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How to Wet Exit a Kayak

The Wet Exit is one of the first maneuvers a beginning sit-inside kayaker needs to learn. This applies to touring, sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking boats. If you’re in a sit-on-top or inflatable kayak, if you flip you’ll just naturally fall out.

In a sit-inside boat you’ll often be wearing a sprayskirt. When putting the skirt on the cockpit rim, be sure the grab loop, or “ripcord,” is exposed on the outside of the skirt. Having it tucked inside the boat where you can’t grab it to release the skirt can cause a panicked reaction!

It’s important to practice the wet exit because while it isn’t difficult to master, until you’ve done it, you’ll always be nervous about flipping your boat. When you do flip over, tuck forward on the deck, grasp the ripcord and pull it to release the sprayskirt from the cockpit coaming.

Ideally, you’ll hold onto your paddle with one hand, or tuck it under your arm to keep it under your control. When you pop the skirt, you’ll move your hands back toward your hips and while still leaning forward, push yourself out. You’ll end up doing a bit of a forward roll out of your boat.

The trickiest part of this maneuver is fighting the instinct to lean back as you get out of the boat. The problem with leaning back is it lifts your butt off the seat and presses your thighs against the thigh hooks, which only slows you down.

The whole wet exit process only takes a few seconds. When you pop up to the surface, get ahold of your boat and paddle and get ready to go to the next stage: getting back into your boat.

Not having to wet exit and go through the hassle of righting the boat and clambering back aboard is great incentive for practicing and perfecting your kayak roll!