Well it finally happened, I actually capsized. Funny how you become so confident that you’ve had enough lessons and been out enough that it will never happen. Then it finally does and you realize it’s been a long time since a lesson and you haven’t practiced. That coupled with a new boat with smaller cockpit and a new paddle made this interesting. My last boat was wide ebough to just slip out of. Stuck in my cockpit upside down I had to remember what to do instead of struggling in the boat. I finally pulled the skirt loop, pushed off, and found myself on the surface hanging onto my boat. My friend was there and we managed the rescue and got back to shore. Moral: practice and be prepared … learned my lesson!

Your boat tipped over?!

Glad you’re ok. The more you tip over the easier it will be to deal with when it happens unexpectedly. Practice makes perfect. Keep tipping over and make sure you are always dressed to deal with a swim.

good advice
Especially with a new boat.

2 kinds of yakers
those that have tipped over

and those that are GUNNA!

everyone should be well practiced at this maneuver and the recovery involved! “WELL PRACTICED”

climbing off my soapbox


roll pratice
I like to pratice rolling from time to time. If I roll up, great. If not, I get to pratice wet exit and re-entry.

A lot of people like to do a couple of rolls at the end of their paddle. If your roll is good, do it every paddle. If it’s shaky, do it when the water is inviting so wet exit can be followed by a leasurely swim.

Going to the pool a few times each winter is also fun. The excuse is to pratice rolling, but the result is a lot more than that.

Thanks everyone for the quick replies and the advice. My paddling partner that day and I plan to go out paddling a lot. It was a good experience in a way just to see how we’d react if one of us was in trouble and we ended up laughing about it when we got to shore. We have resolved to practice rescue and paddling skills all the time now and it really makes kayaking a much broader experience to have better skills. The capsize scared the begeesus out of me but I’m glad it happened.

no reason
to be ‘scared’. It’s just gunna happen and you deal with it.

(climbing back on the soapbox)

I have done presentations at paddling events before and asked a group of paddlers (crowds sometimes are 200+) how many have tipped over and practiced their wet exit. Most of the time less than half of the folks raise their hands. I used to be shocked but now I accept it and scorn the rest of the rest of the group for NOT doing what should be a ‘first time you go paddling’ maneuver…wet exit! you gotta know where the tip over point is and you gotta know how to deal.


no reason
Good point Steve and very cool about the presentations. You can get on your soap box all you want because I don’t think what you say can be said enough. I was scared then but now with both of us building our skills and practicing braces and wet exits, I’m learning what to do. Paddling days are also practice days now and rolling is on the list of things we want to learn. I’m encouraging everyone I know who kayaks to listen to people like you and take it to heart if they really want to be kayakers.

great post
I have been practicing getting back in. I was rescued from st lawrence river in nov. It was about 5 yeras ago. It changed the way I stopped hurrying. Was not wearing skirt becuase not windy at my house. Boat blew away. Keep up on the practice!

First Time each Year
I practice wet exit enough to know what to do and how to do it, and work with friends to help them along.

First time in each season I seem to have an OMG! moment, embarrassing. This last time i was a bit overconfident in a class working on bracing, of course I blew a brace and did the wet exit. Couldn’t find the darned grab loop, but managed to drop out anyway. But it still took a moment to realize I could just push out.

FYI Loop was where it ought to be, not sure why I couldn’t find it. Most definitely was not inside.

I find it easier to swim a bit, then do wet exit practice after I am thoroughly wet. So far I’ve never unintentionally capsized, I’m certain I will be OK when it does happen

Reason and Fear do not usually mix. People who find themselves unexpectedly under water usually do not reason, but experience a primal, overwhelming fear (it’s a survival thing).

So, by practicing the underwater thing in a controlled safe environment, we can learn to ACT in spite of the fear. Then it’s not so overwhelming.

WOW, perfect timing on this subject. Yesterday my wife and I paddled up to fresh water so we could practice wet exits/reentering. We wanted warm,calm water for the initial lesson. I learned a few very valuable things. 1. My rear deck rigging(Perception Carolina) is way too loose to offer adequate support for me w/the paddle float. The paddle kept moving around. 2. Things hanging off my pfd are a real nuisance. I’m refering to a thermometer. 3. A pfd that is too loose, doesn’t work all that well. 4. My wife’s Prijon Kodiak only has a small cargo net aft of her cockpit. There is a painter line, but that is way too tight to get a paddle through to the other side. To what do Kodiak paddlers fasten their paddles w/paddle floats? This trip was a great eyeopener.

can relate
I can self rescue pretty well, but when I practice I often find minor boat outfitting details do address. Keeping from sitting on my skirt, making sure a lanyard securing my sponge doesn’t grab my leg, etc… So I advocate practicing with boat/person setup exactly like any normal paddle rather than specially clearing the deck, etc. for practice.

Learn to do it without rigging
You may be able to do a paddle float re-entry with no rigging at all. I put the paddle shaft across the combing, near the rear; clamp one hand at each shaft/combing intersection, and proceed.

clearing the deck
I agree that you should practice rescues with the boat set-up the way you paddle. But my take on that is to paddle your boat the way you’d like it to be set up for rescue practice! In other words, don’t keep stuff on deck, avoid straps, loose stuff, and miscellany in the cockpit, etc.

Regarding the question above about securing the paddle to the rear deck - I think that many people find it better to do a self rescue without attaching the paddle to the boat. Just use one hand to grip the paddle shaft and the rear cockpit coaming. If the paddle is tightly wedged under the aft deck lines, you may capsize again trying to get the paddle free when you’ve completed the rescue.

I’ll also add my plug here for learning a re-enter and roll. If you can remain composed underwater for a couple seconds, I think re-entering upside down, and then rolling up with a paddle-float is a more reliable and less complicated self-rescue than the traditional outrigger self-rescue technique. At least that’s the case for me. Your experience may differ, but it’s worth giving it a try and making up your own mind.

Back on Flatpick’s Soapbox
Several years ago I lost a very good paddling friend to hypothermia induced drowning. You can read the story in Seakayaker Magazine -Dec 2007 if my memory is correct.

Please practice, practice, and practice. My friend had over 20 years of paddling experience and found himself in conditions that went from absolutely flat and no wind to off shore winds of 45+ knot gusts.

When his kayak was recovered, there was a paddle with an inflated paddlefloat attached to the rigging. His body was found a mile from the boat.

Again, please practice, practice, practice.

Getting off of the soapbox now.

loop for the paddle
I’m so sorry to hear about your friend waterdoc. My heart goes out to you. One other thing your post reminded me of was to practice using a loop with the paddle float so you can loop it around both ends of the paddle and under the boat and use it to put a foot in to make it easier to climb back in. There was a demo of that at UNH Durham. So far I’ve found that using a paddle float w/o that is tougher than it looks. Does anyone know the best cord to use for this? I’d like to find it and give this approach a try.

Second waterdoc’s
encouragement to practice. It’s not work or a “have to.” It’s part of the fun. Keep learning and adding to your bag of tricks. My personal order of preference in solo capsize recovery is roll, scramble, reenter and roll, r & r with paddlefloat, and traditional paddle float reentry (last resort).

Best if you can avoid a stirrup
Most people I know just get some basic webbing and sew it into a loop, or you can buy them ready-made from NRS.

But - a stirrup in conditions is not at all a good idea. Entanglement risks and all. And the usual paddle float rescue is questionable at best once things start getting bouncy. Even if you get in, you’ll have water sloshing back into the boat as fast as you can get it out. So an assisted, having a roll, doing a re-enter and roll or a cowboy will be a better idea. If you want to cheat on the re-enter and roll you can put the paddle float on the end of your paddle for rolling up.

FWIW, the Great Hudson River Paddle won’t even let people bother with a paddle float rescue. If you re on that trip, you are expected to be able to wait for an assisted or do a roll.

since I never paddle alone
focusing more on practicing assisted rescue with my paddle partner rather than paddle float self rescue does make more sense … it gets us out of the water faster than having to fiddle with paddle floats and stirrups. Thanks Celia.