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Kayak Wet Exit Mastery | Your Ultimate Beginner's Guide

By: Dave Samuel
Updated On: January 24, 2024

I know you've been there — heart pounding, palms sweating as the water creeps over the edge of your kayak. It's inevitable; we all will, at some point, face a situation where we need to exit our kayak in deep water.

Don't fret! Mastering a kayak wet exit is an unbeatable skill that can turn potential panic into clockwork precision. This article will provide you with key safety techniques and essential knowledge you need for acing this maneuver.

Have you ever wondered what the odds are of kayaking safely, even when capsized? Well, by understanding and becoming proficient at the kayak wet exit, you considerably enhance your water safety skills.

Think of it as an emergency exit on dry land, but in this case, it is geared towards paddle sport safety enthusiasts like yourself, giving you comfort and confidence during your aquatic adventures.

Here’s What You'll Discover Here:

  • Detailed explanation about what a Kayak wet exit truly entails.
  • Critical steps to preparing for and executing a successful Kayak wet exit.
  • Guidelines on staying calm during a Kayak wet exit situation.
  • Essential tips on proper equipment handling before, during, and after performing a Kayak wet exit.
  • Specific drills are designed for perfecting the skill alone or in groups.

Knowledge of the Kayak Wet Exit

Before I dive into the details of executing a successful kayak wet exit, let me first define what it is and why it's so important to master this maneuver. So, let's jump right in.

Knowledge of the Kayak Wet Exit

A Kayak Wet Exit: What Is It?

So, what exactly is a kayak wet exit? As intimidating as it might sound, a kayak wet exit is nothing more than a term used in paddle sport safety to describe the act of safely exiting your kayak when it capsizes or flips over underwater.

Now, I can hear you asking yourself, "Why on earth would my kayak flip over?"
Well, my friends, whether we like it or not, the sea or river doesn't always play fair, and in such instances, knowing how to make an emergency kayak exit becomes crucial for your safety.

Here are the basic steps of a kayak wet exit:

  • The moment you realize your kayak has tipped over underwater
  • You lean forward slightly towards your boat deck
  • You slap your hands onto the sides of the boat
  • Pushing yourself out from under

Importance of Mastering the Kayak Wet Exit

Still wondering why mastering this kayaking essential is necessary? Let me explain.

I've been fortunate enough to meet countless paddling enthusiasts during my time kayaking and let me tell you something - even experienced paddlers have had their share of unexpected capsizes. That’s why everyone should know about these water rescue skills.

Here are some reasons why mastering a kayak wet exit should be on top of your list:

  1. Enhances Safety: It's always better to be safe than sorry! Knowing how to execute a correct and efficient kayak wet exit can significantly reduce the chances of accidents.
  2. Boost Confidence: Once you're well-equipped with this skill, you can paddle through those waves with increased confidence.
  3. Saves Valuable Time: In case of an accident, a smoothly executed kayak wet exit means less time underwater and more time to reach safety.

Becoming familiar and comfortable with this technique will allow you to enjoy better the joyous experience that kayaking can be without the fear of unexpected capsizes hanging over your head. And remember, practice makes perfect!

Also Read: Unveiling What Paddle Boards are Made Of: An Expose

How to Get the Best Wet Exit in Your Kayak?

Mastering the kayak wet exit is no small feat, but with due diligence and practice, anyone can attain fluidity in adopting this crucial skill. The guide will walk you through two significant steps: Preparation for and execution of a kayak wet exit.

Preparation for a Kayak Wet Exit

Understanding your equipment and practicing in simulated situations can be key to mastery of this paddle sport safety move. Here are my tips on preparing:

  • Familiarize yourself with your Kayak: Knowing your craft is paramount. Understand its weight, balance, and how easily (or not) it fits upside down.
  • Understand the Cockpit Rim: This is where you’ll be making your kayak wet exit; practice gripping it.
  • Get Comfortable Being Upside Down Underwater: Remember that during a real-world kayak wet exit situation, you’ll be unexpectedly flipped over; practice holding calm under this circumstance.
  • Have Suitable Gear On Wearing a helmet is always advisable for protection. Don’t forget to wear proper footwear for protection against sharp objects underwater in case you have to walk or swim.

Having an intimate knowledge of all these kayaking essentials drastically reduces panic during an emergency kayak exit.

Executing the Kayak Wet Exit

Now that we’re prepared, let’s talk about execution. It could feel counterintuitive to flip oneself upside-down underwater, but mastering these water rescue skills will ensure your safety on all subsequent trips:

  1. Lean Forward: Tuck as forward as possible once overturned to protect your head from any potential underwater objects
  2. Grip onto Cockpit Rim: Find the cockpit's rim with both hands - one hand towards the bow (front) and another towards the stern (back).
  3. Push & Exit: Push off from this grip while bringing your knees closer together - this will help release you from the kayak.
  4. Swim Upwards: Once clear from the vessel, leave your paddle and swim to the surface.

Common mistakes that beginners make include panicking and not leaning forward; both can increase risks during a kayak wet exit. Staying calm and adopting a defensive posture ensures your safety in such situations.

Remember, like any other skill, perfecting a kayak wet exit requires patience and regular practice. Use available resources such as calm bodies of water or swimming pools to practice these steps until you're confident enough to implement them in more challenging environments.

Also Read: River vs Sea Kayaking: Your Ultimate Comparison

Safety Measures during a Kayak Wet Exit

Kayaking essentials like the kayak wet exit require a sharp sense of focus, especially when you're out there on the water and find yourself in an unpredicted, topsy-turvy situation.

Executing a kayak wet exit successfully is more than just about the technique— it’s also about maintaining your calm and handling your equipment right. Let’s break this down step-by-step.

Staying Calm During a Kayak Wet Exit

In any emergency situation, be it on land or water, panic is often our first response. But when you are out there in your kayak, and something goes wrong, panic is not an option. It can blur your judgment and make things worse.

  • First off, remind yourself that capsizing is part of kayaking. It happens even to experienced riders.
  • Practice controlled breathing—it sounds simple, but trust me, maintaining steady breaths can help curb panic substantially.
  • Go over the steps for executing the kayak wet exit in your mind ahead of time so you're confident about what to do if you topple over.
  • Visualize achieving a successful exit from a capsized kayak before hitting the water- seeing success in my mind has always calmed me down extensively.

Proper Equipment Handling

Next up: equipment handling - another key factor in ensuring that your wet exit goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Helmets should be tightly fitted so they don't come off during the rush of water.
  • Holding onto your paddle while exiting is one rule that's etched into my brain - it's not only useful for swimming back but also can signal help if needed.
  • Let go of unnecessary gear - it's okay to lose some items rather than jeopardize safety attempting to secure non-essential belongings under anxious circumstances.

Remember: Safety always comes first! Hold onto what helps, and let the rest go. Smart equipment handling contributes to a successful kayak wet exit maneuver.

Also Read: Kayaking Apps: Your Best Digital Paddling Guide

Drills for Practicing Kayak Wet Exit

Drilling the kayak wet exit technique is a great way to ensure you're prepared when this essential water rescue skill is needed. There are several solo and group drills that will not only help you master the technique but also instill confidence when performing a real-life emergency kayak exit.

Drills for Practicing Kayak Wet Exit

Solo Drill

Solo drills are an excellent starting point for practicing your kayak wet exit. Here's how you can drill the maneuver on your own:

  1. Position your kayak in shallow water: Start by taking your kayak into shallow water, where you can easily touch the ground with your feet. The idea here is to make the drilling safe while also practicing under somewhat realistic circumstances.
  2. Secure your spray skirt: After positioning yourself properly, put on and secure your spray skirt. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with its feel and confirm it's properly attached.
  3. Tip the kayak: Now comes the exciting part - tipping over! Lean towards one side till the kayak flips over completely, and you find yourself upside down in the water.
  4. Perform wet exit: Once upside down, sweep off or pull up on the grab loop of your spray skirt to release it from the coaming (rim) of your cockpit. Then, slide your body out of the cockpit onto open water safely without hitting anything with a paddle or losing any gear.

Group Drill

Group drills are an amazing way to simulate real-world kayaking incidents while staying safe through mutual aid among team members involved in paddle sport safety training sessions:

  1. Formation drilling: Gather a group of fellow kayakers (3-5 people work well). Forming a tight formation will help everyone pay attention as each person takes their turn tipping over and performing their wet exit.
  2. Spotting drills: One person stays in the water as a designated "spotter" to observe each person's wet exit on a turn basis. They'll look for any inconsistencies or inaccuracies in performance while providing live feedback and tips for performance improvement.
  3. Rescue drills: After mastering the basic wet exit technique, escalating practice difficulty with ‘rescue drills’ is a good way to simulate rescue situations. In this drill, one person purposefully misperforms their kayak wet exit by pretending they can’t free their skirt or losing grip of their paddle after exiting, and it’s up to the rest of the group to safely recover him/her back into an upright position along with their gear.

These group-shared learning sessions not only enhance individual understanding but also strengthen the team’s overall kayak safety techniques capacities, ensuring safer kayaking experiences for everyone involved in the long run.

Remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to mastering kayaking essentials such as the kayak wet exit, so have patience with your progress, and don't forget safety should always be the first priority! Happy paddling!


What is the purpose of mastering the kayak wet exit?

The main purpose of mastering the kayak wet exit is to ensure your safety when kayaking. Given unpredictable water conditions or potential emergencies, knowing how to execute a controlled and swift exit from an overturned kayak can be a literal lifesaver.

Are there ways you could harm yourself while executing this maneuver?

Yes, there are potential risks during a kayak wet exit. If executed incorrectly or in panic, you might hit parts of your body against the boat or become disoriented underwater. That's why learning correct techniques and practicing calmness are essential.

Are there ideal water conditions for practicing wet exits?

Yes, calm and shallow waters without strong currents are ideal for practicing this technique. Always practice under supervision if you're still learning to improve safety measures during these paddle sport safety drills.


So, what have we learned about the kayak wet exit? It's a crucial safety maneuver that every kayaker, especially those still getting the hang of the sport, needs to master. Knowing how to safely perform a kayak wet exit can mean the difference between a minor scare and a dangerous situation.

Meticulous preparation and correct equipment handling, complemented by calmness, provide a valuable foundation for this skill. Performing solo and group drills will undoubtedly help you become more comfortable with wet exits in actual kayaking sessions.

Key Takeaway Points

  • A successful kayak wet exit begins with a comprehensive understanding and sufficient practice.
  • Staying composed during an emergency contributes greatly to your safety.
  • Proper equipment familiarity prevents panic in real-life situations.
  • Regularly executing drills fosters confidence in performing this essential maneuver.

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