Why Is Your Kayak So Unstable? 5 Common Reasons

There’s nothing more frustrating than a shaky kayak, especially when you can’t figure out why your kayak is unstable in the first place. It may be discouraging to go through a tedious trial-and-error process, but there are always solutions. 

Your kayak could be unstable because your center of gravity is too high. However, an unstable kayak may also result from bad weather conditions, excessive leaning, the wrong kind of kayak, or improper weight distribution. Finding the right solution means first determining the problem.

This article will cover possible reasons your kayak is unstable, as well as solutions and tips to ensure your next time on the water is smooth, stable, and enjoyable. Keep reading to learn more.

Rafting on the Vorskla River.

1. Your Center of Gravity Is Too High

Your kayak may be unstable because your center of gravity is too high, making you wobble while trying to stay upright. The center of gravity is where your weight is most concentrated and secure. 

If you’re situated in your kayak relatively high above the water, staying stable will be more challenging because your center of gravity is high. You’ll typically run into this problem using a sit-on-top kayak instead of a sit-inside kayak.

How To Fix

You can fix your center of gravity by lowering the seat. Or, instead of readjusting the kayak you have, you can invest in a sit-inside kayak, which naturally seats you closer to the water and stabilizes you more. The only setback of opting for a sit-inside is that you’ll need to learn a different way of paddling. 

2. The Weather Is Making the Waters Too Rough

Instability may not have anything to do with the kayak but with intense weather.

Particularly choppy waters will make for a rocky ride that can make you tip over. Strong winds make your kayak unstable and challenging to maneuver. Although it’s not necessarily dangerous to kayak in the rain, heavy rain can easily tip your kayak over. 

How To Fix

If you’re not ready for a wild ride in extreme weather, stick to calm weather for a smoother kayaking excursion. You can also learn more about your favorite spots’ wind direction and tidal patterns

It’s also wise to stay up-to-date on the daily forecasts of your kayaking areas. This way, you can plan effectively for your kayak trips and know what to expect. 

3. You’re Leaning Too Much Without Realizing It

It’s easy to lean too far while readjusting yourself in your kayak, which will make a tippy kayak. You may not even realize how much you’re leaning in a specific direction until it’s too late and you’re in the water. Tipping too far results in uneven weight distribution, making the kayak unstable. [Why Does Your Kayak Lean to One Side?]

How To Fix

Sitting upright and secure is the best way to situate yourself in your kayak. 

Perfecting and maintaining this form while kayaking will make you feel more comfortable and confident on the water. Many paddlers take yoga or Tai Chi classes to improve their balance and core strength.

Here’s a video showing the proper technique for paddling your kayak:

4. You’re Using the Wrong Type of Kayak

There are different types of kayaks, and some may be more suitable for you than others. Your current model may not have the best buoyancy, which makes it prone to tipping over. Model width, length, and hull shapes affect your kayak’s stability. 

There are four hull shapes: 

  • Flat hulls
  • Pontoon hulls
  • V-shaped hulls
  • Rounded hulls

Hulls help kayaks maneuver on the water. Specific hulls work better than others and are more stable. Hard and soft chines also play an essential part in how hulls help control a kayak on the water. 

How To Fix

Find the correct width and length for your comfort and ability in paddling a kayak. 

The more surface area it has, the more stable a kayak is. Typically, wide kayaks are the most stable and less likely to tip. Flat hulls and pontoon hulls provide the most stability. Your best bet is a kayak with these features, although every paddler differs and may not need these specific ones. [Are Flat Bottom Kayaks More Stable? What You Should Know]

Fishing kayaks are the most stable kind. They’re purposefully wide enough so the paddler can stand and sit comfortably with less possibility of tipping. 

You can also use an outrigger. An outrigger is a supplemental flotation device that stabilizes your kayak. Outriggers are great for added safety and balance for beginners or even more confident paddlers. 

5. You Need To Adjust the Weight Distribution 

Weight distribution goes hand in hand with your center of gravity. If the weight put on the kayak isn’t even on both sides, there’s virtually no center of gravity anymore, making your kayak wobbly and susceptible to tipping. 

Tandem kayaks, or two-person kayaks, are tricky regarding weight. If you’re paddling with another person in the same kayak, determining the suitable weight distribution may take a little more work. 

How To Fix

If your weight is off, add more to other areas on the kayak. If there’s too much weight in the back, add some of your load to the front. If there’s too much in the front, distribute some of your gear to the back. 

Some paddlers with this problem use sand bangs or other heavy objects to weigh down an area of their kayak. 

It’s also essential to ensure your kayak has the correct weight capacity for your size. Some kayaks withstand more weight than others and are more maneuverable based on the size and weight of the paddler. 

Couple riding canoe in river


There are multiple reasons why your kayak is so unstable. 

They can be as simple as choppy waters or a little more complex, involving hull shapes and weight distribution. While searching for the reason can be disheartening and even agitating, there are always solutions. 

A wobbly kayak keeps you from being your most confident on the water, but taking the time to find the root of the problem will keep you safe and ensure you’re enjoying yourself.