Wet Exit

Practice getting out of your kayak when it is upside down so you can calmly exit your kayak when you capsize.

It is essential that you can remove your spray skirt while upside down.


  • Every time you put your skirt on, check that the grab handle is outside the skirt and hasn’t been caught between the skirt and the deck.
  • Underwater, place your hands on the edge of the cockpit near your waist.
  • Run your hands toward the front of the skirt until both hands come to the grab handle.
  • Push the grab handle away from you, break the seal and release the skirt.
  • Roll your body forward. Twist slightly to one side and you will surface next to the kayak.
  • Grab hold of the cockpit or decklines so that you stay in contact with your kayak. 

Practice drills

To practice wet exits:

  • Make sure the water is deep enough and that you are close to shore.
  • Always have someone else in the water to assist you.
  • Sit in your kayak, make sure your skirt grab handle is within reach, lock your knees under the deck, take a breath and lean to one side until you roll over.
  • Once upside down, take stock of things and calmly run through the wet exit routine.

 When you have mastered wet exiting you can practice it without using the grab handle:

  • Grab the skirt material in front of your waist.
  • Bunch it up and pull the skirt away from the kayak until you break the seal.
  • You may then need to run your hand between the coaming and the skirt to fully remove the skirt.


There are a few risks to consider when wet exiting, including:

  • Water depth.
  • Spray skirt handle must be accessible.
  • A different skirt or boat might have a tighter fit.
  • In surf keep your body and head leaning forward to reduce the chance of hitting the bottom.
  • In surf or windy conditions try to come up on the ocean or windward side to avoid being hit by the kayak.

Common mistakes

The most common mistake is pushing yourself out of the kayak and not rolling forward. This usually results in scraping the front of your legs on the coaming.

Other mistakes include:

  • Not checking the spray skirt grab handle is free.
  • Leaning back when upside down as this could lock both knees under the deck.
  • Covering the grab handle with equipment.
  • Not running your hands along the spray deck to find the handle.
  • Pulling the grab handle towards you - some kayaks with a more pointed coaming will not release and need to be pushed forwards.

If you change equipment or use someone else’s, make sure you understand how to release the spray skirt, as not all systems are the same. This is particularly important when changing from a plastic to a composite kayak.