Kayaking is both a fun activity and an intense sport that is becoming more popular internationally. And one thing that many people struggle with when out on the water is maintaining the kayak’s stability, which is the kayak’s ability to withstand rolling over and capsizing.
Kayak instability is an issue whether you’re on fishing kayaks, racing kayaks, surf kayaks, or touring kayaks (and especially on a whitewater kayak).
If you’re wondering what affects kayak stability, well, proper distribution of weight is vital for a kayak’s stability. Different factors affect both primary and secondary stability.
There are several things you can do to ensure you have a more stable kayak, including using a kayak outrigger or stabilizers; lowering your seat; using a proper paddling technique to perfect your balance and control in the water; plus more.
An unstable kayak is likely to capsize, which nobody wants to happen too frequently.
So, here are a few kayak tips to help your boat stay upright, which will allow you to kayak confidently out onto the water.
Let’s explore them.
How to Keep a Tippy Kayak Stable?
Kayak stability is vital. If your kayak cannot remain stable, you are likely to end up upside down in the water with all the contents of your kayak floating in the water.
If you are struggling to make your kayak more stable, and it’s not due to poor paddling skills, there are several factors to consider that could affect kayak stability.
The two main ways to improve kayak stability are to ensure there’s not too much weight in any area of the kayak and to use kayak accessories, such as stabilizers, to improve the stability of the craft.
Let’s explore these solutions a little more deeply.
Pay Attention to Weight Distribution
The most important aspect of kayak stability is weight distribution.
This is applicable for every type of kayak and every type of kayaking. If a kayak is unbalanced, it will not be stable at all.
Properly managing the weight distribution is the best way to improve and maintain stability. This includes carefully placing each item of gear as evenly as possible throughout the vessel.
Place heavy items either in the center of the craft or evenly distributed in the front and rear. Even light items should be evenly spaced out to maximize stability.
Use Stabilizers or Outriggers
The next best way to stabilize a kayak is to use a stabilizer or outriggers. Outriggers are like training wheels for your kayak.
These are kayak accessories that are attached to the outside of the kayak to provide extra buoyancy, which in turn makes the kayak feel more stable.
Stabilizers are floatation devices attached to the outside of the kayak at the waterline to provide extra buoyancy. These can be plastic or foam pieces tied or bolted to the kayak.
This will significantly increase stability.
An even better way to increase kayak stability is to install a set of outriggers. Outriggers are floatation devices attached to the outside of the boat and suspended on rigid arms or poles.
This type of stabilizer is incredibly efficient and is not affected by the height of the water in relation to the boat. Outriggers provide much more stability without compromising control or maneuverability.
A Kayak’s Hull Shape
There are essentially four types of hull design – pontoon, flat, v-shaped, and rounded.
Pontoon hulls are designed with an inverted and rounded tunnel on the bottom of the boat, which provides good primary stability ideal for kayak fishing. This wider kayak, with a flat hull, is the most stable type of kayak.
Essentially, the greater a kayak’s width, the more stable it will be in terms of primary stability; however, a wider vessel comes with its own limitations. So, it depends on what type of kayaking you prefer to do.
When it comes to kayak width and kayak dimensions, beams of over 28 inches are considered stable. When it comes to kayak length, you need to take displacement and the length-to-beam ratio into consideration.
A flat-bottom kayak has greater primary stability and poor secondary stability. That’s why they are used as recreational kayaks and for fishing.
They are designed for paddling on calmer waters, such as rivers and lakes.
Inflatable kayaks also have flat hulls. Similarly, sit-on-top kayaks are slightly flatter and wider and give paddlers a greater sense of stability thanks to a higher center of gravity.
A sit-in kayak has less primary stability than a sit-on-top kayak.
Having said that, flatter kayak hulls are planing hulls, which do provide better stability because they’re gliding on top of the water, but their secondary stability is not as great. Secondary stability is the ability of the boat to stabilize when it’s been tipped onto its side and remain upright.
Boats with v-shaped hulls tend to cut through the water more easily and they are quicker. The boat feels more lively, in general.
This type of hull is ideal for a sea kayak or a touring kayak. A boat with a rounded hull is ideal for whitewater kayaking because the shape of the boat allows the paddler to maneuver around obstacles easily.
It also makes the boat faster and offers better secondary stability. Rounded hulls are known as displacement hulls, and they also provide better secondary stability.
How to Make a Kayak More Stable?
If the weight distribution of your kayak is sufficiently balanced and evenly spread out, and if you are already using outriggers or stabilizers and your kayak is still unstable on the water, it may not be due to the vessel.
Not many people realize that kayaking takes practice, and it is a challenging skill to master. It requires a lot of time on the water to master as well as understand your kayak’s tipping point, especially in rough water or in the ocean.
If your boat is well balanced, improving stability will come down to practice. The best way to practice stability and control is in calm water without any luggage.
It’s a good idea to practice leaning over on your sit-on kayak to get a feel for its tipping point. This is important because every paddler is different and the same boat can feel different from one person to the next.
Slowly increase the weight in the vessel by adding gear until the vessel is fully loaded. If you’re struggling to balance, you can try lowering your seat because it offers a stronger center of gravity, so you will feel more stable.
The most stable kayaks are not always the most useful kayaks. This means that finding the right kayak type for your desired activity will take some proper research and planning.
Be sure that your kayak is properly balanced in the water by ensuring that all luggage and gear is evenly spaced throughout the vessel. Use stabilizers and outriggers to increase stability on overloaded or particularly unstable kayaks, and practice on the water as much as possible to improve your balance and skill.
Lastly, if you’re buying a new kayak, ensure you buy one that has the best initial stability. Then take the time to improve your skill, and enjoy your time on the water.