How To Improve Balance In A Kayak

Balancing in a kayak can be difficult at times, despite using the most stable of boats. One of the last things we want to do is fall off our sit-on kayak or capsize and submerge ourselves in a sit-in kayak.

Fortunately, there are a few ways to ensure we improve our balance as we enjoy the stroll on the open water. We take a closer look at them in this mini-guide:

What Affects Stability?

Stability has to do with the ability for a kayaker to remain on top of a boat without feeling as if they are about to fall off. This means the more stable a boat is, the less sway the rider can feel. The feeling of stability will differ from person to person despite using the same kayak model, so we want to look at how a boat performs and reacts on the open water.

The general stability of a boat has to do with three factors:

  • The width of the boat: The wider a boat is, the more stable they can be. Wider boats can provide more surface area for it to be subjected to the buoyancy of water applied across the entire boat. When it comes to stability, it’s the swaying from left to right that causes the most frustration to kayakers, so with more width, there can be less sway.
  • The shape of the hull: The shape of the hull also has an influence on how a boat behaves when it moves on the water. Flat-bottom boats can provide noticeable stability but can be susceptible to tipping over from bigger waves. The reverse is true for round-bottom boats, where they can ride waves and remain upright easier, but require a lot of effort from the kayak to maintain balance.
  • The distribution of weight: The more gear or the higher a seat is, the more wobbly it can get. The location of the bulk of the weight can also cause some grief. If a kayaker stands at the tips of the kayak, they may find themselves wobble to a greater effect than if they were seated comfortably in the center. Some heavier individuals might find themselves prone to falling off their kayak because of where their center of gravity is located. Most kayaks have a weight capacity of at least 300 lbs, with tandems allowing for 600 lbs or greater. When our center of gravity is off center or too far from the boat itself (i.e., on a seat that is high off the deck), swaying can become inevitable.

The ability for a kayaker to balance during paddling is an important factor as well. training in techniques to balance and simple balance training (we cover this in a future article) can help tremendously. In the meantime, let’s look at the modifications we can take to make our ship balance easier on the water.

How To Stabilize A Tippy Kayak With Modifications

The type of kayak you use will play a significant role in whether you can balance properly. For example, racer kayaks tend to be thin and ocean kayaks tend to have a round hull. Both of these types of kayaks make it difficult to balance because they are designed for a specific purpose in mind (i.e., to reduce the resistance of water and to survive waves).

If you bought the right kayak and find it difficult to balance, there are several modifications you can make in order for your kayak to become stable enough for use:

  • Lower the seat: This can make paddling difficult, but the lower center of gravity (you) can help a kayak maintain its stability. You can also consider switching out the high chair for one that is low on the deck. This might subject you to sitting in water when it gets onto the boat deck, but it can provide a significantly noticeable difference in how much effort it takes to balance.
  • Adding weight or ballast: This allows you to lower the center of gravity enough so that the boat can sway less. You can add anywhere between 8 to 12 pounds of ballast for a difference in stability. Water as a ballast secured underneath or close to your seat can be optimal and out of the way.
  • Attaching an outrigger/stabilizer: Known as the training wheels for kayaks, kayak stabilizer systems/outriggers use arms that reach out far from the center of gravity of the kayak to prevent the kayak from tipping over. They work because buoyancy applied to the arms by the water helps keep the boat from tipping or swaying from side to side. Check out the Hobie Sidekick Ama and the Brocraft Outrigger for two great examples of stabilizers you can install onto your kayak.

Despite making modifications to your kayak, you might find that balancing is still an issue. In this case, it might be time to improve your technique and core strength. We mentioned how the same boat model can feel different from paddler to paddler.

One of the changes you can make is to practice techniques that help provide a greater balance as you kayak throughout the day.

Lessons might also be necessary in order to get better at balancing. A properly licensed instructor can pinpoint where the issue is and offer recommendations to help you balance properly on any or all kayaks.

Another idea that maybe the kayak is not right for you. If you end up buying a racing kayak as a beginner, and want to improve to eventually race competitively, you might have to take a step back to a friendlier model that can accommodate your skill level.

Which Type Of Kayak Is More Stable?

For those looking for a new kayak or shopping for one, we mentioned wider and flat hull kayaks have the greatest amount of stability.

Beginner kayaks that are built for either fishing or are sit-on-tops models can minimize the amount of sway. The wider and flat hull designs make it easy for fishers and recreational kayakers to enjoy the water without worrying too much about skill and core strength.

We should mention that other types of kayaks such as ones built for river, whitewater, ocean, and racing are unsuitable for beginners. They will require some skill and experience to balance well.

Our Closing Thoughts

Kayaking is a fun sport and can be a great pastime. When we first start out, balancing can be difficult. No one wants to fall into the water, especially when that isn’t why we kayak in the first place.

Kayak doesn’t have to be difficult. In this mini-guide, we look at ways to improve our balance so we can better enjoy ourselves. We hope the methods we outlined here can help you on how to balance a kayak and enjoy your experience on the water!