Luckily, getting out of a capsized kayak is usually almost automatic. But learning to do it calmly and without losing hold from your paddle or kayak needs a little practice.
You should know how to act underwater or swim with the kayak especially if you want to practice Eskimo rolls, braces, or other things where getting wet is inevitable.
Remember that getting out of the capsized kayak takes only a few seconds so you don’t have to be a diving master. But always have a friend nearby just in case. Also, check that the water is deep enough so that you won’t be banging your head to the bottom.
First, it might be a good idea to practice without a spray skirt, but now we are going to see how things are done with the skirt.
Check that the spray skirt’s handle is at your reach. Push your knees tightly against the deck so that you are able to sit tightly even after the kayak capsizes. Hold the paddle with a normal paddling grip. Breathe in and lean slightly to the side until you capsize.
First, try to stay calm and orientate.
If you have friends nearby you can try to get help from them. Put your paddle between your hands and your stomach so that it does not float away. Bang the bottom of the kayak to get the attention of other paddlers and start waving your hands above the surface. If your friend would be fast enough, he could bring his kayak’s bow to your reach and you could pull yourself up by holding it. This method is called an assisted Eskimo rescue and it is probably the easiest way to rescue yourself.
But most likely you don’t have the time nor patience to wait until your friend’s arrival so you need to get out.
When you feel ready to exit the kayak, place the paddle securely to your lap, grab the spray skirt’s handle and pull the skirt off.
» If for some reason the handle would have been accidentally left inside the spray skirt, you could remove the skirt just by grabbing straight from the edge of it and pulling. Usually, the best place for this is at the side.
Place the paddle securely between your hands, take a firm grip from the cockpit coaming and lift yourself out to either side of the kayak. Try to keep your head as close to the surface as possible. This way you won’t accidentally hit your head. Leave at least your feet inside the cockpit since in rough weather losing your kayak or paddle could cause problems.
If you are forced to swim with the kayak it is usually a good idea to keep it upside down. This way the air that is trapped inside the kayak will prevent the kayak from sinking and the waves will not splash extra water inside the cockpit. If for some reason you have lost hold of your kayak or your paddle, reach to your kayak first and then look for your paddle. The reason for this is that the wind and waves will push the kayak further quite easily, but most likely your paddle will stay at its place.
The best way to swim with the kayak is by pulling it. First, grab the kayak from its bow and put the paddle to that same hand. The swimming technique doesn’t really matter.
Swimming with the kayak is hard even in the good weather and there might not be any land nearby. Therefore it is essential to also learn other methods to rescue yourself. One good rule of thumb is that you should never abandon your kayak since – even if it would be half-sunken – it will keep you above the surface and spotting a kayak out of the water is much easier compared to a lonesome swimmer.