How Kayaks Use Buoyancy & How to Avoid Sinking

by | Nov 14, 2022 | Kayak, Safety

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Have you ever wondered why some things float in water and others don’t? The term that describes an object’s ability to float is buoyancy. Objects from the largest yachts to man powered kayaks all have buoyancy and we’ll go over how the latter use buoyancy to stay afloat. 


What is Buoyancy?

Science describes buoyancy as the first exerted by a liquid that opposes an object’s weight. For kayaks, buoyancy is what keeps it afloat despite gravity. It’s weight, and the surrounding water around it. 

In normal water a kayak and kayaker is being pulled down by its weight and gravity. A buoyant force is pushing upwards, contracting the weight caused by gravity. 


Water displacement is what causes buoyancy to work so well. And this can also be the reason that things cause to sink, and we’ll go over that next


What can disrupt buoyancy?

Things can sink, and this is in simple terms the opposite of buoyancy. Now that we know how kayaks stay afloat, let’s go over how to avoid disrupting it and sinking. 


Water inside the kayak

Kayaks are designed to keep water out, the water displacement is key for kayaks to remain buoyant. It is perfectly natural for water to come into the kayak, and it’ll take a lot of water inside for it to cause any adverse effects to the kayak. 

However if water does enter the kayak and enough is present you can risk sinking the kayak. If too much water is in the kayak the effects of buoyancy no longer work and the kayak will start to sink into the water. If water is present in your kayak it’s best to go to dry land and remove the excess water by turning the kayak over. If no land is nearby the best alternative is to remove the water from the kayak by any means necessary.


Losing balance and flipping

Flipping a kayak is more common than sinking, since losing balance can happen easily if you aren’t careful. A kayak is really sturdy and has a great center of gravity which keeps it balanced pretty well. However this can make a kayaker or passenger inattentive to the possibility of slipping the kayak. If you do flip a kayak the first thing you do is recenter, and stay calm. If you are wearing  a life jacket (as you should), you will float. Once you are centered and calm, find the kayak and head to a side. Then reach over to the other side (while staying on the opposite side), and use your weight to reflip the kayak to its rightful position. 

Reboard your kayak and head to land. You will most likely get water in the kayak, so finding land to remove the excess water is key.


Buoyancy is something many boaters and kayakers take for granted. When it works you may not even notice its effects, but when it’s not it can be a stressful position. 

We hope you learned a little science and water knowledge that will make your next watersports adventure a little more safe and keep you from getting too wet. 

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