The Wet Exit
When a kayaker flips over in a kayak and has to get out of the kayak whilst still in the water it is called a wet exit.
The wet exit is a great skill that will not only teach you how to get out of your boat safely when you flip. It will also help you get used to being under water in a kayak. Which will help you a lot when you come to learning other skills such a freestyle tricks and the kayak roll.
Theres loads of different ways to get out of the kayak and in the end it doesn’t matter which one you use as they all work. Heres our favourites.
How to practice a Wet Exit on the bank
First lets practice getting out of your boat on the bank.
1. Sit upright in a good kayaking position in your kayak on a safe point on the bank.
2. Place your hands on the cockpit plastic by your hips.
3. Let your legs relax in the boat, letting your knees release slightly from the thigh grips.
4. Push down on the plastic by your hips with your hands and use this pressure to slide yourself out of the boat.
Imagine your boat is a pair of pants and you are simply taking them off.
5. Practice this until you are happy sliding out of your kayak.
How to do a Wet Exit on the water
Next lets try the wet exit without your spray skirt on the water. Make sure someone is standing next to you that can help you out if you need them.
1. Hand paddle out in the water and practice just tipping over and getting the feeling of falling out of your kayak as well as getting used to the feeling of water going everywhere when you fall in.
2. Use the same technique to slide out of the boat as you did on the bank.
3. Practice again. This time tucking forwards and then sliding out as this gets you in a better position allowing you to grab your skirt grab loop. It also is a better position for your head as your helmet will protect you from any rocks under the water. If you lean back your face becomes a little exposed.
Gravity will help as you just slide out of your boat.
How to practice a Wet Exit with a spray skirt on the bank
Again lets start by practising on the bank.
1. Sit in your boat with your spray skirt on.
Always make sure that the grab loop is outside the spray skirt, rather than tucked underneath.This is your lifeline, it is the most important thing to check.
2. Practice leaning forward, pulling the skirts grab loop forward, up and back to take the skirt off the boat,
3. Then pull your knees out from under the thigh hooks (into the middle of the cockpit rim)
4. Place your hands on the cockpit rim on both sides of your body and push the boat away from you as you slide out of it. Just as you did in exercise 1.
5. Next get back in the boat with the skirt on.Close your eyes and run your hands forward on the cockpit rim to find grab loop several times with your eyes closed.
If you ever can’t find the grabloop for some reason, you can actually just grab the side of the skirt near your knees/hips and pull it away and off the cockpit rim. Practice that on dry land too 🙂
6. Practise until you are happy finding the spray skirt grab loop and taking it off from lots of different positions.
How to do a Wet Exit with a spray skirt on the water
Now its time to try the wet exit with your spray skirt on the water. Make sure someone is standing next to you that can help you out if you need them.
1. Get in your boat with the skirt on and the grab loop is out and float out somewhere safe near shore.
2. Check with your paddle to make sure it’s deep enough to flip (4 feet deep ish)
3. Take a deep breath and flip over leaning forward.
4. Just like you practiced on dry land, run your hands forward on the skirt or along the edge of the cockpit rim to find the grab loop. Once you have it, pull it forward, up and then back away from the cockpit rim.
5. Now you can go back to doing the rest of the Wet Exit you have already practised. Pull your knees into the middle of the boat, then just push the boat off your legs like taking off a pair of pants, as you fall out of the boat into the water. EASY 🙂
6. Now pull your boat back to shore, and practice emptying your boat, as taught in an earlier page on this site.
7. Practice this a few times, then practice hanging out under water for longer before wet exiting to help push your comfort zone a bit and become more relaxed underwater.
8. Have a go at flipping whilst lying in different positions so you can get used to having to lean forward and then find your sprayskirt grab handle.
9. Have a go at flipping over. Then whilst under the water reach under to the bottom of your kayak and tap 3 times on the hull (bottom of your kayak) with your hands. Then bring your hands back under the water. Find your spray skirt grab handle and perform the wet exit.
By tapping on the bottom of the boat you alert everyone around you that you have flipped. This is a great habit to get into as its draws attention straight to you so everyone can come and give you some help.
9. Fantastic you can now do a full wet exit.
Remember if you are wearing a spray skirt to always make sure the grab loop is out!
If you ever can’t find your grab handle. Just got back to finding your cockpit rim and follow it to the front of your cockpit. Thats where your spray deck grab handle is.
Practice these exercises with a friend who can be on standby as safety in case you need any help.
If you’ve never been upside down in a kayak and think that you might get stuck, relax don’t worry that’s a totally normal feeling. You will soon see that it’s actually REALLY easy to get out of your kayak when it’s upside down. This boats are designed for easy exit. You will find you pretty much just fall out.
When you start to learning this skill it may feel like you are under water for a longtime but don’t worry, your not. The average time from flip to breathing again is generally only about 3 seconds and we can all hold our breathe much longer than that.
Once you have mastered the wet exit you can have a lot of fun hanging out upside down for awhile after flipping over before wet exiting. Which will help you build your confidence with being underwater.