-on-top kayak, you will automatically fall out. This can be a safer type of kayak in the event of a capsize, especially if you’re a beginner.

This means you don’t necessarily need to be an experienced swimmer or know technical skills in order to survive a flip in a sit-on-top kayak.

Remember, your kayak will float, so as long as you can grab hold of it you should be fine.

SOT (Sit-On-Top)

The paddler(s) sit on top of the kayak. They are not enclosed and as such, access in and out of the kayak is made easier.

Sit-On Top Kayak - watersports in the sunPin
Sit-On Top Kayak

SIK (Sit-In Kayak)

The paddler(s) are enclosed within the kayak. Spray skirts can be used to keep the water away from the lower body.

Woman paddling on sit-in kayak Pin
Sit-In Kayak


The conditions of where you’re kayaking will probably have more of an effect on how easy it will be to flip your kayak, than the type of kayak you’re in. If you’re paddling on a calm lake or inland waterway, you probably won’t encounter anything that’s going to flip you.

Sea kayaking can be a little bit different and in some cases more dangerous. While good sea kayaks are designed to be stable enough to handle the rougher conditions in the sea, it is possible that a larger wave, or an unexpected change in conditions could cause your kayak to flip.

Whitewater KayakingPin

With other types of kayaking, such as whitewater, the possibility of flipping over is greatly increased.

The rough waters can regularly cause your kayak to flip, so it would be advisable for you to have had some kind of safety training prior to hitting the rapids or rougher seas.


No matter what type of kayak you’re in it’s always advisable to wear a life vest or personal flotation device (PFD). This is regardless of what type of waters you’re planning on paddling in.

Always keep in mind that anything could happen when you’re out on the water, so it’s always best to plan ahead and put your safety first.

By not wearing any type of PFD, your attempts to get back in your kayak or get to safety will be severely hampered, especially if the conditions are battling against you.

> Our full guide to life jackets

How To Get Back On Your Kayak (Recovery In Deep Water)

SOT Kayak Recovery

If you manage to flip your sit-on-top, the first thing you should do is try not to panic. This can affect your ability to re-enter it, as you may get exhausted more quickly.

We have put together a guide on how to get back onto your sit-on-top kayak if you happen to flip over in deep water.

Step 1: Flip It Back

The first thing you will need to do is flip your kayak back over to the correct position. To do this you’ll need to position yourself at the side of your kayak, near the center, where your seat is.

Reach across to the opposite side of your upside-down kayak and grab the edge with both hands. Now pull towards you. You can use your knees against the part of the kayak closest to you in order to help propel the kayak.

Try and complete Step 1 fast. The longer the boat is flipped, the more chance water will leak into the hull/compartments etc.

Step 2: Re-Enter

Now that your kayak is the right way up, make sure your paddle is secure. With one hand grabbing either side of the kayak, let your feet and legs come up to the surface.

Now, pull yourself over your kayak until your abdomen is positioned over your seat. Are you stable? Make sure you are, before you move any further.

Step 3: Get Back In Your Seat

Now that you’re balanced and leaning over your kayak, spin your body around so that your butt is on the seat. Then you’re free to swing your legs into the kayak, back into position, so you’re ready to start paddling again.

Video: How To Re-Enter A Kayak In Deep Water

Sit-Inside Kayak Recovery

Sit-insides require a bit of extra technique when it comes to getting back in after a capsize. For more experienced kayakers, there’s the option of an Eskimo roll, which means the paddler stays inside the kayak and rights themselves using the movement of their hips and their paddle.

But many paddlers may choose to perform a wet exit, which means the paddler comes out of their kayak and will need to get back in. However, this may cause water to get into your cockpit.

You may find you have an easier time getting back into your kayak if you have a fellow kayaker nearby to help. They can help stabilize the kayak for you while you climb back in and they can also help you empty some of the water for you.

We have provided a handy guide on how to get back in your sit-inside kayak if you fall out.

Step 1: Right It

The first thing to do is flip your kayak so it’s no longer upside down. To do this, position yourself at the side of your kayak, near the cockpit.

Reach underneath the kayak to grab the sides of the cockpit, one hand on each side, then pull it up and push it over, so that it flips away from you. Aim to do this as quickly as possible to avoid more water going into the cockpit.

Step 2: Climb Back In

To get back in, reach over to the opposite side of the kayak and grab hold of the side. Now, bring your legs closer to the surface and lift yourself onto the kayak so that you’re lying across it.

Step 3: Get Seated

Once you’ve made sure that you’re balanced and your kayak is stable, flip yourself around and slide back into the cockpit with your feet first. Reposition yourself back in your seat and you’re ready to go.

You’ll probably need to paddle back to shore so you can empty the water out of your kayak before you continue on your journey, and/or use a bilge pump.

> Guide to bilge pumps

Video: Re-Entering A Sit-Inside Kayak

Wrapping Up

We hope you enjoyed reading our tutorial and that you now have a better idea of how to get back into your kayak if you ever do flip it over. As long as you know the basics, you should feel even safer when you’re out there enjoying yourself.

It’s important to remember that safety on the water should be your first priority and you should always wear a life vest or PFD when you’re kayaking, regardless of the water conditions.

If your kayak does flip, remember not to panic. Just keep in mind the steps and you’ll be back paddling in no time.

We also have a full guide on how to enter and exit a kayak you might like.

If you have any comments or questions, please let us know below and don’t forget to share the article with your friends…

13 thoughts on “How To Get Back In A Kayak After It’s Flipped Over”

    • Hi,

      Can you please elaborate on what is incomplete or false? We have explained how to recover from a flipped kayak, and shared videos. Let us know what we missed.


      • If you flip a sit-in-kayak in deep water and come out you don’t roll it back over. It’ll be full of water. You swim under, into the cockpit. Come up under, grab both sides with your hands and swim up hard and fast with one shoulder braced under the lip of the cockpit. Swim up, push and flip it back. This will help clear water out so there is less to manually bail out later.

        I use a water cannon instead of carrying a pump. Also allows me to shoot my friends.

        • when wearing a life jacket you would play hell in diving under the kayak and using this method.
          For those new to kayaking practice in a swimming pool rolling it over getting back in and on. As long as you’re calm its not that difficult

  1. I had no idea that the design of the hull of a kayak affected whether it is more or less likely to flip over. My daughter has been begging me to take her kayaking but I have never gone before and I am terrified. I will make sure to keep this information in mind as we look for someone to train us.

  2. I’m glad you talked about going back to shore and emptying the kayak of water. My brother wants to go kayaking in the summer and I’m worried we don’t know what we are doing. I’ll be sure to keep looking up ways to be safer while doing it.

  3. I like what you said about flipping your kayak back over if it tips. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to go kayaking in the coming months. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for professionals who can help her with this.

  4. if you’re by yourself and you fall out of a sit inside kayak how would you get back in without the help of someone else? Especially if you’re far from Shore and you have to get back in.

  5. This is much complicated than I thought. I think i need to learn more about kayaking since it has been awhile since I last tried it.


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