Learning how to get back onto your Sit-on-top (SOT) kayak is an essential skill to have if you going kayak fishing or touring. While it is easy to discount the importance of this skill, given how stable most SOT kayaks are, capsizes do happen and having the skills to remount will reduce the time you spend in the water. Read on and learn a couple of methods you can use to get back on your kayak.
The first time you capsize for real you will get a surprise. It is important that you remember to keep a hold of your paddle and your kayak. If you do not, you could quickly find yourself in trouble. In a moderate breeze, your kayak will blow away faster than you can swim. Practice capsizing in a calm and sheltered area. During this practice, you can work on holding onto your paddle as you capsize. Once you have surfaced beside your kayak, reach out with one hand and grab your kayak. Your other hand stays on the paddle shaft. Most kayaks will have multiple places you can hold onto; the side carry handles and seat straps are usually the best grab points.
Right the Kayak
Many kayaks are easy to flip the right way up again. Reach under the kayak and grab the two side carry handles; one with each hand. In a quick motion, pull the furthermost hand towards you and push up and away with the closest hand. This will turn the kayak the right way up again. Another option is to reach over the kayak and hold onto the side carry handle (or other suitable grip). Lean back and use your body weight to pull the kayak up the right way.
Some kayaks are more difficult to flip due to their width and/or extra gear carried on the kayak. If this is the case you may need to use a flip line to assist you. Clip a line onto one side carry handle and throw this over to the far side of your kayak. Swim around to the far side of the kayak and grab onto the flip line. Move your hands along the line as you lean back into the water. You will reach a point where your body weight will begin the pull the kayak over the right way. Keep your feet planted on the kayak and keep leaning back until the kayak is upright.
- Keep paddle between kayak and your body if it is not on a leash
- If you are moving around the kayak, ensure you keep a hold of the kayak so yu do not become separated.
- When pulling the kayak over to right it, ensure it doesn't land on your head!
Slide and Swivel
The quickest method to get back onto your kayak involves sliding over your kayak and swiveling into your seat.
Begin this from the center of your kayak. Kick your legs so they rise to the surface. Reach across the kayak with one hand and pull your body over the kayak. The more you try to pull up, the more the kayak will tip. Stay low and slide over the kayak. If there are any waves try and use these to your advantage; time your movements to coincide with assistance given by the rise and fall of the waves.
You are aiming to reach a point where your belly button is over the front and center of your seat.This position will feel more stable and sets you up for the next step; moving into a seated position.
Place your hand closest to the seat on the far side of the kayak. Your other hand goes on the closest side of the kayak, forward of the seat. Slightly lift your body off the kayak and swivel into a seated position as you do this. You should finish sitting sideways in your seat.
Complete the move by swiveling into your normal paddling position.
- Kick your feet until they rise to the surface of the water. Don't begin sliding until this point.
- Stay low
- If you feel 'stuck' as soon as your chest begins to move over the kayak, your PFD may be causing resistance and preventing further movement. At this point, a slight lift of your upper body will allow you to keep moving.
- Break it down into a series of moves to start with. Work towards it becoming a fluid movement over time.
For some people, or in certain situations, the slide and swivel method may not work. If you need an alternative method for getting back onto your kayak, using a paddle float is an option to try. Paddle floats come in two styles; foam and inflatable. While foam floats do not pack down the way inflatable ones do, they will still work, even if they receive a small hole. So, these are a good choice for those fishing from their kayaks. For the method described below, you will also need a length of cord that has a carabiner attached to one end and a loop in the other. The total length of this is around 2.5m (from the end of the loop to the end of the 2nd loop).
Slide your paddle float over one blade and fasten the straps that keep the float on the paddle blade. Flip the kayak over using any of the methods described above.Then set up your paddle so it is secured to the kayak with one end of the paddle extending out to the side. One method is to use a length of cord that has a large carabiner on one end. The paddle can be clipped to a side carry handle and the cord pulled under the kayak to the other side carry handle. Wrap the cord around both the handle and the paddle shaft to keep the paddle in place. Let the rest of the cord hang into the water.
Position yourself beside the paddle and place your foot into the loop in the cord. Your goal is to slide your torso onto the seat, similar to the slide and swivel method, so the side of the paddle that you are on will depend on where you can secure your paddle to the kayak. Step up using the foot loop like a step. You will probably find the loop is too low and will not let you get enough elevation to get over the edge of the kayak. To shorten, remove your foot from the loop and wrap the cord around the paddle shaft a couple more times. Repeat until the loop allows you to stand up high enough that you can get onto the kayak.
Once you have straightened your leg, you should be able to simply fall forward and land with your torso on the kayak. You should now be able to swivel onto a seat position as described in the 'Slide & Swivel' method. The final step is to disassemble the cord and remove the paddle float.
- Ensure that you know where your paddle float and cord stirrup are located on your kayak. Do not store them in a hatch as you need to be able to easily access them in the event of a capsize.
The slide and swivel method is quicker and simpler, so keep practicing this method until you can do it quickly and with minimal effort. But, using a paddle float is a backup method should you be too tired or if you are injured and cannot use the swivel and slide option. Just keep in mind that the rougher the water, the more difficult the paddle float method becomes.