How to do a Kayak Wet Exit

No matter what type of kayaking you do or what kayak you have, it is a good idea to practice what to you if you capsize (tip over). The benefits are immeasurable.

When you are first getting the hang of the wet exit do so in calm water, close to shore and start off without a spray skirt. Some clubs and shops will also have pool sessions that allow kayakers to practice skills in a more "controlled" environment.

If you are paddling a kayak without a skirt the wet exit is fairly simple. If you don't pop right out of your boat then simply put your knees together, place your hands on the cockpit rim by your hips, and push the boat off like a pair of pants.

In the case that you are wearing a skirt the wet exit changes a little bit. First, always ensure the grab loop is out and that you can easily reach it. The grab loop acts as your eject button. Once you find yourself overturned in your kayak while wearing your skirt, the first thing to do will be locate the grab loop by leaning forward. Once you find the grab loop pull it toward the bow of your kayak by extending your arms away from you then pull up. Leaning forward while holding the loop frees the skirt from underneath the cockpit rim so it will come off easier.  Third put your knees together, tuck your chin and push the boat off like a pair of pants. You are out! 

Pro Tip: Some kayaks have a sharp more pronounced cockpit rim that can be trickier when removing the skirt. Shallow rounded cockpit rims are easier to remove the skirt. Check your kayak to figure out what one you have.

Sometimes when overturned paddlers become disorientated and may have a hard time locating the grab loop. If this happens there are a couple of ways to exit the kayak without using the grab loop.

1.) If you are wearing a skirt that isn't neoprene, coated nylon or laminate, simply bend a knee and the skirt will pop right off since these materials don't stretch. 

2.) If you are wearing a neoprene skirt and can't locate the grab loop, grab the side of the skirt from underneath the cockpit rim by your hip. There is the least amount of tension here and you can yank the skirt of that way.

3.) Depending on your skirt fit and the tension in the deck, you can also grab two handfuls of skirt material over your lap and pull the skirt off that way.

Some things to remember while practicing or if a capsize happens "for real":

  • Stay Calm
  • Take a breath before you end up in the water
  • If the water is cold try and hit the water with the back of your head

Its a good idea to practice the wet exit no matter your experience level, especially if you purchase a new skirt or a new kayak. You don't want any surprises when you need to execute the skill for real. *If you are practicing the skill for the first time, have a buddy with you just in case you need a hand.