First time wet exit...

Yesterday at the beach, my wife stood guard while I tried capsizing my Sirocco and making wet exits. In my mind I could visualize just how to do it, but once I capsized, pretty much everything I have read about on here and seen in on-line video went out the window!! I actually panicked the first two times and ended up just craning my head above water and forcing my body out of the cockpit. I was really disappointed and intimidated about the whole thing and couldn’t get myself to do a third capsize. With prodding from my wife, I finally did go over the third time and did actually relax enough to grab the skirt loop and pop it off, swimming to the surface. But I still did not feel comfortable. My wife said my arm was wrapped around the hull the whole time. I also felt my body floating towards the surface and to the side. I visualize hanging directly below the cockpit, but when I went over, I lost all sense of orientation and felt like I had to quickly get out.

Do I need to keep practicing and be more patient under water? What is some advice you could give this newbie who wants to at least have a confidence in wet exiting and re-enty with a paddle float? I won’t practice re-entry until I am comfortable with wet exiting.

baby steps

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 9:25 AM EST –

Try doing the wet exit in increments until you're comfortable with each increment, then move on to the next. First, wear goggles and a noseplug so you have no distractions and can see clearly.

Then, try it first with your spray deck off and knees up.

Once you get that down, try it again and take a minute to look around with your goggles. Pretty neat how it looks underwater.

Then try with your knees in.

Then try onshore with knees in and deck on, tip over on the ground and pop your spray deck.

Then try it in the water with deck on.

Have your wife stand next to you in the water so you have some reassurance.

Here's something else that worked for me: in calm water, start outside your boat, float on your back and try to sneak your legs back in the cockpit. When you're as far in as you can get, take a breath and submerge, and try to get the rest of the way in. BTW, this is the first step to a reentry and roll. Once I realized how easy it is to get back in underwater, it made me recognize how much easier it was to get out.

It's all about comfort. Once you get comfortable being upside down in the boat it will open up a whole new set of options to you and you'll be asking yourself why it took you so long.

Good luck!

Another technique
In addition to seakak1’s excellent advice, you may want to try another technique that will help you get more comfortable with your boat in general and wet exiting in particular.

If you already have a paddle float, attach it to your paddle and inflate it. Then, sitting in the boat with your skirt on, reach straight out to the side with the paddle float and do a low brace, gradually leaning more of your weight on the paddle as confidence allows. If you feel a little shaky, do a hip snap and knee lift back to upright. Try it again, leaning a little farther. Soon you’ll be able to lay your upper torso right down in the water and still easily half-roll back upright. Like seakak1 says: baby steps.

Next, wearing goggles and/or nose plugs, ease yourself right down into the water until you are entirely submerged, keeping a firm grip on your paddle. Take a look around at this underwater world, check out your upside-down boat, look for fish, then half-roll back upright. The knowledge that at any moment you are able to quickly and easily half-roll back up will do wonders for your confidence, and will ease your natural panic about being underwater.

If all this half-rolling sounds suspiciously familiar, you’re right: you’ve just worked your way *ss-backwards into a very basic roll. There is still much to learn regarding the setup, sweep or C-to-C, keeping your head down, and other important details, but you have already started working on a strong hip snap and knee lift, which any roller will tell you is the secret foundation of a good roll. With some additional instruction/videos/books, you can eventually begin deflating the float and working on those other aspects of a strong roll.

In the meantime, this technique will allow you to get comfortable being wet and upside down for at least several seconds, much longer than it takes to do the typical wet exit. The rolling fundamental is just a bonus.

Good luck!

Baby steps for sure
Seakak1 gave an excellent description. I did a exit last night with my Sirocco and then did a clumsy paddle float rescue. I was shook also but managed to get back in. I plan on more practice so I can be more relaxed.

Sad part was that I left behind my favorite boonie hat in the process. Need to buy another good luck charm. Ah, the price of learning.

Get an assistant
Don’t know if your wife can do this or not. But you need someone who can stand by your boat while you are upside down and flip you back right side up if need be. It is called a “hand of god” rescue. When we teach wet exit in the pool we have students simply flip over, wait a couple of seconds, and then we flip them back up. If at any time they want to be flipped up they only have to bang on the side of the boat. That completely removes the fear of being trapped. When the student is ready they can choose to remove the skirt and come out. It has never failed.

As goofy
as it sounds…

Try the exercises on shore repeatedly, before you capsize on the water.

Sit in your boat on shore, put your skirt on and go through the motions over and over again. Even though your in a O2 environment and your right side up, it’s still worth while.

While sitting in your boat (on shore) with your spray skirt on, visualize capsizing. Close your eyes and tuck forward. Move as close to your deck and toward the front of your cockpit as possible.

Use your coaming as a reference point. Slowly run your hands down your side, to your hips, feel your skirt, move them outside to the rim of your coaming. Follow the coaming/edge of skirt all the way to the front of your cockpit feeling your grab loop. Pull the loop forward and then back.

Try holding your breath when you do this exercise as well. You’ll find that it’s very easy and you’ll have more than enough breath to take you through it easily.

Wet Entry
To get new paddlers comfortable with the wet exit, I start them with something I call the “wet entry.” Wade out into chest deep water with your boat (leave your paddle behind for now), and try to climb onto and into your boat. It can be done, and once in a while I get a new paddler who actually succeeds in doing this. But the point of this exercise is that you probably won’t be able to get all the way into your boat. But you will get wet and you will get plenty of practice with tipping over. You’ll probably swallow some water and laugh a lot. It helps introduce the spirit of play and fun into your learning.

Been there…

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 1:06 PM EST –

First, congrats on actually practicing this! Too many end up finding out the first time they ae in trouble that they have problems handling it.

From your description, it sounds like the combination of postional disorientation and feeling yourself under an object - the boat - is what is first intimidating you. Seakak's ideas are in my experience the best start on this - plugs and goggles so you can see where the boat is as well as not have the additional issue of your sinuses hurting from water running into them. It gives me the devil of a headache in fresh water, even now when I occassionally forget the plugs in practice.

After that the idea of messing around with a wet re-entry as well as from a capsize might be a good way to close the "comfort gap". The wet re-entry idea was nover posed to me, in hindsight I suspect it would have helped get my sense of conficence up in knowing where the boat and I wee relative to each other. (I don't/can't open my eyes under water.)

Overall, just give yourself time and patience. It takes a lot of people more time to really be calm under there than is often acknowledged - I took forever.

Baby steps…
I need to keep baby steps in mind. Once I get something in my mind I want to get it done immediately. I have to realize that this whole process is brand new to me and it is going to take some patience and time. What I will gain is more confidence every time I am out paddling, evenif the skills are still developing.

that was such a key for me
making it fun. Thanks for mentioning that.

Keep at it yooperblock, get to a point where it becomes comfortable and fun. If you can, I promise you you will one day find yourself loading up your boat after a paddle, realizing you went nowhere but spent the whole time wet exiting, or rolling, or generally goofing off underwater.

Yes you need to keep practicing!
You need to do it until:

  1. You have full control over boat/body/blade throughout (No flailing/rushing/or losing contact with paddle of kayak)

  2. You can do it SLOWLY! Even pausing at various points (extend these).

  3. It’s smooth and easy (despite any mental discomfort - which should fade…)

    Note these all work together. The more calm and orderly you are about this, the EASIER it is. It may help you to think in steps (no more than 3-4)and count through them so you don’t get ahead of yourself, hung up, or injured. For orientation, think relative to the kayak and forget about up/down until you are clear of the cockpit. After that, the kayak makes it very clear where the surface is - just pull on it.

    Basically - Keep practicing it until it gets BORING. For some this only takes a few times, but for others with water/entrapment issues it may take a lot of repetition to get to the appropriate proficiency level.

    On a related note: Rolling practice provides ample opportunity to get your wet exits and other reentry methods refined. You have to flip anyway - might as well capsize form trying to learn to brace/roll. Sort of a triple bonus of time use - and puts the exit into perspective as a basic part of kayaking.

    Question I have to ask: How long have you been paddling BEFORE you decided to do those first wet exits?

Getting the skirt off
Your first lesson should include a wet exit - mine did. The most important thing in my mind is feeling that you can reliably get the skirt off.

I was taught to put each hand on the side of the combing and slide each forward until they met at at the front of the combing. That is where you can feel the cord for pulling off the skirt. Pull the cord forward first, towards the front of the boat, and it should pop off without too much effort.

This motion is one that you can practice right side up on the water. Holding your paddle in one hand, reach for the sides and slide them up and grab the cord. Thus motion also gets you leaning forward, so you avoid getting jammed in your seat by leaning back. Once you have this down, it is easy to wet exit.

My first wet exit for real was in fairly intimidating conditions, but I found that I reacted just as I practiced and got out fine. Having a certified instructor also helps with the panic - they have been through it many times.

eyes open or closed?
When you wet exit, did you keep your eyes open or closed?

I learn with my eyes open (goggle helps A LOT). But the first time I tried with eyes closed, I didn’t know where I was!

So, get some goggles and learn with eyes open first. Then, work your way to eyes closed in different stage of the process until you get used to doing it blind.

Stood guard?
“Yesterday at the beach, my wife stood guard while I tried capsizing”

Stood guard standing in the water next to you? With two boats bow rescues are what you need to practice. Without a boat she could use an inner tube for this.

A couple of suggestions

Thinking back when I learned self rescue.

First a question though.

Do you or can you swim underwater?

1 If yes, why not just start by sitting in your kayak with no skirt. Roll over, fall out of the kayak and enjoy the swim under water to the surface.

2. When you are comfortable with that repeat it with the skirt on, but not with it stretched around the coaming.

3. Then with it stretched around the coaming.

Etc, etc.

Eenjoy the experience. Someday you will look back and chuckle about it.

Good luck,



Visualize Impeachement …
Sorry Wrong thread …

Visualize a calm succesfull exit …

It sounds like you may have a mixture of claustrophobia and fear of water. You need to do some exercises to relax…

Sit at your desk or in the bath tub and visualize, tipping over being disoriented, feeling for the rim, leaning forward, popping the skirt, hanging onto the paddle and boat and tucking forward or lying back if it is a tight fit and pulling your self or falling out the boat. Practice holding your breath as long as you can. Then practice everything sitting in your boat on dry land 10 or twenty times. Then practice with no skirt. Then with the skirt. Make it fun. Wow if your wife will stand there and help that is fantastic… swim around your boat practice climbing on it, climbing in it, just like you would have done as a little kid. It’s a water toy… nothing to be anxious about.

Knowing where you are

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 12:45 PM EST –

This was supposed to go under eyes open or closed below. Sorry.

A few simple exercises on land, right side up will teach you how to know where you are. There is no need for goggles or masks. Sit in your boat and close your eyes. Then feel your way around the boat. Lean forward and kiss the deck. Lean back toward the back deck keeping your hands along the side of the boat. Rotate to one side and lean down, keeping your hands on the boat. Etc. The boat is always there, in the same place, and you can always touch it and feel your body position to know where you are. Once you have done it on land, do it upside down with someone ready to flip you up. It is surprisingly easy, even for someone who is afraid.

Nose plugs and goggles a must
And the wetsuit is nice.

My wife is just now getting comfortable upside down in her boat. For the first several times, she came up gasping, choking, floundering and upset.

With the addition of the nose plugs and goggles, she now rolls over, sits upside down for a while to get her bearings, and can even knock off a roll once in a while.

Comfort, fun, warm water, reassurance, all necessities.

Modification On This Technique
A small variation on Delphinus’ most excellent technique that I have found comforting, is to grasp the paddle float attached paddle such that the hand furthest from the paddle float grasps where the paddle blade meets the shaft. As you lower yourself, you should feel the hull under this hand, which I found reassuring. First time lower yourself down a little bit, hip snap back up, then a little deeper and snap back up. Go progressively deeper, looking up at the sky, until just your nose and mouth are exposed to the air, and just relax and lay there a bit. It’s effortless to hold this position, and you can breath all you want. When you feel ready, sweep your blade and hip snap, turning your head so you are watching your blade sweep to the rear. Do this a few times, then go for Delphinus’ suggestion of full submersion and rolling back up. I believe that on your way up, you can stop at that face out of water point for a relaxing moment and some air before proceeding.


Nose Clips Help Also