some help about learning to capsize.

I am kinda scared about the idea of being upside down underwater. The whole idea seems kinda scary. I imagined myself fliping, and it freaks me out a little. Could I take a class sometime in a pool maybe?? How can I motivate myself to capsize intentionaly?? I know the steps, but I thought that I would forget leaning forward from freaking out.

Does it have to be a pamlico 140?? Because maybe I have to learn in my boat, so I am used to exiting from it,or can it be any old boat??

Any clubs in your area??
I know there are clubs around here that arrange for training sessions in College/School/YMCA pools. Matter of fact there is a post on the discussion forum about classes in Jersey I believe. Might be able to direct you to a class in Ft Collins or possibly Denver area.

Start out wet and outside the boat!

– Last Updated: Sep-27-06 9:33 PM EST –

I like to begin my rescue classes with a drill I call the "wet entry" -- wade out into chest deep water with your boat (leave paddle ashore) and try to get INTO your boat. Chances are you will capsize a bunch of times before you get even close to sitting in the cockpit. These half-exits (your head may never even go under on some of them) will help you build up to the real thing -- and more importantly will loosen you up by bringing the element of play into what you are doing. Best if you bring a friend (for both safety and for laughs) who is trying to complete the same maneuver.

Wet exit…
Is what it’s often called. I understand the fear of flipping, if you’ve never flipped over before.

I went many years before taking a wet exit/ self recovery course, and I suggest you don’t wait as long as I did.

If you cannot find a local club, or outfitter to guide you, find a nice pool, lake, whatever where you don’t mind swimming. Bring along a friend to ‘spot’ you, in case something should go wrong ( nothing will, but it’s wise to have ready help )

Then, have fun. See how far you can lean before you tip, and find how amazingly fast you find yourself out of the boat and on the surface.

Swim up to your boat, and give it a quick shove upwards on the cockpit combing, and it’ll flip right side up with very little water in it.

Then, comes the art of reboarding…

That is where lessons will be most usefull, as it’s a lot to go into here. But folks will, and the advice will be worth listening to.

Lots to learn, but you seem like a willing student.


not so bad
The first kayaking class I took, I refused to wet exit because I thought I would be the first person to sink to the bottom of Mission Bay wearing a PFD :frowning:

Now, I am trying to figure out how to stay in the kayak when I intentionally capsize! Usually, with a large cockpit and loose skirt, you come out of the boat before you’re upside down. Things to remember - PFDs really work and the water is going to feel ‘invigorating’.

Oh yeah - don’t think your alone—
I’m gonna have to do it myself too. I’ve got maybe a whole ten hours in my kayak, and I know my schedule won’t allow me to go to a class. Next spring it’s paddle float re-entry and at least one roll - - DIY Style

Oh and with the help of these folks on the boards.


– Last Updated: Sep-28-06 12:04 PM EST –

For some folks, it's less scary if they're already leaning ofrward and hugging the boat before they go over -- helps keep them oriented.

Not being able to see and having water up the nose can also add to the anxiety. A noseclip or diving mask can help with those issues. If you can see what's going on and your sinuses aren't filling up, it's acually pretty cool to be hanging out underwater.

I like the idea of geting in the water and getting wet first, andf then treating the boat like a pool toy. Upright is just one of many paddling options...

I took a roll class many moons ago…
and the first thing they did was have us do a wet exit, just by leaning the kayak over on its side until it tipped.

The instructor, (which could be a friend or another paddler ) stood right beside each one of us in chest deep water as we did it to assure us that he would immediately help if we needed it.

It turned out that no one needed it, but made it a lot easier knowing that he was there.

If you can’t get to a pool with someone to do it.

Try it next year when your water warms up.

With your boat you should just fall right out.



Fear factor
I had the same fears about hanging upside down in a kayak, but that doesn’t really happen with rec boats or anything with a large cockpit. You tend to fall out as the boat is going over unless you’ve got your feet so hard against the pegs that you’ve locked yourself in.

I’ve been thrown once from my LiquidLogic Stingray (huge cockpit) and have capsized twice in a LiquidLogic Gus (whitewater boat). All I can really say is that once I was upside-down, it was just a matter of not breathing and pulling the skirt release. After that, getting out and above water came naturally (and no, I don’t often swim).

Now that I’ve done it a few times out of unplanned necessity, I’m not as afraid of it as I was leading up to my incidents.

In some ways, I think having to do it in the wild was better for me than doing it in a pool. There’s something about the drive for survival that made me react properly during a capsize. It was an urgency that would not have been present in a pool.

Not to say that pool training isn’t good, just that one or the other may be better depending on your personality. Considering your level of fear, the pool option sounds better.

Can you swim? If you’re a casual but timid swimmer, you may want to play around in a pool a bit and submerge yourself. Do a sumersault etc. Wear nose plugs so you don’t have to deal with that.

If you can’t swim, the Y and high schools offer courses for all age groups.

Then you can wean yourself into some gentle confidence in the kayak. With people there to help you, you’ll find out how easy and relaxed it can be. Start with a dive mask on.

My experience

– Last Updated: Sep-28-06 11:38 AM EST –

I wasn't particularly aprehensive with being being upside down underwater (I think it's kinda fun), but some of the folks in the safety/rescue class I took definitely were, and I like the way our instructor handled it:

Each student would paddle out to the instructor, who stood in chest deep water. The exercise would begin with the instructor flipping the student upside down and back up again in one motion (sort of like a roll), so the student could get wet and get a brief taste of what it felt like to be upside down in their kayak.

The instructor would then flip the student upside down and wait until the student signalled (by banging on the side of the boat) to flip them back up again. The point was for the student to hold their breath as long as possible, and go through the motions of wet-exiting (without actually pulling the skirt release handle) before signalling to come back up.

Finally, the student would capsize on their own and do a wet exit, with the instructor still standing next to their boat to make sure nothing went awry.

great news
Your worry about this is a sign that you’re progressing as a kayaker. Once you learn to go upside down, you’re half way to a roll. Once you have a reliable roll, then the fear of capsizing goes away, and being upside down becomes fun. That’s when you can really relax and enjoy something other than flat water. Be happy about the challenge, and with some spotting from a friend go for it. The anticipation is much worse than the experience.

upside down
When I work with friends who are a little nervous about getting trapped in the boat by their sprayskirt on a wet exit, we move through a progression, always with noseplugs so sinus infections and the discomfort of water rushing up the nose aren’t an issue. (A diving mask isn’t bad instead, if you have one hanging around).

First, with a partner, go out without a sprayskirt and capsize, then see how easy it is to gently slide out

Then do it with your sprayskirt on, but pulled free of the front of the combing, so you can work through the motions of pulling the sprayskirt off the coaming

Then do it with the sprayskirt completely on, so you have to remember to pull the grabloop forward first, to start it off the coaming.

If you don’t have noseplugs handy, holding your nose while you capsize prevents much of the water from rushing in. Salt water doesn’t usually lead to nasty sinus infections, but fresh water often does.

Fear of capsize
can happen to anyone at any point in their boating career.

Many moons ago I was slalom C-1 paddler. A pretty good roller too, but not bombproof. I can honestly say that the more you capsize/roll/wet exit, the more at ease you will be.

But dang, that first one of the season…

Now that I am paddling a touring yak, I find myself hesitating for a couple of seconds before an intentional capsize. After the first one, it gets progressively easier. Hang in there! (no pun intended)


Get it over with
The longer you put off your first wet exit, the scarier it will seem.

Now that the water is getting cold, if you don’t own a drysuit or wetsuit, learn it in an indoor pool.

You will literally fall out of your Pamlico if it flips without a sprayskirt. Heck, even with a sprayskirt. It happened to me in my (former) Squall. The sprayskirt just followed me right out of the kayak. No big deal. (However, if you do use a sprayskirt, practice the proper technique for releasing it, OUT of the water first. It is best not to get the bad habit of merely grabbing a loop or strap and yanking on it. You should pull it FORWARD and then up for the quickest, easiest release.)

The initial reaction of most people on a first wet exit is to get the head out of the water as fast as possible. Once you’ve done this and found out it’s not instant drowning, it’s a good idea to slooooow down for subsequent wet exits!!! Wear some nose clips, and practice hanging upside down (push your feet against the foot pegs to hold yourself in the boat) before you even try to get out. There are videos showing underwater footage of what your body should be doing.

After you find out how easy wet exits are, the real work begins: getting back inside the kayak in deep water. The first wet exit is psychologically harder to face, but the first paddle-float solo re-entry is physically harder to accomplish. That’s the part that will require more practice.

My Experiences
I’ve worked on this problem myself for a while and all of the other posts sound right on the money, so I won’t repeat them, but I’l add some things that helped me:

  • Overall, I found that lessening this fear did not come suddenly, but progressively. Each week (I only have a few hours a week) I’d find myself at square one fearwise, but it got progressively easier to come out of it each week.

  • Practicing hipsnaps at the edge of a pool (commonly done at pool class) helped, then gradually progressing to capsizing at poolside on the side opposite the wall and coming up on the side of the wall, then progressing to paddlefloat roll at the pool’s edge, progressing to a paddlefloat roll in the middle of the pool.

  • Practicing a re-entry & roll using paddle float helped, doing it very slow and relaxed helped.

  • I found that a trainer standing by helps with the fear factor. The trouble with me is, once I got back on my own, I was back to square one.

  • Jay Babina’a First Roll method (see the DVD) makes it pretty easy to get comfortable capsizing with good old terra firma nearby and an easy way to get back upright.

  • For some reason, I found this helpful: armed with paddle foat on paddle, I place the paddle on the deck immediately in front of me. I grip the paddle such that the hand furthest the capsize side sits where the blade meets the shaft. I then rotate the boat and hipsnap it up, deeper and deeper, until can actually lay in the water, with my face out of the water so I can breathe. There’s something about the feeling of laying there that is quite relaxing, and then hipsnap up. Of course, it takes some practice to get to this point. Eventually, I got brave enough to progress from floating to totally submerged and sweep the paddle so it’s parallel to the boat with paddle float facing the bow, then sweep and hipsnap up. This all sounds like rolling drills, but I’ve found it to help with the fear factor. In fact, I’ve found recently that any rolling aid does me no good with a roll, as I tend to depend upon it.



Pool&start in the shallow end.
That way you know you’ll be able to stand up.

Once the initial experience is over you’re gonna find it like riding that roller coaster you feared but now immensely enjoy.

great stuff
Hi Lou, Sounds like you’ve come a long way with learning to roll. Congratulations, John

definitely learn
I think you can learn on any boat, but maybe just to get the feel for being upside down and getting out. Once you get past that, make sure you know how to “wet exit” the boat you use, and also how to get back in. In my mind, you definitely need to know how to do this.

Congratulations Lou! Great progress.

Pamlico 140… just think of a wet exit as going for a little swim. No big deal… just going for a little swim.