Fear of flipping for a wet exit

I know I’m a wuss, and I’ve taken the classes, but I’M SCARED TO DEATH OF FLIPPING MY BOAT TO DO A WET EXIT or to learn to roll. I’ve thought about this until it gives me a headache, and I just don’t understand. I’ve done wet exits in class. I can do wet exits. But I HATE it. I know I need to learn to roll…I WANT to learn to roll and have great instructors willing to teach me. But as I sit in my boat and try to psych myself up to do it, I freeze. All I can think is, “I don’t want to do this.”

After I flip the boat, it’s no problem. I easily remove my spray skirt and exit the boat. The problem is flipping the @#$% boat. I know it sounds so stupid, but this is really bothering me. I really do want to learn to roll, I just can’t get past the wave of terror that overcomes me when it’s time to flip.

Everyone tells me JUST DO IT. But to me it’s like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane…why the hell would anyone want to? I took the classes to learn how to keep the boat upright, but the first thing they had us do is a wet exit. I was a nervous wreck, almost to the point of tears. I understand the necessity of having the skill, and if I ever HAD to wet exit, I know I could do it. I practice paddle float entries at the lake, and I have taught my daughter to do it.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can overcome this crippling fear.



this might sound harsh …
I seriously think you should stop doing the sport. You probarbly live longer.


Take up Scuba Diving, overcome the fear and do both scuba and kayaking :slight_smile:


you are a ‘Troll’ and if so, just go back and guard the bridge :slight_smile:

Robin, how about getting a surfboard and sit on it. Then try to just roll off. See if not being confined helps alittle. The other is to have someone with you for awhile when you do a roll. Knowing that someone is there help you just in case may shake the bad feelings. Talk alot to another paddler that will listed to YOU.

Good Luck, Earl

I have a friend with the same
problem-I would bet you don’t like to swim or did not swim as young child. I think you should take swim classes. Also, at one play/practice we did the cowboy re entry but to get into the water we would reverse it, you always fall over. Also, another thing to try is the re enter and roll with a paddle float attached to your paddle. That way, you are already in the water. If it’s not the water, but the feeling of being trapped, practice removing your skirt out of the water, try using your knees, and if you push on the boat at your hips-you will pop your skirt that way also, just watch that you aren’t holding on PFD straps. It really does take practice.


Get some help
How about have someone else to do the flipping to get you over? Are you taking lession? Maybe you can discuss this with your instructor and have him/her to flip you over to start with.

I’m not a water-babe either. For some unknown reason, I’m afraid of water even though I do know how to swim. So I’m not fond of the flipping part myself. I hesitate a lot before the first flip. What I found helpful lately is to hang on to the pool edge and do some hip-snaps. I do it with the boat almost completely overturned and my body completely submerged in the water. That way I got my hair wet as well. That seem to remove a lot of the anxiety regarding the flip. Once I started, it gets easier.

Another thing to try maybe a re-entry and roll? That way, you don’t actually have to “flip” at all. You start by swimming next to the boat.

Good luck.

Fear of Wet Exit/Flipping boat

– Last Updated: Jul-02-04 8:46 PM EST –

Robin, I think your fear is normal to the extent that deliberatly flipping a boat seems counter-intuitive, and thus causes a level of anxiety and discomfort.

Some of the reasons for the psychological discomfort may actually be physical -- the shock of cold water, water in the eyes, nose, etc. Why not try a few things to reduce the physical discomfort?

I was uncomfortable wet exiting my kayak because I couldn't see well underwater, so I'm going to get a pair of swimming goggles for wet exit practice, just to reduce the amount of "prep time" it takes me to tip the boat over.

I also wear a wetsuit to reduce the "shock" of the cold water.

I hope this helps.

Small suggestion
If you use a dive mask rather than swimming goggles, you’ll see better and it will also keep water out of your nose.

Get help.
Fears like this can have any number of kinds of origins that have nothing to do with whether you can actually wet exit. A good hypnotherapist could help a lot or a therapist who specializes in phobias. Very few people can diagnose and solve a problem like this on their own.

No Problem!
Sounds like you’ve done all the right things. You’ve taken the classes and practiced. Now just enjoy your boat, aquire a good sense of balance, and watch the weather. This is all done by paddling often. You might also avoid buying a K1 Racer.

Not an uncommon fear.
I got stuck in a cave when I was a boyscout and I just can’t stand to go into caves or holes in the ground. Even though I know I won’t have the same thing happen a tramatic experience can really make your brain do silly things. I just spent a lot of time on a vacation exploring burial mounds in Scotland and it was really hard to make myself crawl into those things, but really cool once inside. Being upside down and stuck in a boat gives me the same feeling but I’m learning how to get over it. Sing on this group suggests humming a tune to your self while upside down and I found this helps a lot while I am in the surf waiting to roll up. Mother Ocean by Jimmy Buffet for example. Lots of people start out in Sit-On-Tops because they don’t want to be upside down, stuck and helpless in the water. If most kayakers had the sense god gave a goat they would be scared to flip too. Lots of good advice has been given. But if you find someone you trust and knows how to easily right a kayak to work with you in a pool and or calm clean water with nose plugs or a mask you can practice hip snaps on the side and then practice tipping over and hanging out as long as you can upside down. The only way to get over the fear is to do it so many times that you know you can handle it, so it may take many sessions. Hypnotherapy sounds interesting…

I’ll weigh in

– Last Updated: Jul-03-04 1:49 AM EST –

SCUBA lessons would be great for you. Nothing like getting the buoyancy perfect and doing math problems with a grease pencil and plastic slate while upside down under water and breathing. A good instructor will help you to think under water.

Breathing exercises are great too. For starters how about in for eight seconds, hold for eight out for eight. You can do that. Not too long at first. (Patanjali wrote that when the breath slows to three times per minute, meditation is automatic)

Other things are to get a weight belt and just put about 15 pounds on it. Get a dive mask and just sit at the bottom of a shallow pool with the weight on you lap. Almost anyone can muster a thirty second breath hold. Time your breath holds and extend your tolerance. counting "Mississippis" is nice take the counting slow. You want to meditate; slow everything down.

If you get a book on rolling most have a practice hip flick working with the side of a pool. You can also do this with a friends bow if no pool. For the friend I was working with this week he needed to have hold of my bow and know he could right himself instantly before he could spend even five seconds under water.He has yet ot be fully inverted with his skirt on. Next week we are going for 15. He is a fine athlete and kung fu practitioner but has a similar fear to you.

forget the spray skirt at first. Just practice coming out of your boat, then holding on to your boat (if that's what you white water types do) Then holding onto boat and paddle. Use a nylon skirt when you are ready to practice with a skirt; trivial to release.

Also leaning back on the rear deck while under water is just the coolest thing. (thanks to Dave Jacquis of CRCK). You can actually really relax there. Water will not go up you nose while you are leaning on the back deck looking straight down. Just learn to hang out there (in calm water only; very bad for rocks) You can also lean back while above the water and then lean to the side to capsize.

Having a friend or instructor with you to right you at a pre arranged signal can be really great.

If you ever learn to think (or fight, or both) upside down, under water, while holding you breath; the wet exit even in mild breaking surf becomes trivial.

you are running up against your own psychology; it can be deep; it can be hard to overcome. Even in being born we are often short of oxygen, and our instinct is to be around air all the time.

Thus ends my disorganized core dump on the subject. Hope it helps.

Get wet first
I had the same trouble when I first started. I found that if you take a swim and get your head wet before you ever get in the boat, it makes the capsize easier.


A suggestion.
You say if “you had to do a wet exit, then you know you could”.

If that is the case, why not just skip the wet exit portion when you are doing self rescue practice.

Wade into the water, with your yak, and then get to a shoulder or neck depth, and practice the self rescue without letting your feet touch the bottom.

It is nice to know the whole drill, but if it is going to scew up your whole kayaking experience forget about it and enjoy your paddling.

My only rule for kayaking and canoeing is that a person should no how to swim, or they shouldn’t be in one.



Well said
That explains perfectly what use to bother me.

When teaching my kids I ask them to turn over and count to 10 before they come out. This lets them know that nothing will happen to them. A mask also helps so you can look around a little.

what a stupid response !!!
s’matter with you dx … your post was off the wall and completely dumb. i’d like to be nicer about it but i can’t think of a way. let me just suggest that ignorance is temporary … dumb is forever!

Agreed…and Fear of rolling is real
I’ve seen several people who were terrified at the thought of that first time flip and that was in a poor session. Take your time get some qualified help. It’s not hard as you will see.

A dive mask is a huge help – if you can see clearly and there’s no water up your nose, it’s a lot easier to relax. You can hang out upside down and get oriented, and see what’s going on. It’ll help when you learn to roll.

It’s worth going to adive shop and getting one that fits well – they last forever, and snorkling is a great complement to kayaking.

With the mask on, try swimming around and under your boat. Treat it like a big pool toy – flip it over, bounce it up and down, etc. Just get usedto the ideathat it’s OK to be in the water at all sorts of angles.

Another thing that helps is to lean forward and hug the boat before you roll over. it gives you aphysical reference point so you don’t feel disoriented. It also puts your hands in position for a partner to help you up, or for a bow rescue.

no problem
the trick is to find transitions that enable you to carry a sense of control from one moment to the next so that the WALL that keeps you from doing it starts to have a door that YOU made.

My ex had a similar fear and she was a terrific competitive swimmer.

This is what I’ve done in classes, always start off getting wet before getting in the kayak, it’s what I’ve done anytime I’m heading into rough water,knowing what the water is like removes one transition. Fill the kayak up with water then get in it. Once you feel comfortable fall out without putting the skirt on,do this enough times so that it’s not a big deal. Don’t bother putting on the skirt. Then transition to putting the skirt on and filling the cockpit up with water before going over. Eventually do it dry.

start underwater first
I read a terrific book on Sea Kayaking that was written for women. It’s the only kayaking book I’ve read that addresses various fears that students have and one was flipping the boat.

They suggested you get out of the boat and flip it over, then swim underneath and explore it from below before wiggling yourself back into the kayak. Maybe that would help.

I’m sorry I can’t remember the author or title of the book.

Good luck.

Again, you’re not alone
I’ve seen plenty of people, including myself have trouble with the initial flip of the yak. Like everyone elase said, it’s not natural and I think your good sense sometimes takes over for you. I overcame my fear by practicing rolls in white water a few yards downstream from a class II rapid, and moved closer and closer to the rapid. It took me about five sessions of this to truly be comfortable in my boat. This may not be an option for you, but it worked for me.

Hope this helps,