How To Get Back In A Kayak After It’s Flipped Over


Kayaking is one of the most exciting ways to have fun in the water. You can cruise on a calm lake and fish, experience the thrill of tackling whitewater rapids, or go paddling in the ocean. However, a kayak capsize is always a possibility and it can be a pretty scary experience especially if you don’t know what to do.

The best way to stay safe if your kayak tips over are to know and practice kayak recovery and re-entry maneuvers beforehand. When you know how to react, you won’t get scared and panic when you experience a kayak flip over. You will just remain calm and get back in your kayak. After reading this article, you will know exactly how to get back in a kayak after you flip over.

What To Do If Your Kayak Flips

Remain Calm

In the event of a kayak flip, the most important thing is to remain calm. If you panic, you won’t be able to think clearly and react appropriately. The good thing is that knowing what to do to right a kayak flip over and how to get back into a kayak after falling out will help you stay calm and think straight.

Take a deep breath so your muscles get enough air to supply the energy you will need to perform the maneuvers required to right the flipped kayak and get yourself back in.

Flip Back Over The Kayak and Get Back In


As for action, the very first thing to do is to flip your kayak right up. How to flip a kayak back over and how to get into a kayak after falling out will depend on whether you were paddling a sit-inside or a sit-on-top kayak. Below, we’ve explained how to go about righting and re-entering both types of kayaks.

How To Right A Capsized Sit-In Kayak

If you’re an experienced kayaker, the easiest way to right up a sit-in kayak is to employ the Eskimo Roll. This entails using your paddle and hip movements to roll the kayak 360 degrees. However, this recovery method only works when you’re still inside the capsized kayak. Here is how to perform an Eskimo roll:

  • Before the kayak is completely flipped over, position your paddle such that it’s parallel to the kayak. 
  • Once the kayak is upside down, turn the paddle and bring it upwards so it’s near the surface of the water. 
  • To flip the flipped kayak back upright, swing your hips to the right and left so it’s like you’re wiggling in a seat.

If you fell out when your sit-in-kayak flipped or don’t know how to execute an Eskimo Roll and have to perform a wet exit, you can flip the kayak back over with the following maneuvers:

  • Locate your kayak and swim towards it.
  • Position yourself at the side of your kayak near the cockpit.
  • Reach underneath the kayak and grab the sides of the cockpit, one hand on each side.
  • Pull the kayak up and put your weight on one side or push one arm until the kayak rolls over into the correct position.

How To Get Back In A Sit Inside Kayak

Once your sit-in kayak is upright, you can now re-enter the kayak. Here’s how to get into a kayak after falling out:

  • Position yourself near the center of the kayak
  • Reach over to the opposite side of the kayak and grab hold of the side.
  • Bring your legs closer to the surface so they are floating behind you.
  • With your body level, use your upper body as leverage and lift yourself onto the kayak so that you’re lying across it.
  • Make sure the kayak is stable then flip yourself around and slide back into the cockpit with your feet first. You can accomplish this by pushing the stern down and straddling then carefully moving your legs in front of your body and sitting down.
  • Congratulations! You’re back in your kayak! Use a bailing bucket and bilge pump to bail out water from the kayak, and you’re ready to paddle again. 

How To Right A Capsized Sit On Top Kayak

Righting and getting back on a sit on top kayak isn’t as complicated as recovering a sit-in kayak. Here’s how to right a capsized kayak:

  • Locate the kayak and swim to the side of the kayak where the seat is.
  • Stretch your hand to the opposite edge of the kayak and grab the edges with both hands.
  • While still holding the edges, bring your knees up and lean backward to the kayak until it rights itself. 

How To Get Back On A Sit On Top Kayak

Once you correct the kayak position and confirm that the paddle is on the kayak, it’s time to climb back on your kayak. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Grab the sides of the kayak with your hands.
  • Bring your feet and legs to the surface so they are floating behind you.
  • Pull yourself over the kayak and position yourself such that your stomach is over the seat.
  • Adjust your position until you’re feeling stable then spin yourself around so that your bottom is on the seat.
  • Finally, swing into your seat and you’re ready to paddle again. 

How To Get Back In A Kayak In The Presence of Waves

One of the scariest kayak flip experiences is getting hit by a strong wave. This can ram your kayak onto a rock whisking you far away from your kayak and compromising the strength of the kayak. The good news is that there is a way to get back in your kayak even in such a dire situation. Here is what you can do:

  • Locate the kayak and consider how to swim towards it. If a wave is coming towards you, swim toward the edges of the wave to escape its force. This is because the water on the edge of a wave travels at a slower pace than the water in the middle.
  • As soon as you get to the kayak, retrieve any floatation device you have onboard and wear it (if you don’t have your PFD on you).
  • You can then flip back the kayak and get back in following the steps outlined above.

How To Rescue A Companion

If you had a companion on board, whether a kid or a dog, when the kayak tipped over, saving their life is the top priority even before attempting to right the kayak. Here is what to do in such a situation: 

  • Locate the child or dog in the water. If they were wearing a kayaking PDF, it should help keep them afloat. You can then tow them or direct them to swim towards you. 
  • Grab hold of the child or dog and swim towards the kayak.
  • If they are unconscious, harness them onto your body as you attempt to flip back the kayak.
  • If they are conscious, drape warm clothing over them to help take the chill kayak. If they are unconscious, call for help as you attempt resuscitation. If you intend to kayak with a dog, having the best kayak for the dog can reduce the risk of capsizing. 

Things you’ll Need In The Event of A Kayak Flip

Whether you have a rigid kayak or an inflatable chamber kayak, having the right equipment is just as important as knowing how to right a tipped-over kayak and re-enter. Here are the things you will need to recover and re-enter your kayak after a kayak flip.

  • When kayaking, it is vitally important that you wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times. Not having a life vest on can impede your efforts to get back in a kayak, especially in extreme situations. If you’re kayaking with a companion, they should also have a fitting life jacket on.
  • If you’re paddling a sit-inside kayak, you will need a bailing bucket or a bilge pump and a sponge for dumping out the water. 
  • In addition to your paddle, having a good paddle float is a good idea. It comes in handy if your kayak flips over, as you can use it to transform your paddle into an outrigger for stabilization while getting back in the kayak.
  • In the event of a kayaking flipping over an incident in cold water, a kayak wetsuit can help keep you warm and ward off hypothermia.
  • Good kayaking boots and kayaking gloves are also assets as correcting a kayak flip requires a good grip in wet and slippery conditions. 
  • Finally, good flippers with short and stiff blades can give you more maneuverability and speed in the water, allowing you to swim efficiently even when exhausted. 

Globo Surf Overview

The joys of kayaking cannot be decimated by the possibility of a kayak flip. When you do experience a kayak flip, remember not to panic. Just keep calm and execute the specific moves and rolls outlined above to right the tipped over kayak and get back in.

With any of the kayak recovery maneuvers, practice is very important. Having the right accessories and gear such as a kayak PFD and bilge pump is also key to getting through a kayak capsize.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!