Kayaking: Capsizing Lesson

Lesson Topic:

Kayak Capsizing

Lesson Description:

This lesson allows students to practice capsizing in a safe environment, and learning several ways to get back into their kayak once they have capsized. 

Learning Goals/Outcomes:

Students will be able to re-enter their kayak on their own in shallow and deep water, as well as getting back into their boat with the help of other kayakers.

Nebraska Standards:

PE.HS.16 Outdoor Pursuits 

PE.HS.16.1 Demonstrates competency in motor skills and movement patterns needed to perform a variety of physical activities. 

PE.HS.16.1.a Performs and/or refines activity specific skills in a variety of outdoor pursuits (e.g., kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, geocaching, orienteering, camping, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, obstacle course, adventure activities, high elements). 

PE.HS.16.2 Applies knowledge of concepts, principles, tactics, and strategies related to movement and performance to achieve and maintain a health-enhancing level of physical activity and fitness.

PE.HS.16.2.b Explores and participates in outdoor activities that can be pursued in the local environment. 

PE.HS.16.3 Recognizes the benefits of physical activity and exhibits responsible personal and social behavior in a variety of physical activity settings. 

PE.HS.16.3.a Applies best practices for participating safely in outdoor pursuits.

PE.HS.16.3.c Evaluates the opportunities for social interaction and social support provided by outdoor pursuits. 

Teacher Planning:

Equipment/Materials Needed:

8-10 Kayaks

8-10 PFD's (one for each Kayaker)

8-10 Paddles (one for each Kayaker)

12' sections of rope or webbing

A swimming pool

Time Required for Lesson:

1 hour


Technology Use:

___X__ YES               _____NO

Instructional Plan:

Anticipatory Set/Pre-Activity:

Before getting into the kayaks to capsize and practice re-entering the boats, show the students a few of the videos that demonstrate how to re-enter the kayak on your own, or with the help of another kayaker. Remind them that there is always a possibility of capsizing while in a boat, and it is good practice to learn how to re-enter the boat in a safe environment before heading out onto the lake or river.

How to get back into a sit-in kayak by yourself

How to Get Back Into a Kayak

How to re-enter a sit-in kayak with the help of another kayaker

How to re-enter a kayak (sit on top and sit-in)

Benefits/Explanation/Real-World Connection:

Students have a tendency to lose their composure when they fall into the water when kayaking. Teaching them different ways to get back into their kayak will help them have a better experience on the water. Helping one another get back into the kayak can also be an empowering experience as they learn how to rescue others in the water. 

Activities (i.e. instructions, warm-up, lesson, cool-down):

Start the lesson by showing the students the videos of self-rescues and partner rescues. We have sit-in kayaks, so we emphasis how to re-enter those as opposed to the sit on top kayaks. As the videos finish, ask the students key points in how to do self-rescues on your own and with a partner. Remind them that during self-rescues, as they climb onto the back of the boat, it helps to keep their legs wide so the boat doesn't roll. 

Using the same methods as the Introduction to Kayaking lesson, have students find a group of 3 for each kayak. Each group will have their own kayak, lifejacket and paddle. Have them number off 1-3 so they know which turn they will have in the water. Let them know that each group will practice each of the re-entry skills (self-rescue and partner rescue). We will start with the self-rescue from the shallow end. 

1st kayakers get their PFD (Personal Floatation Device) on and have their partners check to make sure it looks correct. Once the PFD is on correctly their partners will help them into the kayak in the water. Have the kayakers paddle out toward the center of the pool so they will not risk capsizing too close to the pool edge. Once out in the open, have the kayakers capsize by rolling over, or by swinging their legs over and jumping out. Once in the water, students need to get as much water out of their kayaks as possible. The easiest way to do that is to drag their boat and paddle over to the side of the pool. Once there, they will place one end of the kayak on the pool deck while dragging the other end of the boat perpendicular to the pool edge. Have their partners hold the boat on the pool edge while the kayaker lifts the end of the boat above their head to drain the water. The two on the pool deck can lift their end and see-saw the boat until most of the water is drained. Once it's empty, flip it right side up and set it down gently into the pool. The kayaker will then attempt to climb back into the boat from the back end (push up so their stomach is on the back, swing a leg around so they're straddling the boat, then slide forward so they are over the cockpit of the boat, and sit down on the seat). This method may take a few attempts before they can get it. If they need help, they can have another kayaker come over and hold the front of the boat steady while they try to re-enter from the back. 

After a successful attempt or two, have the first kayakers switch with the 2nd kayakers and repeat the skill. Repeat again with the 3rd kayaker. 

Once back to the first kayaker, have two students demonstrate a rescue with a partner. One kayaker will capsize, the other kayaker comes over to help by grabbing the boat and placing it perpendicular to the front of their boat, keeping it upside down. The kayaker in the water will need to push down on the back of the boat to help lift it onto the right side up boat. Both kayakers work together to drain as much water as possible from the boat. Next, the kayaker returns the boat to the water and slides it next to their boat. The kayaker in their boat should put their paddle blade down by their feet so they have two hands to help hold the other kayak and keep it stable. As they hold it steady, the kayaker in the water will bring their feet to the surface, kick hard, and push themselves up and into the boat. Some students may need additional assistance. The long webbing works well to assist. Place the webbing/rope loop around the lip of the cockpit where the re-entry is happening. The kayaker can use the rope as a step to try and push themselves up and back into their kayak.

Have all of the first kayakers practice partner re-entries a few times so each kayaker has the opportunity to re-enter their kayak. For those who are feeling confident in the shallow end, have them paddle down to the deep end and try the rescues in the deeper water. 

Repeat with kayakers 2 and 3.

When everyone has a chance to try self re-entries and partner re-entries, have groups get all of their equipment (kayak, paddle and PFD) out of the pool and put them away. 


Ask students which re-entry did they feel more comfortable with? Why? Let them know that they will be playing kayak polo tomorrow and students typically capsize during that game. It will give them more of an opportunity to practice their re-entry skills along with all of their paddling strokes skills.

Assessment :

Formative: Check sheet of students who had successful attempts at re-entry. The goal is to have at least one successful re-entry on their own, and with a partner during the kayaking unit.

Supplemental Information:


Safety Precautions:

Make sure students are aware of their surroundings. Have them try not to do self re-entries right next to someone else. If the boat comes out of the water, it might be very close to another student in the pool. 

Comments (adaptations for various grades/ages, teaching styles, etc.)

Students have a tendency to want to pull the kayaks out of the pool right side up. This is fine if they're empty, but if they are full of water make sure the boats are upside down. This helps drain the water as the kayak is being lifted up, and it also reduces the likelihood of the bottom of the boat cracking with all the water weight in it. 

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