How to Empty a Capsized Kayak

Capsized KayakHave you ever had the misfortune of tipping your kayak in the water… with you in it? If you are wearing your lifejacket this is usually not that big of a deal. It can happen easily and if it does you need to know how to empty the water out of your overturned kayak. Just a little bit of extra water in your cockpit can greatly affect the balance of your boat and make it very difficult to paddle.

Hopefully you will be kayaking with a partner and will be able to get their assistance. We will go through the steps for emptying a kayak with help as well as having to empty it on your own. These steps can be applied to a hard-shell kayak or to an inflatable kayak. If you are paddling in an open style kayak it will be much easier to empty the water.

Emptying the Kayak with Assistance

The number one thing to remember while getting help emptying your kayak and getting back into it is to not capsize your friend as well. Then you will both be in trouble.

  • First the friend who is offering assistance should store both of the paddles until you are safely back into your kayak.
  • From there keep your kayak upside down. Hand the bow of your kayak to your friend and help him to lift it onto his own deck. The easiest way is likely for you to push the stern down while your friend hoists up the bow. If you are having trouble with this then turn the kayak on its side. It will be easier to life that way.
  • Once the bow of your kayak is up on your friends deck you want to make sure it is still upside down… the water needs to be able to flow away from the cockpit. It is helpful if your friend is able to lift the kayak up in the air.
  • Once the majority of the water has emptied from your kayak, your friend can turn it back upright and you can climb back in.

Note: If your kayak is too heavy to lift then the best thing to do is to climb back into your kayak an remove the water as best you can by using a pump or a bailer.

Emptying the Kayak by Yourself

If you are paddling alone it is essential that you have a paddle float with you. It is very possible to empty a capsized kayak on your own, but without a paddle float, the job becomes very difficult and sometimes scary.

  • First thing you want to do is attach your paddle float into your paddle and inflate it… make sure it is inflated completely.
  • Now place the bow of your kayak up against your shoulder (on your stronger side). Place the paddle against your other shoulder.
  • Firmly and quickly lift the kayak up in the air. At the same time pull the paddle down and/or kick yourself up with your feet so that you don’t get pulled down.
  • You may need to repeat this process a couple of times before the kayak is empty.

Once the kayak is mostly empty of water you can re-enter your kayak and get rid of the remaining water by using a bailer or a kayak bilge pump. Stay tuned for our next article (coming soon) that will explain exactly how to safely climb back into your kayak from the water.

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