How to Get Back in a Kayak?

How to Get Back in a Kayak?Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a beginner, knowing how to get back in a kayak after falling out is an essential skill. There are different techniques for re-entry depending on the type of kayak you’re using and the conditions you’re paddling in. This article will guide you through the steps to safely and efficiently get back in your kayak.

When it comes to kayak recovery, having the right knowledge and skills is crucial. In this article, we’ll explore various re-entry techniques, provide helpful tips, and share useful insights to help you master the art of getting back in a kayak. Whether you’re facing an unexpected capsize or simply want to be prepared for any situation, these kayaking tips will ensure you’re ready to handle kayak re-entry with confidence.

Factors Affecting the Likelihood of Falling Out of a Kayak

When it comes to kayaking, understanding the factors that can impact the likelihood of falling out of a kayak is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience. Several key factors play a role in determining the stability and risk of capsizing. These factors include kayak style, kayak stability, and paddling ability.

Kayak Style

The type of kayak you choose can greatly affect your stability on the water. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally more stable and less likely to flip over, making them a popular choice for beginners. The open cockpit design allows for easier re-entry in case of a capsize. On the other hand, sit-in kayaks offer better control and maneuverability for experienced paddlers. The enclosed cockpit provides a snug fit and ensures better handling in rough waters.

Kayak Stability

Kayak stability refers to the balance and resistance to capsizing. Wide and flat-bottomed kayaks tend to be more stable, as they have a larger surface area to distribute weight and maintain balance. These kayaks are suitable for beginners or those who prefer calm waters. In contrast, narrow and V-shaped kayaks offer increased maneuverability but are less stable, requiring more skill and experience to navigate.

Paddling Ability

Your paddling ability is another important factor that can impact your risk of falling out of a kayak. Proper technique, balance, and control are crucial in maintaining stability and preventing capsizes. It’s important to develop good paddling skills, including a strong core, effective strokes, and the ability to react quickly to changes in the water conditions.

By considering these factors and selecting the right kayak style for your skill level and paddling conditions, you can minimize the chances of falling out of a kayak and enjoy a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.

Re-entry Technique #1: Brute Force

One technique for getting back in a kayak after falling out is the brute force method. This involves flipping the kayak back over (if it’s upside down), securing your paddle to the boat, and using your upper body strength to pull yourself back in. This technique is particularly effective for sit-on-top kayaks.

To execute the brute force re-entry, follow these steps:

  1. If the kayak is upside down, flip it back over by pushing down on one end. If necessary, swim to the opposite end of the kayak to help facilitate the flipping process.
  2. Secure your paddle to the kayak by tucking it under the bungee cords or using a paddle leash. This ensures that your paddle doesn’t float away or get in the way during the re-entry.
  3. Position yourself beside the kayak, with your hands gripping the edge of the cockpit and your body facing the kayak.
  4. Using your upper body strength, pull yourself up and onto the kayak. If needed, kick your legs to help propel yourself onto the kayak.
  5. Once you’re back on the kayak, stabilize yourself by shifting your weight and adjusting your position as necessary.

Remember to practice this technique in a controlled environment before attempting it in more challenging conditions. It’s also crucial to wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times while kayaking to ensure your safety.

Re-entry Technique #2: Reverse PaddleGirl

Another effective re-entry technique for getting back in a kayak after falling out is the Reverse PaddleGirl method. This technique utilizes a paddle float to create an outrigger, providing stability while you climb back into the kayak. The Reverse PaddleGirl technique is suitable for both sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks.

To perform the Reverse PaddleGirl method, start by positioning yourself face down along the rear deck of the kayak. Attach the paddle float to one end of the paddle and secure it to the kayak. The paddle float acts as a stabilizing arm, preventing the kayak from tipping over as you re-enter.

Once the paddle float is secured, use the paddle and float as support to stabilize the kayak. Slowly maneuver yourself back into the kayak, maintaining balance and control. This technique allows you to re-enter the kayak with ease and confidence, even in choppy or unstable conditions.

The Reverse PaddleGirl method can be a valuable skill to master, providing an efficient and secure way to get back in your kayak after capsizing. By utilizing a paddle float and taking advantage of the kayak’s stability, you can quickly recover from a fall and continue enjoying your paddling adventure.

Re-entry Technique #3: Itchy Bum Stern Straddle

The Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique is a highly effective method for re-entering a kayak from the water. This technique provides stability and control by utilizing your legs to support and balance the kayak during the re-entry process. It is particularly useful for sit-in kayaks, but can also be adapted for sit-on-top kayaks.

Steps for the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique:

  1. Swim to the stern end of the kayak, ensuring the boat is upright.
  2. Position yourself in a straddling stance, with your legs on either side of the kayak.
  3. Gradually inch your way towards the cockpit, while using your legs to stabilize the kayak.
  4. Lower yourself back into the kayak by sliding your bottom into the seat.

By following these steps, you can safely and efficiently re-enter your kayak using the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique. Remember to maintain a steady and controlled movement throughout the process to ensure stability and prevent further capsizing.

Advantages of the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique: Disadvantages of the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique:
  • Provides stability and control during re-entry.
  • Relies on leg strength for increased balance.
  • Can be adapted for both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks.
  • Requires good leg strength and flexibility.
  • May be more challenging for individuals with limited mobility.
  • Requires proper positioning and careful movement to prevent further capsizing.

Mastering the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique is a valuable skill for any kayaker. Practice this re-entry method in a controlled environment to build confidence and ensure readiness for unexpected situations on the water.

Sit-In Kayak Re-entry Technique

If you are using a sit-in kayak and find yourself capsized, you will need to perform a wet exit to release the skirt and exit the boat. To re-enter the kayak, there are two main techniques you can use: the Eskimo Roll or the swim to the stern end method. Before attempting to re-enter, it’s important to bail out any water that may have entered the cockpit.

The Eskimo Roll is a technique used by experienced kayakers to right the kayak while remaining inside. It requires skill and practice to execute properly. By using a combination of hip and paddle movement, you can roll the kayak back upright. This technique is best suited for whitewater kayaking or situations where you want to quickly recover without leaving the kayak.

If you are not comfortable or unable to perform the Eskimo Roll, the swim to the stern end method is a viable alternative. In this technique, you swim to the back of the kayak and flip it over. Once the kayak is upside down, you can climb onto the rear deck and slowly make your way towards the cockpit. Using your upper body strength and leg power, you can re-enter the kayak. It’s important to balance your weight and stabilize the kayak as you climb back in.

Technique Suitability Key Steps
Eskimo Roll Experienced kayakers – Use hip and paddle movement to roll kayak
– Practice proper technique
Swim to the Stern End All skill levels – Swim to back of kayak
Flip kayak over
– Climb onto rear deck
– Slowly make way to cockpit
– Re-enter kayak using upper body and leg power

Tips for Sit-In Kayak Re-entry:

  • Practice the Eskimo Roll and swim to the stern end techniques in calm and controlled environments before attempting them in challenging conditions.
  • Ensure you are wearing a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) for safety.
  • Before re-entering the kayak, remove any excess water by bailing or using a hand pump.
  • Take your time and focus on maintaining balance and stability as you climb back into the kayak.

Sit-On-Top Kayak Re-entry Technique

When it comes to re-entering a kayak, sit-on-top kayaks offer an easier and more straightforward process compared to sit-in kayaks. If you happen to fall out of a sit-on-top kayak, there are a few simple steps you can follow to get back in quickly and safely.

First, swim to the kayak and position yourself near the center. If the kayak is upside down, you may need to flip it back over using your upper body strength. Once the kayak is right-side up, place your hands on the kayak’s sides for stability.

Next, use your legs to stabilize yourself as you bring one leg over the side of the kayak and slide it into the cockpit. As you do this, keep your weight centered and slowly lower yourself into the seat. Once you’re comfortable, you can bring your other leg over the side and into the kayak, ensuring both legs are securely positioned inside.

With your legs inside the kayak, take a moment to adjust your position, ensuring you feel stable and balanced. You can now continue your kayaking adventure, knowing that you have the necessary skills to confidently re-enter your sit-on-top kayak.


Mastering the art of getting back in a kayak after falling out is crucial for any kayaker. Whether you’re an experienced paddler or a beginner, knowing the right re-entry techniques can make a significant difference in your safety and enjoyment on the water.

Throughout this article, we covered several re-entry techniques for different types of kayaks. The brute force method is effective for sit-on-top kayaks, while the Reverse PaddleGirl technique and the Itchy Bum Stern Straddle technique offer great options for both sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks.

When using a sit-in kayak, it’s essential to perform a wet exit and either execute an Eskimo Roll or swim to the stern end before re-entering. On the other hand, sit-on-top kayaks provide a simpler re-entry process, allowing you to swim to the kayak, flip it over if needed, and climb back in using your legs for stability.

Remember, the key to successfully re-entering a kayak is practice. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these techniques in a controlled environment, and always prioritize safety by wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). With these skills and precautions in place, you can confidently handle unexpected capsizes and continue to enjoy the thrill of kayaking.

Richard Dodds

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