How To Avoid A Kayak Flipping Over

Kayaking is supposed to be about having fun and enjoying your time on water, but there’s always that worry in the back of your mind that your kayak is going to flip at some point.

Do kayaks flip over?

Truth be told, kayaks aren’t designed for flipping over. Whether you’re going to flip your kayak or not actually depends on two things: the type of your kayak and the type of water you’re going to paddle on.

If you’re thinking about kayaking on a calm river (here’s a nice selection to take a look at, with your recreational kayak, flipping your kayak is going to be anything but easy. By contrary, when you go kayaking on a rapid water/whitewater, with your light kayak, your chance for flipping your kayak increases by a lot. Word of advice: maybe you’re not taking your stand-up kayak on whitewater (check this if you’re interested in buying one, though

Can you prevent flipping?

One cannot really prevent the flip, but you may definitely lower your risk for capsizing. Many of the techniques to try are going to require plenty of practice, but you’re going to be in control next time you’re about to capsize.

Here are 4 methods to lower the risk for capsizing:

  1. Balance the kayak

You can try balancing your kayak with your torso, but you could try first to distribute your gear evenly. You want to distribute the weight from length to length, width to width. This way you’re going to balance your kayak as you’re sitting straight up. If you’re balancing the kayak, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to handle flipping.


  1. Choose the right weather

Choose the right weather for kayaking

No matter how adventurous or brave you may feel, it’s wiser to avoid the challenging weather. Weather conditions pose a big risk for your safety when kayaking. A very strong wind and higher waves are going to increase the risk for flipping. Better safe than sorry so don’t push it if the weather is bad.

  1. Low brace

this is one amazing method to get your balance back without getting too wet. You may use it even to prevent the loss balance as the stroke is really fast and effective. You may want to turn it into your basic move when you feel that your kayak is about to flip.

Low brace is about pressing the paddle against the surface of the water, in order to obtain a resistance to recover.

Here are the steps to follow for this sort of move:

  • Place yourself in the right position, maintaining the typical forward paddling grip of your paddle. Make sure that the paddle is close to your hip; you want the blade’s back face to be pointing down on the side you’re going to lean. Your elbows are supposed to be on that side really high, whereas your knuckles are pointing downwards. When your kayak is moving, you should take a look at the blade’s edge that points towards to see if it’s elevated enough. As you sweep it against the water, it’s going to climb up to the surface and not dive under the water.
  • You should practice enough the low brace method. Lean to the side until you start fall over. Once you’ve lost your balance a bit, continue by pushing the blade down against the surface, moving your weight on the paddle at the same time. maintain the paddle horizontal as you’re bracing as this is going to create great support. Trust your gut as it’s going to tell you to bend the torso back on top of the kayak so that you get back your balance. You’re going to twist the hip, pushing the deck with your knee so that your boat tilts upright again.
  • By this time, your boat begins to get back to the level position. Its rotating force is going to help you a bit as you’re pushing your upper body back for balance. It’s like when the kayak is slipping and you’re trying to pull it back right underneath you. You need to maintain your body close to the deck as it’s a lot easier.
  • You should also use a sweeping motion from back to forth after a while, as it’s going to help you brace for a longer time. practice on both sides and repeat all movements until you’re familiar with each one of them. Push your kayak more when you’re practicing.
  1. High brace

The high brace works like an upgraded alternative for the low brace. As you’re tilting your kayak really far from the other side, it’s better that you’re using the high brace and not the low brace. It’s quite a strong recovery stroke.

The principle is similar to the low brace as you’re going to use the strength that comes from pushing the blade against the surface of the water, in order to get that energy, you need for balancing the kayak.

However, when you’re doing the high brace, you’re going to be under the blade and pull down for support, whereas, in the case of low brace, you’re over the blade and you push down (it’s the other way around). make sure you’re ready for several wet exits when you’re practicing the high brace.

When you have to lean against a big wave that may push you over, the high brace is your best shot.

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Make sure that you maintain the typical forward paddling grip of your paddle, keeping the paddle close to you. You also need to control your boat with your feet, which is why it’s important that your knees touch the deck and your heels sit firmly against the bottom of your boat. This is going to help you not to fall out of your boat when you’re sideways in the water.
  • You need to lean to the side until you begin to fall. As your back has to be turn towards the surface, you should also wind the upper body a bit. This is going to help you use your body as the basic force for the brace, allowing you to do a bigger sweep with the paddle.
  • Your paddle has to be above the water. Splash against the surface and wait until your upper body is losing most of its momentum. This is how you use the support of the paddle brace for the recovery phase and not for slowing down the fall. The paddle has to stay in horizontal position, so make sure that the blade on the side that you’re going to fall is going to face towards the water.
  • The risk for exposing your hands and shoulders to a strong pressure in a strange position is quite high, which is why it’s important that you keep them close to your body. Unwind your upper body, pulling the blade down against the surface. This is going to create the force you need for leaning. You got to move fast as it’s not going to last for a long time.
  • Once your upper body is half immersed into the water, it’s actually lighter so it doesn’t need much support from the paddle brace. You should straighten your kayak, maintaining your upper body in water and pulling the paddle against the water. Flick with your hips for pushing your kayak upright.
  • As your kayak begins to balance, you should pull the upper body out of the water really fast and press the paddle down. Your head is going to be the last one to come out of the water. It’s going to be easier if you’re able to maintain your body close to your boat’s center. Leaning toward the deck is going to help a lot.
  • The paddle stroke may not give you a long lasting brace all the time. the support is going the disappear when the blade sinks under the water. You need to bring the blade up to the surface right away, slicing it through the water. Once the blade is back to surface, begin to sweep it back and forth (horizontal move) against the surface. You need to maintain the blade in a rising angle towards its direction. It’s also going to be easier when you lean towards.
  • Practice the high brace on both sides for a long time. the high brace is also going to help you when doing an Eskimo roll.

Both the low and the high brace are fundamental moves that help you not to flip. If you master these techniques, once your boat begins to tilt, planting a good brace for supporting the hip snap and allow your kayak to balance back is going to do it.

One final thought

Don’t fall into the misconception that your kayak isn’t going to flip because it’s more expensive as this risk is out there for all kayaks, no matter the model, the material or the price (are you on a tight budget? Check the kayaks below $600 right here

It’s only a matter of time until you flip your kayak. As long as you’re practicing the right techniques, you should be able to get out of the situation nice and easy every time.