Inflatable kayaks can tip over, but it’s extremely hard. Today’s inflatable kayaks are built really well and are incredibly stable. Still, if you find yourself in a situation where your kayak has tipped over, it’s actually not that difficult to get back on.
While inflatable kayaks are incredibly stable, you’re bound to tip over at least once in your lifetime while on an inflatable kayak. When this happens, knowing what to do will help you get back onto your boat without too much of a headache. So, you know, don’t be like Max in this video.
Today, I’ll share the easiest way to get back onto your inflatable kayak if it’s tipped over. I’ll also share some important preventative measures that will help keep you from tipping over to begin with.
What Can Cause a Kayak to Tip Over?
Inflatable boats and kayaks are extremely stable. They tend to be wider than traditional hard shell kayaks. This wide construction is what allows them to be so stable, but you may still find yourself in a situation where your kayak has flipped over.
But what exactly can cause your kayak to tip over?
If you’ve ever tried flipping an inflatable kayak on purpose, you’ll find that it’s actually pretty hard. Most times, inflatable boats tip over because something outside of your kayak has caused you to tip. With traditional hardshells, their narrower construction makes them easier to tip because of uneven weight distribution coming from inside the boat.
If your inflatable boat has tipped over it’s likely because you have hit a rough wave. Most times, the wave will need to come at you from the side in order to force enough power to tip the boat over.
Another reason why your inflatable kayak might tip over is if you put too much pressure on one of the side chambers or pontoons.. If you sit on top of a side pontoon that’s not meant to hold your weight, you’re likely to flip over. This can typically happen when you are first getting into your inflatable kayak.
If you are in a tandem kayak, and you and your partner both put too much weight on one side, this can cause you to flip over as well.
You are also likely to tip your inflatable kayak over if you are doing certain activities. For example, rough waves while on a white water rapids adventure can cause you to lose your stability and tip without much effort.
If you are standing on an inflatable fishing kayak, you can also easily lose your balance as well. Putting too much weight on one side can cause you and your kayak to flip. This is even more likely if you are trying to fish standing up on a kayak not meant for standing.
Related: Are inflatable kayaks good?
How to Avoid Tipping Your Kayak
As we mentioned, inflatables are great in the fact that they are much harder to flip than traditional hard shell kayaks. Still, there are some things that you can do to avoid tipping your kayak all together. Let’s take a look at some ways to avoid tipping your kayak.
First and foremost, your experience level on a kayak matters. If you’re a beginner kayaker, getting on an inflatable kayak can make you feel nervous at first. And even though inflatable boats are really stable, you probably won’t feel like it at first.
The lack of trust in your inflatable kayak can cause you to flip over a lot easier than if you trust the kayak. The only way to trust your inflatable kayak is by having experienced paddling it. The more you get used to your inflatable kayak, the more you’ll know how to work with it when you hit calm and even choppy waters.
Continued use in your inflatable kayak will allow you to know when and how your boat tilts. More importantly, you’ll get a better gauge of how to move your body and how to paddle in order to regain that stability.
Test Out Your Kayak
If you have a new Inflatable kayak, or want to test the stability of your kayak, taking it out for a tipping test run can help you determine its tipping point.
To test out your kayak, take it out on a warm sunny day. That way, when you fall into the water, you’ll be cooling down from the heat, not freezing your bum off.
Go out into a relatively calm river or lake and make sure to put your life jacket on. Your life jacket will give you extra buoyancy that makes getting back into a tipped kayak so much easier. If you can, test out your kayak in shallow water too.
It will help you to keep all your kayaking gear onshore too. The point of this test run is to tip your kayak over, so you don’t want any gear to unnecessarily get soaked once you tip your kayak over. You certainly don’t want to have any loose gear onboard that can get lost once you tip your kayak over.
Once you’re out in a portion of the water that’s clear of any obstruction, practice wiggling in your kayak from side to side. This will give you a sense of how stable your kayak is. If your inflatable kayak is long and narrow, you’ll find that you’ll have an easier time flipping it over. If your inflatable kayak is a lot wider, it can be tricky getting it to tip over.
As you test out the stability of your kayak, loosen up your hips. This will allow your body to get a feel for your kayak’s handling. When you feel like your kayak is going to tip over, extend your hips in the opposite direction in order to stabilize it again.
If you do manage to tip your kayak over, this can be a great opportunity to learn how to get back into it. I’ll share with you how to get back into your kayak if it tips over in just a moment.
Kayak in the Right Conditions
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when it comes to kayaking. The best way to avoid tipping over your kayak is by kayaking in the right conditions.
Never kayak in rough, choppy waters, when a storm is approaching, or other inclement weather. Avoid windy conditions too. Days when there are high winds can be especially ideal conditions for a tipped over kayak.
It’s also important to use the right type of kayak for the activity you’re doing. For example, if you’re using a narrow touring or recreational kayak for going down white rapids, you are more likely to tilt over. Conversely, using an inflatable raft that is meant for the river in choppy sea waves might cause you to flip over as well.
Best Conditions for Inflatable Kayaks
Aim to use your inflatable kayak on days where you know weather conditions are in your favor. The best conditions to go kayaking or of course warm sunny days. This way, if you do fall into the water, the temperature will be rather warm.
Aside from avoiding windy days and stormy weather, you really can use your inflatable kayak through the year.
Know How to Balance Your Kayak
A high quality inflatable boat like the Sea Eagle Razorlite can mimic the performance of hard shell kayaks really well. This is because of their superior drop stitch construction. Drop stitch is an inflation design that consists of thousands of tiny fibers that connect the top of an inflation chamber to the bottom.
With high quality inflatables, especially ones that have a spray skirt that conceals your feet, it can be helpful to know some techniques for balancing. If you ever hit rocky waters or choppy waves, knowing how to balance can keep you from tipping over.
Let’s take a look at two braces commonly used for keeping your balance. These techniques are the low brace and high brace and they work especially well if you have a sit in touring or rec kayak that conceals your legs.
How To Use a Low Brace Technique
If you feel you’re going to tip over, execute a low brace to regain stability. To execute a low brace, keep your paddle low at a 90 degree angle above the water, making sure to hold it with your arms in a pushup position. Smack the water surface using the backside of the paddle blade.
Don’t put your weight on the paddle blade or else you will fall in. Instead, after you smack the water’s surface, keep your head and body low so that you can shift your center of gravity back onto the boat. Buckle your knees and upper body strength to create a supporting force that will help you adjust your weight back onto the kayak.
How To Use a High Brace Technique
A high brace works much like a low brace. The main difference is that in a high brace you will be holding your paddle in a pull up position, slightly elevated above the water’s surface. Contrary to the name however, you still want to keep your paddle rather low to the water. This will keep you from hurting your shoulder once you execute the technique.
Like a low brace, your goal is to smack the water surface in the same 90 degree angle. In a high brace however, you’ll want to smack the water using the power face of your blade. Once you hit the water, keep your body and head low to the kayak and use your knees and upper body to shift your body’s weight back onto the kayak.
A high brace tends to be the most instinctive reaction especially for kayakers who are often paddling in rapid water. For intermediate and experienced paddlers, this paddle brace is typically second nature when it comes to balance.
How to Re-enter Your Inflatable Kayak If you Tip Over
So now, you’ve tipped your kayak and you need to get back in. What do you do?
The good news is, with the right technique, you can get back into your inflatable without much difficulty. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Step 1: Stay Calm
The first step is to stay calm. By staying calm and level headed, you’ll be able to get back into your kayak quickly. Staying calm will also allow you to conserve precious time and energy.
If you start to panic, you’re only going to make the process of getting back into your kayak harder. And the more you try to get back in, the more exhausted you will get.
Step 2: Assess Your Surroundings
Once you have flipped into the water, assess your surroundings. Try to locate your paddle and hang on to it. Once you flip your inflatable boat back over, you’ll be able to put the paddle back into the boat as you climb back in.
If there is any other gear that has flipped with you, secure it if you can. Otherwise, wait until you have gotten back onto your inflatable to collect it from the surface before it has a chance to float away.
You’ll need to flip your inflatable right side up if it has flipped upside down with you. You will have an easier time getting your inflatable right side up if you lift from the bow or the stern and then flip it over.
Now that your boat has flipped, put your paddle in the boat. You can also secure your paddle blade using bungee cords if your boat has them laced in the bow or stern.
Step 3: Pull Yourself Into The Boat
Now that you have your paddle and your boat flipped right side up, it’s time to get in. Getting back into your boat is the hardest part once you’ve tipped over your kayak.
There are three steps that you need to follow to get back into your boat. It’s important that before you move on to the next step, you’ve completed the first step and stabilized yourself.
- Start by lifting your upper body into the inflatable boat. Use grab handles on both sides of the boat to belly flop onto the top. Your goal Is to lay on top of your boat perpendicular to it with your belly facing down. Once you have done this, stabilize yourself before moving on to the next step.
- Once you feel stable, your goal is to get your butt into the boat. You don’t need to be sitting properly. Instead, try to turn your upper body so that you are seated in the boat with your feet dangling on the side. Once you have gotten into this position, stabilize yourself.
- The last move Is the easiest, but you’ll need to move slowly in order to remain stable. Carefully swing your feet into the kayak so that you’re sitting straight. You can do this one step at a time Or with both feet at the same time. Your goal is to adjust yourself back into a sitting position and get stable again.
Once you’re back on the boat, assess the damage. If there is any water that has seeped into your boat, try to bail it out. Typically, once you flip an inflatable kayak right side up, you’ll usually be able to get rid of any excess water.
Now that you’re back in the boat, grab your paddle and locate any additional gear that you might have lost once you flipped over.
The key to getting back onto your inflatable kayak is remaining calm and moving slowly. Doing so will allow you to get back onto your kayak on the first try. A big concern with getting frustrated or overworked is that you will waste unnecessary energy and tire yourself.
It’s important to remember that after you do one step, you should stabilize yourself before moving to the next. A common mistake that most people make is trying to do all three steps at the same time. This will only cause you to keep flipping back into the water.
Practice Safety Precautions when Kayaking
Whenever you go out kayaking, taking basic safety precautions will help keep you safe on the water. If you accidentally tip over, these precautions become that much more important. Remember to do the following whenever you go out kayaking..
Always Wear a Life Vest
Even if you are an experienced kayaker and swimmer, a life vest can help save your life. In many states, it’s illegal to go out kayaking without having a personal flotation device (PFL) of sorts.
If you accidentally tip your kayak into the water, a life vest will help keep you buoyant and can even help you get back onto your kayak easier. Not to mention, it will help keep you afloat while you collect yourself if you’ve accidentally tipped over.
Secure All Your Gear
Make it a habit of keeping all your kayak gear secured. Most kayaks have a storage compartment, or bungee cargo net for you to use. Securing your gear will make sure that it doesn’t float away if you happen to tip over
Kayak and Proper Conditions
Never go out into the water during a storm or other unfavorable weather conditions. Even if it’s just a windy day, you can put yourself at unnecessary risk by going out onto the water. Be sure to check the weather for your area before you head out.
Carry a Safety Kit
A safety kit with a hand pump, repair kit, an additional PFD, and even an emergency radio can help you if you find yourself in an emergency situation. Even the smallest issues like an air leak can turn into an unpleasant situation if you’re not prepared.
Related: How to repair an inflatable kayak.
While it may be scary to think about your kayak tipping over, know that it’s just another aspect of kayaking that adds to the thrill. Luckily, today’s inflatable boats and kayaks are incredibly stable, limiting your chances of tipping over.
I hope my guide has cleared up some of the fear and confusion that comes along with the thought of tipping over while kayaking. While I’ve been known to tip my kayak over a time or two (or four), I’ve found that each time, remaining calm is absolutely key. I promise, once you get back on your boat, you’ll realize that it actually isn’t all that bad.
Have you ever found yourself face first in the water after falling out of your kayak? I’d love to know how your experience went and how you got back onto your boat. Be sure to share with me your stories in the comments section below!