Do kayaks flip over easily? Prevent a kayak from capsizes

I can totally relate to this question! I remembered the mixed feeling of the first time I planned to go kayaking. Exciting and anxiety are all over the place. You wish to have a good time on the water, on meanwhile, you have a big concern that you may flip your kayak and can not turn it back.

So, Does a kayak flip over easy? The short answer is: No, the kayak is not designed to flip. the chance that you will flip your kayak really depends on the two main factors: What’s the type of your kayak and what type of water are you going to paddle on.

If you plan to go kayaking on a relatively calm river with a recreational kayak, it’s extremely hard to flip unless you try it hard to. On the other hand, if you plan to go kayaking on a rapid water(whitewater) with your sea kayak or ultralight kayak, the chance that you’re going to flip your boat will increase rapidly accordingly.


You can not really prevent all the flip, but you can reduce enormously the chance of capsizing. 

In the rest of this post, I will show you “How to prevent your kayak from flipping.” I’ll explain it with some Youtube videos for reference. Some of the technique requires your time to practice, when you become good at it you won’t worry about capsizing anymore. 

Here are the four ways to prevent your kayak from capsizing. 

  • Pick the Right condition
  • Balance your kayak
  • Use the Low Brace
  • Use the High Brace

Pick the right condition

Avoid the inclement weather. Most of the time, weather condition plays a big role in kayak safety. If the wind blows strongly, the wave will be higher and you will more likely flip your kayak in this circumstance. Just try not to neglect the bad weather, you always have the next time.

Balance your kayak

Before you use your torso to balance the kayak, try to balance it in the first place by distributing your stuff equally. The weight should be distributed from length to length, width to width. Your kayak should be perfectly balanced when you are sitting straight up. When you do it right, it will make things easier, otherwise, you’ll keep yourself very busy to keep a simple balance on the water.

kayaking balance

Low Brace

The low brace is the best way to recover your balance easily without getting wet.

You can use a Low brace to prevent potential losing balance, because of the stroke is very fast and efficient. You should consider it to be your go-to move, your instinctive reaction when your kayak is about to flip.

Let’s break down the stroke. After reading the instructions you should go on and watch the Youtube video. And try to practice it in the shallow water over and over.

Quick note: Low brace is by simply pressing the paddle(or sweeping the blade) against the surface of the water to create a resistant enable you to recover.

The step by step is provided by (

  • First, we will take the correct posture. Keep the regular forward paddling grip of your paddle. Put the paddle close to your hip and check that the blade’s back face is pointing down on the side you are about to lean. This means that you have your elbows on that side quite high and knuckles are pointing downwards. If the kayak would be moving, you would also need to check that the blade’s edge that points towards is slightly elevated. This way, when you sweep it against the water, it will start to climb up to the surface instead of diving under the water.
  • To practice the low brace technique, lean to the side until you begin to fall over. After you have slightly lost your balance quickly push the blade down against the surface and simultaneously move your weight bravely on the paddle. Try to keep your paddle horizontal while bracing, since that way it will give you the best possible support. Your intuition might tell you to quickly bend your torso back on top of the kayak to recover the balance. But you are not on a solid ground so things work a little different. Basically, you twist your hip and push the deck with your knee to make the kayak tilt back upright.
  • Now the kayak starts to be back to its level position. The rotating force of it will assist you a little when you push your upper body back to balance. Think of it more as if the kayak would have slipped and you are trying to pull it back underneath you. Keeping your body close to the deck will also make things much easier.
  • Keep practicing and after a while, try to add a sweeping motion from back to forth and you will soon be able to brace for a lot longer. And remember to practice on both sides.

Keep practicing and repeating these movements until they become your second nature. Try to push your boat tilts further when you’re practicing. Don’t forget to practice on both sides, you won’t always flip on the same side.


High Brace

The high brace is typically the upgraded version of the low brace. When you tilt your kayak pretty far over to one side you may consider using a high brace instead of a low brace. It is definitely the most powerful recovery strokes.

It’s pretty much the same concept to the low brace that you use the power generated by the pushing blade against the surface of the water to provide energy for you to balance the kayak.

The main difference between these two braces is that when you do the high brace, you are under the paddle blade and pulling down for support, in the other hand, when you do the low brace, you are over the paddle blade and pushing down which is totally opposite. So prepared for lots of wet exits when you practice on a High brace.

Tip: The high brace can also be applied when you need to lean against a big wave that tries to push you over.

Let’s break down the stroke. After reading the instructions you should go on and watch the Youtube video. And try to practice it in the shallow water over and over.

The step by step practice is provided by (

  • For the beginning, keep the regular forward paddling grip of your paddle and keep the paddle close to your body. Note that you should be able to control the kayak precisely with your feet, so make sure that your knees touch the deck and heels are firmly against the bottom. This will also prevent you from falling out of the kayak while you are sideways in the water.
  • Lean to the side until you start to fall. Wind your upper body slightly so that you will turn your back a bit towards the surface. Winding your upper body this way allows you to use it later as a main force for the brace and also makes it possible to do a bigger sweep with your paddle.
  • Keep your paddle above the water. Wait until you splash against the surface and your upper body loses most of its momentum. This way all the little support that paddle brace can give is used for the recovery part instead of just slowing down the fall. Try also to keep the paddle as horizontal as possible and turn it so that the blade on the side you are falling in power face towards the water.
  • Since your hands and shoulders could be exposed to a heavy pressure in quite unusual positions, it is necessary to keep them as close to your body as possible. Start to unwind your upper body and pull the blade down against the surface. This will create a supporting force you can lean against. But since it is not going to last forever, you need to do the following steps quite fast.
  • When your upper body is half sunken into the water, it is also lighter and therefore doesn’t need so much support from your paddle brace. Now it is a good moment to straighten the kayak first. Keep your upper body in water and keep pulling the paddle against the water. Do the flick with your hips to push the kayak back upright.
  • After the kayak starts to balance, pull your upper body out of the water quickly and keep pressing the paddles down. Again, think of it more as if you were pulling the kayak back underneath you, rather than pushing yourself back over the kayak. Your head should come out of the water last. Since the operation is lighter if you can keep your body close to the kayak’s center, it is a good idea to lean toward the back deck if possible.
  • Sometimes the paddle stroke does not give you a brace that lasts long enough. What happens is that the support vanishes and the blade starts to sink under the water. Then you should quickly bring the blade up to the surface by slicing the blade through the water. After the blade is back to surface, start to sweep it horizontally back and forth against the surface and remember to keep the blade in a rising angle towards its direction. The principle of this technique is very much the same as when doing the sculling draw that is taught in chapter Moving sideways. Leaning towards the stern will make things easier. And if everything is done properly, you could continue sculling for as long as you like.
  • Keep practicing and fooling until you master the high brace well enough on both sides. High brace is also a big part of doing an Eskimo roll, so learning it next should not be too hard.

The high brace and the low brace are the essential techniques that will keep you from most of the flips. As you familiar with these techniques, when your boat starts to tilt, just planting a proper brace to support your hip snap and let your kayak back to balance.



Now you know the idea about how to prevent your kayak from flipping. I’m afraid that I have to tell you. You’ll definitely go to flip someday in the future. That’s part of the kayaking progress. Just keep practicing those techniques and you will be fine. 

You can also check my another post: Is There a Kayak that Never Tip Over?

I write this post based on my experiences and research most of the information on the internet. If you find anything is wrong or outdated. Please leave a comment below, I will update as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading, Happy Kayaking.



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5 years ago

WoW, detail explanation. =)

Eli Mcmullen
4 years ago

Thanks for mentioning that kayaking in poor weather conditions can cause your kayak to flip due to high waves. My wife and I would like to learn how to ride a kayak since my uncle gave us one for my birthday, but we are worried that our inexperience could make it difficult to remain safe when using it. Maybe we should find a kayak tour to help us ensure that we are safe.

Carlos Fernandez
Carlos Fernandez
3 years ago

The article is good, but I believe that the short answer is YES and should say so, to prevent people from finding this article on google and without reading saying “Oh it’s not easy to flip a kayak, I’ll just get one”.
Specially sit on top, sit ins are harder to flip, granted, but flip on top can flip just by looking behind you if you don’t learn to keep balance.

Jump Manual
3 years ago

I always emailed this weblog post page to all mmy contacts, since if like to read iit afterward myy contacts will too.

Thomas Clarence
2 years ago

Thank you for helping me to understand how to properly balance while riding a kayak. My wife and I are wanting to ride some kayaks this summer during our vacation. These tips you shared will help us make sure that we don’t tip over and fall in the water while on the kayaks.

1 year ago

I’ve been kayaking for over 20 years. I don’t white water kayak but I have never flipped over. Not once.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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