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Can My Kayak Sink?

Kayak Sink

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Kayaking is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable ways to explore the great outdoors. Kayaking on the waterways is fun, good exercise and a great way to discover the natural beauty of the world around you. However, while you are out on the water, particularly if it is rough or you are going through heavy waves, you do run the risk of your kayak capsizing or even sinking! At that point you may be asking yourself can my kayak sink?

If your kayak sinks you could find yourself in real trouble, even if you are a strong swimmer. You may lose valuable items that were stored in the kayak and might find your own life is in peril!

So, can your kayak sink? Unfortunately, the answer is yes!

Understand your Environment – what you need to know

Before you go kayaking, and while you are on the water, be sure to stay aware of the conditions around you. This means paying attention to changing weather, water currents and rocks that might pose a risk to your vessel. If you are at sea kayaking it is especially vital to check the weather forecasts before you go and to stay extremely vigilant to maintain your own safety. Pay attention to changing water currents, large waves and the direction of the wind at all times.

How likely is it that you will capsize or sink your kayak?

Generally speaking kayaking is a very safe activity but you still need to be careful and keep your wits about you. While you are kayaking on a lake or swimming pool your chances are very small of sinking but when you are on whitewater (rapids) or out at sea then the risk of sinking is much higher.

To help yourself respond quickly and without panicking you should prepare yourself mentally for the possibility that you may capsize or that your kayak might sink. Being prepared for the possibility in advance will help you to react faster and ensure your own safety, which should always be your the primary concern.

However, do not let the fear of the kayak sinking put you off! The probability of this happening is fairly low and if you take active steps to avoid it you should have nothing to fear. Kayaks are well designed and built in such a way that their sinking is not very likely.

How does a Kayak Sink?

Your kayak will sink if you take in too much water. This can be caused by waves crashing over the side in the ocean or by heavy rainfall. Once the kayak becomes sufficiently filled with water it will lose its buoyancy and go under the water, taking you with it!

How do you stop your kayaking from sinking?

There are several ways that you can guard against the possibility of your kayak sinking. The easiest method is to use a bilge to remove excess water that builds up in the bottom of your kayak. If you keep on top of the situation this may well suffice, particularly if you are kayaking with a partner.

Bulkheads are essential for Sea Kayaking

If you are using a sit-in kayak then you can install bulkheads to stop you from sinking. This is a very effective method to avoid losing buoyancy, even on rough waters. A bulkhead is essential for sea kayaking because it creates separate compartments in the kayak meaning that even if your kayak gets swamped with water there is still a layer of air within the bulkhead that will keep the kayak floating, and therefore avoiding sinking, no matter what.

Scupper Holes

If you are using a sit-in kayak it may well have been designed with scupper holes. These allow excess water to flow out of the hull and act in a similar way to bulkheads. If the kayak also has sealed hatches at the front and back these will act as flotation aids and stop your kayak from going under.

Always check your kayak before heading out to make sure it is in good working order.

It’s important to do a quick check before you head out onto the water to make sure that your kayak has not been cracked or damaged since you last used it. A simple look over the kayak will suffice but nonetheless, it is essential to help to ensure your safety.

Spray Skirts are an Invaluable solution

You can also use a spray skirt to stop your kayak filling up with water and potentially sinking. A spray skirt is a tight neoprene or nylon cover that you can wear around your waist and attach the edges to your kayak’s rim to keep the water from getting in. It’s a simple solution that is very commonly used, particularly in sea kayaking or white water rapids. This should certainly stop you from sinking and will also keep things underneath it dry, such as food and other supplies.

General Safety Tips

It’s always best to be prepared for the worst while hoping for the best! Never leave your own personal safety to chance, particularly if you are navigating new waters or are out at sea.

  • Always be sure that you and all your party are wearing life jackets, even if you are strong swimmers.
  • Check the weather forecast before you head out and wear clothes that are appropriate for the conditions.
  • Wear a helmet. This will stop you hitting your head and falling unconscious in an accident.
  • Tell somebody you can trust when you expect to be back. When you do return, give them a quick call to let them know you are okay. If they don’t hear from you then they can raise the alarm for you.
  • Needless to say, you should never drink alcohol while kayaking.


Kayaking is a Safe Sport but it’s always good to be cautious about the risks.

There are risks involved with every activity in life however, with a little common sense and some good forward planning you can successfully mitigate the dangers. Kayaking is a wonderful sport that you can enjoy with friends, family and loved ones, but whenever you go out on the water take care to be as safe as you can.

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Can my kayak sink?


Photo by Dimitar Janevski from FreeImages

Kayak Sink

Can My Kayak Sink?

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