Do Kayaks Flip Over Easily? (Prevention Tips)

This is a common question and one that almost everyone asks, so do kayaks flip quickly? There are several factors we need to look at before concluding. In this article, we will discuss those factors and shed some light on how you can prevent your kayaking from flipping over.

Kayak flipped over

Things to Consider before Buying a Kayak?

Generally, kayaks are safe to use. When you are paddling across a calm lake, you probably won’t run into much trouble. In fact, on a calm lake, you will have to try hard to make your kayak flip over. Kayaks are made to be stable, and they don’t flip over easily. However, there are few circumstances in which kayaks can flip, and we have reviewed those circumstances below:

Material and Kayak Length

While there are stable varieties of kayaks, such as sit-in kayaks, they are not fast and easy to navigate. Long kayaks are easier to navigate and move quickly; however, they are tougher to maneuver than sit-in kayaks.

As far as the material of kayaks is concerned, most kayaks are made of plastic. However, despite having the same material, kayaks have different weights. The disadvantage of lightweight kayaks is that they don’t last long. The optimal weight for a typical kayak should be 25 to 28 kilograms.

It’s not only just the weight of the kayak you should be wary of, but also the weight you’re putting into the kayak. Check out my article on the weight limit of a kayak. Exceeding your weight limit is a good way to flip your kayak.

Storage and Seating

Most kayaks come with seats, but most seats are not good enough to provide comfort. If you plan to kayak for a long time, ensure the kayak has comfortable seating. Try to test the seat out before buying the kayak.

Another factor that most people overlook is storage. Most buyers wrongly assume that the storage area in the kayak is waterproof. To keep your belongings and equipment safe, please use a dry bag.


Choosing a good quality paddle is just as important as selecting a good kayak. A low-quality paddle will worsen your kayaking experience. A high-quality paddle will help you consume energy, especially if your kayak moves slowly.

Type of Hull

First, you will need to consider the design of the hull. The shape of the hull resembles the bottom of a boat. The hull is important, as it can make a difference between the stability and performance of the kayak in the water. Here are the types of hull:

  • Rounded Hull: This hull has round edges, enabling the kayak to go quickly. The hull also allows the kayak to travel smoothly. The rounded hull offers more secondary stability and makes the kayak maneuverable.
  • Flat Hull: This hull makes the kayak maneuverable and stable. The flat hull offers primary stability. The flatter the hull, the more stability it can offer to the kayak. For recreational kayaks, flat hulls are ideal, as they enable the kayak to move smoothly in flat waters. For beginners, flat hulls are a perfect choice.
  • Pontoon: Pontoons are known to be incredibly stable since they combine the secondary stability of rounded hulls and the primary stability of flat hulls. However, pontoons can make the kayak slow.
  • V-Shaped: The v-shaped hulls can cut through the water and help the kayak go in a straight line. These hulls are ideal for long-distance trips and recreational paddling. The v-shaped hull may seem unstable since they offer little primary stability. However, v-shaped hulls offer secondary stability.

Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-In

Generally, kayaks are divided into two categories:

  • Sit-on-Top
  • Sit-In

You will need to decide which kayak is best for you. Sit-on tops are more user-friendly than sit-in kayaks and are good for recreational purposes. Here are some characteristics of sit-on-top kayaks:

  • Good choice for beginners.
  • Incredibly versatile.
  • Better suited for warm conditions.
  • Easy to get on and off.
  • Good stability.
  • Self-bailing kayaks come with scupper holes.

On the contrary, sit-in kayaks are designed with a cockpit and a more traditional look. Here are their characteristics:

  • Provide shelter from the water and wind.
  • With the help of a spray skirt, you can get more coverage.
  • Spray skirts are a waterproof cover and help prevent the water from entering the kayak.
  • Sit-in kayaks come with foot braces and offer more storage than sit-on-top kayaks.
  • Sit-in kayaks have more space than sit-on-top kayaks.
  • Due to their lower center of gravity, sit-in kayaks are easier to paddle than sit-on-top kayaks.

Where will you use the Kayak?

Before you even pick a kayak, you need to identify the environment you will use it in. While all varieties of kayaks float on the water, each kayak is designed for a specific environment.

For instance, although all vehicles are made to run on a solid surface, you won’t take a sports car on rugged terrain. Similarly, kayaks are designed to perform within a specific environment. Here are five environments that you can consider:

Ponds and Lakes

Picture yourself paddling effortlessly across a lake or a pond. Whether you are exercising, fishing, or just relaxing, the water of a small pond or lake will offer you a calm kayak ride. However, kayaking on a large lake may increase your chances of bumping into waves that will be dangerous for you and your kayak.

Canals and Rivers

Canals and rivers come in all shapes and sizes. Some canals or rivers will offer you a peaceful ride, while others will give you plenty of headaches. Regardless of how experienced you are, you should know that the conditions in canals and rivers can change instantly. The activity and speed of the current, below and on the surface, could drastically decrease or increase. Therefore, there are always increased risks when kayaking in a river.


Like a river, the activity level in an ocean can change with the weather. While staying close to the shorelines makes it easier to navigate the waters, factors like tidal fluctuations and wind speed can become obstacles for kayakers.

Choose the Right Type of Kayak

The most important thing you need to consider before going on a kayaking trip is the kayak. Choosing the right kayak that is sturdy and durable can help save your life. There are several kayaks, and unfortunately, not all of them are good enough.

If you like paddling in flat and calm waters, you should invest in a recreational kayak. These kayaks offer primary stability. However, a sea kayak is the better option for kayakers who want to paddle in the ocean.

Add Out Riggers to the Kayak

You can also add outriggers to the kayak to make your kayak more stable than usual. Outriggers are additional floats that provide extra stability and extend out from the kayak. These floats come in different shapes and sizes; however, their main function is to reduce the chances of the kayak flipping over.

You should use outriggers when you need your kayak to be stable. Also, you can use outriggers, where precision maneuverability is not essential. Outriggers are also helpful when you are using kayaks for fishing.

No Need to go Kayaking if you don’t know how to do it

While you might think that kayaking is easy to do, it is not. Kayakers spend years practicing and get better at kayaking. Even professionals are not safe from accidents from kayaking, which gives you an idea of how dangerous it is.

For your safety, if you have no idea how to paddle, please don’t go kayaking. This is the best prevention method, and it could save your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man fallen off his kayak

Will I get stuck in my Kayak if it flips over?

No, even if your kayak flips over, you will not get stuck in it. However, this is what most kayakers feel, that if their kayak flips over, they will be stuck in it and will eventually drown. Firstly, it is rare for people not to get out of the kayak when it flips over.

While the cockpit of a kayak may appear tight and congested, it does have a lot of free space. With so much space in the cockpit, you can quickly exit the kayak if it flips over in the water.

People are naturally wired to lift their heads above the water. So even if your body has a hint of kayaking flipping over, it will ensure that you don’t drown. On most occasions, even before people think of exiting the kayak, they are already out of it.

How to Self-Rescue yourself when the Kayak flips over?

If your kayak flips over and there is no one around to help you out, you will need to self-rescue yourself. If your kayak has flipped over, and you don’t know how to exit, don’t panic; do this:

  • You need to lean as forward as possible, then place the forehead on the kayak’s deck, which will help you come forward even more.
  • Once you’ve completed the first step, your profile underwater will be more compact.
  • A small profile will protect you from getting injured seriously.
  • Please don’t hit your head on logs, rocks, or hidden treasure chests.
  • Next, find the spray skirt grab loop pull it away from the cockpit rim to release the spray skirt.
  • The loop should be under your chest and front of the cockpit rim.
  • Then, place your hands on your hips and the cockpit rim. Push the body away from the kayak. Since you are leaning forward, your body should be ‘C’ shape. This form will help you safely exit the kayak.
  • Once again, do not panic; if you have a life jacket on, that’s great since it will pull you towards the surface.
  • Please hold onto a handle or the deck lines, so the waves and winds don’t separate you from the kayak.

Safety Actions for Fast-Moving Water?

If you are separated from your kayak in a fast-moving river or the ocean, here is what you need to do:

  • Cross your arms across your chest, lay on your back, lift your leg towards the surface of the water and point the feet downstream.
  • Even if you encounter an obstacle or rock, your feet will come in contact first, protecting you from getting injured.
  • If you have a life jacket on, it will enable you to motor downstream.
  • The moment you arrive in calm water, swim towards the bank and wait for rescue.

After going through the instructions given above, you should have an idea of how you can protect yourself if your kayak flips over.

Is a Wider Kayak more Unstable?

Kayaks with a narrow shape don’t have secondary stability, which wider kayaks have. Kayaks that are broad are more reliable than narrow-shaped kayaks. Kayaks used for fishing are more expansive than other varieties of kayaks. The wider kayaks also offer more side-to-side stability.

Do I need Safety Gear for Kayaking?

Yes, you should have safety gear with you while kayaking. You cannot take risks when kayaking because anything can happen. However, what type of safety gear should you take? Below is a shortlist of items that you should have while kayaking:

PFD (Personal Floating Device)/Life Jacket

It doesn’t matter whether you call it a life jacket or PFD; it is a lifesaver. It is an essential piece of safety gear, and you need to have it while kayaking. The USCG has a way of categorizing PFDs based on the wearer’s size, their intended use, and buoyancy. For more information, please visit the USGC website.

First Aid Kit

For kayaks, first-aid kits are a must. However, the contents of the first aid kit vary; some deal with superficial abrasions while others can handle burns. First aid kits are also available to address emergencies, such as splints, CPR barriers, and tourniquets.

Tow Rope/Tow Belt

A tow belt or rope is ideally suited for saltwater and freshwater environments. These ropes will often come in handy when one paddler cannot paddle appropriately due to injury or a rough patch of water. A typical kayak can easily carry an eight to ten feet tow belt or rope. You can store the cord in the kayak.

Visual Signaling Devices/Lighting

Your kayak always needs to have proper lighting. Like other pieces of safety equipment, the type of light also matters a lot. There are lights for emergency purposes and lights that will aid you to kayak at night.

Pole lights, suck cups lights, LED stern lights, and strip lights are essential tools. Flares, anchor lighting, Marine LED lights, and strobe lights are also important.

Communication Devices

The choice to bring a signaling or communication device can mean the difference between life and death. Many paddlers have lost their life because they weren’t able to communicate with anyone. However, before you choose a communication device, you should consider some factors such as the cell and satellite coverage area, battery life, and the paddling environment.

The basic form of a communication and signal device is a whistle. Whistles are compact, easy to carry, and can be heard over long distances. Ensure that the whistle is clipped to the life jacket at all times.

Dry Bag

To carry all the precious safety equipment, you will require a dry bag. Several types of dry bags are available in the market; they come in different sizes, closure mechanisms, and temperature tolerance. A dry bag can make or break the kayaking trip. You can also use the bag to store water, snacks, sunscreen, clothing, first-aid kits, etc.

How to Avoid Flipping Over?

The vast majority of kayakers haven’t been involved in an incident where their kayak flipped over. While we have discussed several tips that will prevent your kayak from flipping over, practice is the only thing that is a permanent solution.

While your kayak will not flip over every day, you need to understand that you are ready to overcome the situation when it flips over? As a beginner, you should always start kayaking in shallow water so that even if your kayak flips over, you can easily stand up in the water.

Suppose you end up in the water along with your kayak, paddle out a short way, and take out all the gear from the kayak. If possible, grab a railing, and lean over the kayak until you flip it over.


In this article, we discussed this query: Do kayaks flip over quickly? While they don’t flip over that easily, they are prone to flipping over in some situations—the water condition, the type of kayak, and several other factors matters. We have also discussed several ways to prevent the kayak from flipping over.

We will repeat it; if you have don’t know how to kayak, please don’t go kayaking. You can get seriously injured, and you can also die in worst-case scenarios. Also, please read all the information in this article carefully, and then take the next step.

Vanessa Hopkins

Hi, I'm Vanessa. Long-time kayaker who's proud to be part of this community. I strive to provide our visitors with insightful guides with the aim to improve their kayaking experience. I've been working with SunshineKayaking for over 5 years, providing world-class services.

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