Can You Get Stuck Upside Down In A Kayak?

If it’s your first time kayaking, you might be worried about flipping and getting stuck upside down in one. So can you get stuck upside down in a a kayak? 

Can You Get Stuck Upside Down In A Kayak?

Simply put, it’s not easy to get stuck in a kayak in the first place. In other words, this means it’s tough to get entirely trapped in one. But why is that?

All kayaks for recreational, fishing, white water, etc., are designed, so they don’t flip over easily. So, there’s nothing to worry about despite what your instincts may tell you when you see a kayak or while you’re in one.

No, you can’t get stuck upside down in a kayak. But it would help you to know the factors that can cause a kayak to flip and how you can get yourself out if ever in that wet situation.

What Causes a Kayak to Flip?

The reasons behind a kayak flipping include two things: the waters and the type of kayak you’re inside.

The Waters

To no one’s surprise, whether the water is calm or hectic will determine how smooth of a kayaking experience you’ll have.

Meaning, kayaking on calm waters or inland lakes and rivers should be safe. That’s because still water bodies have a lower risk of facing high waves.

On the other hand, kayaking on sea waters or whitewater would most likely be dangerous. This is because you’d quickly encounter high tide waves and rough weather conditions. So, even though a sea kayak is made to withstand the stormy sea, it still might flip. 

Regardless, check the weather conditions where you’ve set out to kayak. Also, keep in mind the safety guidelines on how to rescue yourself if something happens.

The Type of Kayak

The engineering behind a kayak is a possible reason for it flipping over. There are two types of kayaks:

#1 Sit-on-Top or SOT Kayaks

As a paddler of a sit-on-top kayak, you’ll sit in the center. Your legs will be on either side, which helps stabilize your position. In addition, if the kayak flips over, you’ll fall out automatically. So, there’s no fear of being stuck at all.

SOT kayaks were made for recreational uses. In other words, the design allows them to remain stable in the face of strong waters. 

They have flat hulls, which make them difficult to tip over. Some SOT kayaks also come with foot support strategically placed on either side of a kayak. This helps to have better control of the watercraft while kayaking. 

#2 Sit-Inside or SIK Kayaks

Unlike a SOT kayak, the SIK’s hulls vary in shape and size. Because of this, the stability of a sit-inside kayak majorly depends on what the hull looks like.

Here’s what to remember: the longer or narrower the hull’s design is, the higher the risk is. This is why short, wide, or flat hulls are the safest bets.  

A paddler of a SIK kayak primarily uses his body to keep the watercraft stable. That’s because he’s seated inside with his lower half entrapped in the kayak’s skirt. 

While that may sound dangerous in a case of an overturn, it’s really not. You can easily detach the skirt when your kayak flips over and then wet exit the watercraft. 

The one downside to a sit-inside kayak is that they quickly fill up with water once they’ve flipped. This might make it harder to escape from the kayak. This is primarily why SOT kayaks are recommended more for beginners.

Can a Kayak Sink?

Potentially, yes. It takes a lot for a kayak to sink, though. In addition, sit-inside kayaks sink faster than sit-on-top ones. However, how fast a kayak will sink depends on the weight of your onboard luggage and whether your hull’s sealed or not.

Can a Sit-On-Top Kayak Sink?

SOT kayaks have sealed hulls that act as bulkheads. Due to this design, it’s hard for them to fill up with water and sink. SOT kayaks are also self-bailing rafts. Meaning, they have holes that automatically drain the water out to prevent sinking.

Can a Sit-Inside Kayak Sink?

Sit-inside kayaks sink easier because not all of them come with sealed hulls or bulkheads. As a result, water can quickly fill up the kayak’s cockpit and its hull, eventually causing the kayak to sink.

How to Stop a Sit-Inside Kayak From Sinking

Your sit-inside kayak comes with hatches in its hull. These hatches can act as storage spaces and be filled. As a result, they’ll act as air-tight bulkheads that make the kayak more buoyant and reduce the risk of it sinking.

To achieve the same results, and as an added measure, you can also fill the kayak’s bow and stern with foam.

How to Safely Escape Your Upside Down Kayak

Let’s say your kayak still ends up flipping over. While the image may seem frightful, there’s no need to panic. Remember, if there’s a way in, there’s a way out.

Each kayak has its own escaping method you should use in the event of a capsize.

How to Safely Escape a SOT Kayak

There are three steps to do this:

1. Flip the kayak back. It may seem counter-intuitive, but this step is crucial. Because water will fill the cockpit as long as the kayak stays flipped, so you need to adjust it back.

2. Make sure your personal flotation device or PFD is secured. Your kayak can float, so stay close to it. Tuck your knees in and have your legs facing away from you. This way, you can protect yourself from incoming obstacles.

3. At this point, you can wait for the waters to settle, or you can get back on your kayak. You can do that by propping yourself up, face down, on your seat. Make sure everything’s stable before sitting again.

How to Safely Escape a SIK Kayak

A SIK kayak requires more experience and practice to get out of or get back on safely. Here’s what you should attempt to do:

1. The first step is always to flip the kayak back. Do this to avoid water filling up the cockpit

2. Grab hold of the opposite side of the kayak and tuck your body close to the watercraft. Start with your legs and lift your body back up on the kayak

3. Once the water has calmed down, slide back into your seat and kayak back to shore. That’s because you’ll need to empty the kayak of any water that made it inside and before it’s safe to ride in again


Can you get stuck upside down in a kayak? No, it isn’t very likely. 

The reality is that it’s harder to get in a kayak than it is to get out of one. 

Put simply, you shouldn’t fear getting stuck. If you practice getting out beforehand, you won’t panic as much when it happens.

Finally, make sure you understand the mechanisms of your kayak before you set out. In addition, take the proper measures to prevent your kayak from sinking.

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