Which Is Easier To Flip – Canoe Or Kayak?

Whether you’re using a canoe or a kayak, one of the biggest worries amongst beginners is having the boat capsize. Not only does that mean that you will go under the water, but it also means that whatever isn’t properly secured will fall out of the boat, plus everything will get wet. 

Therefore, it’s good to know, beforehand, which of the two types of boats is easier to flip, and is more likely to have you end up upside down and struggling. It’s usually down to the overall stability, but it can vary depending on different designs. 

However, overall, a kayak is much more likely, and a lot more prone, to flip over. So, to answer the specific question, the kayak is easier to flip than the canoe. 

But as we’ve said, there are different factors that go into the boat flipping over, depending on the design, so let’s look at that in more detail!

Why is the kayak easier to flip than the canoe?

Yes, the kayak is easier to flip than the canoe and will capsize a lot more often. But why? There has to be a reason, right? 

There is, and it is mainly the way in which both boats are differently designed. 

While both boats are designed for paddling along in the water, there are slight differences in the design of both. A kayak is designed to be fast and highly maneuverable, while the canoe has a lot more focus on being stable. 

This is why the canoe’s hull sits lower below the waterline, making it harder for it to come out of the water and capsize, turning over. Meanwhile, a kayak is higher up on the waterline, so that it can move a lot faster, but it risks tipping over and flipping a lot more often. 

This is the overall design of both boats. However, it can also depend on the specific design. So sometimes, a certain kayak could be harder to flip than a specific canoe, which breaks the general rule.

So if you want to know exactly how likely your boat is to flip, then you’ll have to check out the specifics of its design! 

How the design affects the ease of flipping:

Professionals usually prefer a kayak or canoe that can flip over easily, as it allows for more maneuverability and speed. But if you’re just starting out, you’ll probably prefer to have something a little more stable, so let’s look at how the design affects the probability of capsizing! 

The main factor that affects the stability of the kayak or canoe in question, is the shape of the hull. There are three main hull shapes, so let’s look at how they each affect stability:

Flat hulls:

These are the most stable of all hull designs, for both kayaks and canoes. They’re very good at resisting side-to-side movement, making them very unlikely to flip.

However, once they do start to flip, it’s very hard to recover, and you will capsize a lot easier. 

Round hulls:

This hull design allows the boat to move side-to-side very easily, making it ideal for fast and tighter turns. This also means that they are a lot easier to flip, and therefore could capsize a lot easier.

However, they are also easier to recover mid-flip so that you don’t necessarily fully capsize under. 

V-shape hulls:

The v-shape hull design is a sort of in-between design between flat and round. It’s usually one of the better options, as it allows for maneuverability and fast turns while offering better resistance to side-to-side movement, making the boat less likely to flip.

If you’re starting out with your kayak or canoe, we definitely recommend beginning with a flat hull, as it is the most stable design. And as you get better and better, you can switch to the round hull so that you can reap the higher maneuverability, as you’ll be a lot more confident in your abilities by then!  

What to do if your canoe or kayak flips:

Most beginners fear their canoe or kayak flipping, as it’s quite nerve-wracking to think of yourself as trapped in the boat while it’s upside down. But one of the first things you’ll learn is what happens when this occurs so that you’re always safe. 

As a heads up, we’ll explain some of the basics of what to do when this happens! 

What to do if your canoe capsizes:

  • When your canoe flips, you will likely be thrown off in the process. Try not to let go of the paddle, otherwise, it will be easily lost in the water. 
  • Swim towards the canoe immediately, so that you’re next to it and you don’t end up too far away due to the currents. 
  • Grab hold of the far side of the canoe and tug it towards you to flip it back upright. 
  • It will now be full of water, so the best thing to do is rock it from side to side so that the water gets thrown out. 
  • Then, carefully, climb back onto the canoe, and recover your appropriate seating position! Don’t forget to check for all your gear too. 

What to do if your kayak capsizes:

  • Capsizing in a kayak is a little trickier, as you’re seated inside it, and therefore you don’t usually fall out of it when it flips. But don’t worry, the first few sessions of kayak usually cover how to recover after it has capsized! 
  • As you fall into the water, try and move your paddle so that it is positioned parallel to the kayak. 
  • Once you’re underwater, upside down, turn the paddle and use it to reach for the surface, extending your arm outwards. 
  • Then, you use your hips to flip the kayak, and yourself, upwards again. It might take some swinging of the hips before you have enough strength to flip the kayak upright again. A fast, strong movement of the hips should do the trick. 

And that’s it! It takes some practice, especially with the kayak, but you’ll learn to do it in no time, and then it won’t seem as scary. 

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