Just between flips

I watched the little video about flipping your kayak. To begin with, I disagree that we are always just between flips, swims and recovering. Secondly, I disagree with the idea that you will always be able to use one of the methods they demonstrated to recover from a capsize. In conditions severe enough to cause a flip for an experienced paddler, my experience is that none of the methods they demonstrated will probably work very well. I believe the best recovery is to stay seated in the kayak , let your pfd and torso work as an outrigger, lay back and wham, you’re back in business., Or you could stay seated and roll up.

Personally, I don’t usually allow myself to get into conditions where I’m likely to flip. But crap happens once in a decade, or so where I made a bobble and ended up with the boat too far over on edge and not wearing a skirt. I just stayed seated and laid back. Even with a bunch of water in the cockpit, the boat came upright so fast that I had to stop it from going over the other way.

So my conclusion is that at least for sit inside kayaks, one would be better advised to practice rolling, or lay back uprighting. For the sots, , I have no advice except to use good judgement about conditions. This would not apply to surf skis.

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I’m definitely between swims or flips. It is not an “if” but a “when” for me. Thus I always dress for the swim.

As far as the advice in the video, I can’t really comment on it without a link to watch it.

I’m not very good at rolling anymore. Any combat roll that gets me up is a good roll. I’m only critical about how I do it when I’m practicing. The lack of pool time this winter is definitely going to be a setback.

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The thing I learned from my awful swim was that I mostly swam due to being caught off guard. A big wave sneaked up and hit me at my 5 or 7 o’clock and suddenly I was upside down with my sinuses full of water. I freaked and swam. The fix for me: if I’m in conditions that MIGHT knock me over I do some rolls to get acclimated / prepared.

It may be dangerously naive to think you won’t have a mishap in any sport. Or any activity for that matter. I’ve fallen while climbing, been hit by a car and fallen while cycling, broken a finger while playing basketball, crashed a car 3 times, been blown up and nearly killed a person while practicing one of my professions. I didn’t “think/imagine/ believe/ agree” that any of it was possible either before or during the occurrence.

Stuff happens whether you plan for it or not, whether you want it to or not. So much of what we do in life involves preparing for the unexpected. I don’t want to evacuate my house during a fire, but I have a plan. I don’t want to drown, so I wear a PFD and learn a variety of methods to save myself or others for when the feces hits the rotary oscillator. There are a lot of ways to prepare oneself for crisis, most people would do well to know and practice a variety of contingency plans and work with them to the point where they can be executed without failure.

An amateur practices until they get it right. A professional practices until they can’t get it wrong.


Which video? Can you post a link so we can see what you’re referring to? Thanks.

Responsible paddlers are always preparing for the next swim.

It’s on the P.com home page this week.

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I liked the video posted on the pcom home page . It advocated practicing rescue techniques with your paddling buddies. It didn’t get specific and suggested classes for extending the learning. It didn’t strike me as controversial. The “we are all between swims” was largely motivational and designed to sell you on why practicing for mishaps is important.

Cowboy and side reentrys, draining boats by pumping or holding one boat over another boat, or climbing in alone or assisted, may or may not be effective. It will depend upon the conditions, the design of the boat that you are paddling, and your physical abilities. My main take away was you should practice self rescue and develop the specifc skills for the environment that you are going to be paddling in. I didn’t get out of it that you shouldn’t learn to roll or that you should stop practicing other self rescue techniques after you learn to roll because rolling is most effective.


When I and my wife first got kayaks we were told 2 things were vital (some of those telling us were from this forum)

#1 Learn how to wet exit and reenter.

#2 learn how to roll.

We took both seriously. In less then 2 months I was dumped in high waves and had to do it for real, and when that happened it was just like a perfectly choregraphed drill. We had done that drill probably 50-60 times before we needed it.

So I have to say the advice I was given was excellent and I’d pass it along to anyone starting out.

Once you can 1. get out, 2. get in and 3. roll, and do all 3 in high waves, all the fear and apprehension goes away, and you can start to push the edges of your skills and get better and better at leaning and edging bracing and turning, because flipping over is just part of the fun.


The video was ok and touched on the idea of adding floatation for about 2 seconds.

SOT seem to be taking off a little more around here, but still the vast number of paddlers I see are in rec-kayaks with little to no floatation and the people using them have little to no understanding how heavy and unmanageable it will become once filled with water.

We went on a outing a few weeks ago where there were 450 mostly unskilled paddlers and 95% of them were in rec-kayaks with wide open cockpits, no lines to grab onto and maybe half or less had some stern bulkhead and many of them had the hatch removed or open so a cooler could be placed in it.

The interesting part was the Coast Guard was there and offering free advice and boat inspections. Of the 450 boats that put in maybe 50 took advantage of the safety inspection. They were more worried about people placing a 4” reflective sticker on each face of the paddle as a signal device than much else. I took them off my paddle as soon as we got home. In going over our boats and PFDs and whistles and the rest they were a little amazed that my canoe and her rec-kayak had additional floatation added and that we had painter lines attached. I pointed out we had a pump bailer. They were rather concerned that my whistle didn’t have a long enough tether on it even though I showed them it reached my mouth when wearing my PFD and that at least 400 of the people putting boats in had their PFD tied to the deck or were using it as a back rest.

It is fine having another video showing how to get back in your boat, but I would rather see one on what you can do before you even get to the water to make the likelihood of the boat not sinking and the likelihood of you getting the boat to shore and drained so you can get back in improved.

When you gear a video to beginners as this one was it should be dealing with boats beginners will likely be using. :canoe:

Laying on your back while remaining seated depends on the paddler and their boat. I’ve always admired people that can do that, but for me and my boat I end up with my face about 4" under water That’s with wearing a spray skirt. With a swamped cockpit, I imagine it would be even worse.

With age and spinal issues I’ve been advised to avoid attempting to roll in the future. With common sense and experience I’ve avoided going for a swim for many years, but keep up on self and assisted rescues just in case.

One small tip I learned in rolling the kayaks with high rear decks is to not stay butt-down in the seat. Arching sideways and then pivoting, coming backwards to the rear deck and as you move your head toward the back deck with your body arched backwards lift you butt up out of the seat. If you do a sculling stroke on the downward side and do a hip-snap as you arch and lift out of the seat, the 2 kayaks I tried it in both came right up with ease…

Now I am FAR from an expert kayaker, but I tried what I was told to do by a few men and women who are, and it worked for me very well. So that’s what I’ll pass on. Maybe it will help someone

Just between flips (or swims) is the way it should be, though I was slow to realize it. When I was younger I thought of canoeing as one of many camping skills, like reading a topo map, setting a tent, or starting a fire. I probably went twenty years without swimming unintentionally. I didn’t paddle challenging rivers, stayed off of big waters in waves, learn any new strokes. It was all very routine. I just paddled there uneventfully every time. Paddling was just as interesting as setting a tent, looking at the map, of starting a fire, all of which also went uneventfully. I was in it to see what was around the next bend and for the wildlife and fishing.

And I didn’t learn a thing. My strokes didn’t improve. The places I paddled were all pretty much the same. Paddling to a compass heading was about all I needed or was interested in in the way of boat control. That’s not a good thing.

Getting a true dedicated solo canoe broke me out of that. Paddling itself started to be fun, like it was when I was a young kid and just getting started. Going faster, turning into eddies, surfing small waves or holes, and learning the strokes to move laterally and play the current were fun. I did more day paddles without the loads I almost always carried before. And that’s when I started taking some unintentional swims. I’ve now come to think that’s how it should be - if I never “push the envelope” at all (like I didn’t for far too long) I don’t get better, have less fun, and I never ever swim. I’m not recommending doing crazy stuff, mind you. I’m just trying to do some stuff that I don’t do with absolute confidence whenever I’m out. It’s a better practice than what I used to do, I’ve learned too late, though it might occasionally and rarely involve getting wet.

Better to be just between flips than not, I’m thinking. Though, as I approach 70, I’m not looking at improvement in my paddling so much as not losing ground. Heck, all day kneeling is getting to be a challenge.

Unless one commits to paddling only on flat water and benign conditions, “between flips” is a more than a possibility.

I used to believe that I could develop a “bombproof roll” that would prevent me from coming out in rough conditions. I have pretty good rolling technique on both sides. But, real world stuff that have happened to me - forcing some hairy swims - and disabused me of that “kayaking unicorn” of a bombproof roll. Yes, practice your skills (bracing, rolling, wet exit), BUT wear your PFD, immersion wear, and stay in shape for a long swim if need be.

Here is a video of a group of more advanced sea kayakers that got into a rescue situation. Looking at the wave that caused this, I didn’t think it was even that big. But get caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time… Stuff happens:


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thanks for sharing the video, very informative, really liked how they worked as a team

Yup, it’s clear that these paddlers know how to play well together as a group. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were part of a choir that sing sea shanties in between paddles. :grin:


It was fortunate that they got a quick response from a power boat to give them aid in getting the injured paddler out of the water!

I wont belabor the point, but i think its safe to say if you paddle enough, you will swim sooner or later. No matter what. The point is to have a plan once that happens, which is the jist of the video. To think otherwise is hubris or ignorance.
(Magooch, you’re experienced enough to make good decisions that work for you, but many on here aren’t, so I mostly disagree for the sake of informing the less knowledgeable of best practice - which is, have a backup plan whereby you escape danger without outside assistance when plan A and B fail in epic fashion. Then test your plan in controlled but real-life conditions and adapt as needed)