How To Make A Kayak More Stable: 5 Best Methods From Expert

by Jason | Last Updated:   October 8th, 2022
How To Make A Kayak More Stable: 5 Best Methods From Expert

If you’re new to kayaking, you might be slightly worried about the stability and how you will feel in the kayak. And that’s an understandable fear that most people go through when they are starting out.

This is probably why you’re wondering how to make a kayak more stable. 

Making your kayak feel more stable will let you feel more at ease when you’re on the water, which can also lead to more enjoyment.

Because let’s face it:

Is there anything worse than having small heart-wrenching moments of panic when your kayak slightly tips and you feel like you’re going to fall into cold water?

Over time and as you get more experience in the water, the stability of your kayak doesn’t feel like too much of a problem. 

And that’s because we get used to the feeling of tipping and learn how to handle the minor muscle adjustments that keep you upright (learn what muscles kayaking works here).

But until that time comes, we’ll discuss the tips and tricks you can use to make your kayak more stable.

Let’s get started: 

What Is Kayak Stability?

I think the best place to start this article is to discuss what stability is. Luckily, this is a pretty easy subject to wrap our heads around.

When we’re speaking about stability, we’re talking about the kayak’s ability to resist rolling over when we get in or while we’re paddling.

So, I’m guessing you’re wondering what determines the stability of your kayak? And if you think back to many moons ago when we were back at school, you might be able to pluck the answer out of the air.

Your kayak’s stability comes down to the length and width ratio, the hull’s shape, and the center of gravity.

There are also two types of stability we talk about in regards to kayaking, which I think we should discuss.

  1. Primary stability – This focuses on how your kayak reacts when you first step inside the kayak. A kayak with poor primary stability is a nightmare for beginners (learn how to enter your kayak safely here), so it’s something you need to consider before purchasing a kayak. 
  2. Secondary stability – This refers to how well your kayak resists capsizing when you tilt your kayak. The downside to having good secondary stability is that they usually have terrible primary stability.

One thing you need to remember about the two options is that it’s improbable you’re going to find a kayak with both primary and secondary stability. And this means you’re going to have to choose the one that suits you best.

And one of the things you need to think about is what type of water you’re going to be kayaking in. 

For example, if you’re planning on paddling on a lake or a slow-moving river, you’re going to be best looking for a kayak that has excellent primary stability.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to paddle on whitewater (check out some of the best inflatable whitewater kayaks here), the ocean, or any fast-moving water, you’re going to need a kayak with better secondary stability.

Now you know a little bit about what stability is in regards to kayaking. And now it’s time to explain what is making your kayak unstable before moving on to how to make your kayak more stable.

Why Is My Kayak Unstable?

How To Make A Kayak More Stable

So, your kayak is feeling pretty unstable right now, but you don’t really know the reasons for this, and that’s why you came here.

There are many factors that can make your kayak feel unstable, and understanding these factors is vital to making your kayak feel more stable.

Here are some of the factors you need to consider:

Length To Width Ratio

As I mentioned earlier, one of the main factors for more stability is the length-to-width ratio. And unfortunately, it’s going to get a little bit technical in this section. But, I’m going to try and keep it as simple as possible for you.

So, let’s take a look:

The first thing you need to look at is displacement, which is the amount of water that’s displaced when the kayak is sitting in the water. 

The length and width of your kayak will determine how much water is displaced, which then determines how stable the kayak will be in the water.

The next thing you need to think about is the length of your kayak. And there are two measurements you need to consider. The first one is called “length overall” (LOA), which is measured from the bow to the stern.

The next measurement is known as the displacement length or LWL. And this is the length of the kayak that meets the waterline. And this is an essential length measurement in regards to stability. 

The final thing you need to think about is the width, which is measured at the thickest part of the kayak. Again, when it comes to width, there are two measurements you need to consider:

  1. Beam Overall (BOA) – The width of the kayak from edge to edge.
  2. Beam At Waterline (BWL) – Measured from where the kayak interacts with the waterline.

I know this is a bit much to take in, but bear with me; it’s important!

Okay, so we know how the measurements are taken, but now you need to understand the ratios:


The two most important measurements when it comes to kayak stability are the length at the waterline and the beam at the waterline. 

If the ratio number is high, it means your kayak is going to be fast across the water, like a touring kayak. If the number is low, it’s going to be best on fast-flowing water.

But what has the ratio got to do with stability?

Well, if you have two kayaks at the same length, but one has a lower length-to-width ratio, you’ll notice that the one with the lower number is making the most contact with the water. And this means it will be more stable in the water.

Hull Design

Okay, when we’re talking about hull design, you’ll find that there are two types:

  1. A displacement hull
  2. A planing hull

But, each of the styles comes with different designs, so in this section, I’m going to be talking you through the types and their respective designs.

Let’s take a look:

Displacement Hull

Kayak Hull Type: Displacement Hull

A displacement hull has a more rounded shape, which helps to cut through and displace the water. You’ll notice that the displacement hull feels a lot less stable when you get inside, but it’s also a lot faster.

Rounded Hull
kayak hull design: Rounded hull

If you’re looking for a kayak that has better secondary stability than primary, then a rounded hull is a great option. The rounded shape means it can move faster through the water, but this does mean it wobbles a lot when you get inside.

V-Shaped Hull
Kayak Hull design: V hull

The V-shaped hull has a sharp bottom, which allows the kayak to move quickly through the water. This means the kayak has less primary stability. But you’ll have excellent secondary stability.

Planing Hull

Kayak Hull Type: Planing Hull

You’ll notice that this style of hull has a flatter bottom, which means you’ll have better primary stability. But this means the kayak will be a lot slower through the water; it’s also a lot more prone to flipping over in waves.

Flat bottom kayak
Kayak Hull design: Flat hull

Kayaks that offer a flat hull usually provide the best primary stability. The flat bottom of the kayak means the hull makes plenty of contact with the water, thus making it easier to get inside the boat. And this makes it excellent for beginners.

Pontoon Hull
Kayak Hull design: Pontoon hull

If you’re looking for another kayak with excellent primary stability, you should be looking at a pontoon hull. Many people use this style of hull because it’s stable enough to stand up and fish from, making it perfect for kayak fishing.

Other Factors

We’ve explained the main factors that make your kayak stable, but three are two other factors that can play a part in how stable your kayak is. And in this section, I’m going to give you a quick introduction to them:

Your Chine & Rocker Profile

Kayak hull design: Chine shapes

The chine and rocker profile affect how much of the hull is placed in the water, and this can affect how stable the kayak is. 

There are two types of chine, soft and hard. A soft chine has a more rounded curve, while a hard chine is a bit boxier when you look at it from the front or back of the kayak.

The rocker profile refers to the curve from the front to the back of your kayak. If you look from the side, a kayak with a high rocker profile will have a banana shape. 

The Fatness Ratio

This refers to the volume of the kayak and how much the kayak is designed to carry. You can also refer to the fatness ratio as the displacement ratio. 

And depending on the ratio number, you’ll find that the fatness ratio can affect the primary and secondary stability. The higher the number, the better secondary stability the kayak has.

How To Make A Sit-On-Top Kayak More Stable

How To Make A Sit-On-Top Kayak More Stable

If you’ve followed the above tips for buying the right kayak for you, but you’re still finding the kayak feels unstable, you might need to make some modifications. 

So, in this section, I’m going to be explaining some of the tips you can take to make your sit-on-top kayak more stable:

  1. Lower Your Kayak Seat One of the easiest ways to increase your stability is by lowering your seat. A lower seat will give you a better center of gravity which makes you feel more secure in your kayak. The downside is that you might find it a little bit more challenging to paddle at first.
  2. Buy A Stabilizer – Another great way to back your kayak feel more stable is to purchase a stabilizer. The extra long arms will help the kayak balance in the water and prevent it from tipping. If you don’t have the money to purchase one, don’t worry, I’ll be explaining how to make a DIY stabilizer.
  3. Make Sure Your Weight Distribution Is On Point – Having too much weight in one area of your kayak can make it feel very shaky. And the best way to counteract this is by spreading the weight around the kayak. Some people like to add more weight to the front of the kayak to balance out the kayak.
  4. Pay Attention To The Weight If You’re Using A Two-Seater – One of the issues you might be having is if you’re using a tandem kayak. And again, this comes down to the weight distribution. If one paddler is heavier than the other, you might find the kayak feels a little bit unstable. And you counteract this by adding more weight around the lighter paddler.
  5. Keep On Practicing – When you first start kayaking, you’re going to find it challenging to balance, and that’s because it’s new to you. But with practice and over time, you should start feeling more comfortable. You can even try taking some classes in your kayak so you can learn some tips and tricks from experienced paddlers.

How To Make A Sit-Inside Kayak More Stable

How To Make A Sit-Inside Kayak More Stable

I spoke about how you can make a sit-on-top kayak more stable, but what about sit-inside kayaks? Well, in this section, I’m going to give you some tips and tricks to make your sit-inside kayak more stable.

You’re going to find some of the tips are similar to those above, but let’s take a look anyway:

  1. Add Airbags To Your Kayak – One of the best ways to increase the stability of your sit-inside kayak si by adding airbags. They are small bags filled with air that can be placed on the bow and stern of your kayak. The extra flotation provided by your airbags can help them feel more stable.
  2. Use Kayak Outriggers – Another great way is to add some outriggers to your kayak. They can cost a bit of money, but the extra stability provided is worth every penny.
  3. Lower Your Seating – Having a lower center of gravity can really go a long way when it comes to making your kayak feel more stable. And lowering your seat certainly does do that, but it can make paddling feel more challenging.
  4. Practice Your Low Brace – Okay, using the low brace paddling technique doesn’t make your kayak more stable, but it can prevent you from tipping. And it is this confidence that will make you feel more comfortable in an unstable kayak.

Homemade DIY Kayak Outriggers

If you’re looking for a more stable kayak, then adding some DIY outriggers might be the perfect option for you!

Now, I’m no expert in building a DIY kayak outrigger, but I did find an excellent video explaining how one person made their outriggers.

And one of the things I loved about this design was how easy it is to remove if you don’t need them.

It also doesn’t need much equipment to make it, and all the materials were reasonably cheap or could be salvaged. 

All you need is:

  • A drill
  • Four screws
  • Two bolts
  • Two U-shaped clasps
  • Length of two-inch PVC pipe
  • Drainage pipe with caps
  • Two 90° pipe adjusters

If you want to check out how he went around building this DIY outrigger, you can check out the video below:

As you can see, it’s a super effective way of building outriggers for your kayak. I’ve also seen other methods of people switching the drainage pipes for big water bottles, so it really comes down to how you want to attack the problem.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

Okay, you’ve reached the end of the article, and I hope it’s helped you understand what kayak stability means and how to make a kayak more stable.

One of the main things you need to think about is whether you want more primary or secondary stability in your kayak.

Primary stability means your kayak feels more stable when you get inside. And this is great for beginners looking to get more comfortable when they get into the kayak. 

The downside is:

You won’t be able to paddle as quickly, and if you’re in choppy water, you’re going to find that it tips over very easily.

If you’re a bit more experienced or looking to paddle in rough waters, you’ll be looking for more secondary stability. 

Having a kayak with more secondary stability will cut through the water with ease and handle whitewater or waves exceptionally well. But, you will find it a little trickier when trying to get inside the kayak.

If you want to feel more comfortable in a sit-in kayak, then learning the kayak roll is an excellent way of getting over your fear of falling into the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Kayak Stabilizers Improve Kayak Stability?

If you install kayak stabilizers correctly, then they can work incredibly well at providing you with more stability. Kayak outriggers provide your kayak with more surface area on your kayak and can make it feel very stable in most water conditions. And this makes them excellent for fishing kayaks.

Is A Heavier Kayak More Stable?

A heavier kayak doesn’t always mean more stability. The length usually judges a kayak’s stability to width ratio. The lower the ratio, the more surface area the hull comes into contact with, and this can significantly determine how stable your kayak is.

What Is The Most Stable Kayak?

If you’re looking for the most stable kayak, you need to look at the hull shape. One of the most stable hulls is the pontoon. They provide excellent primary stability and even allow people to stand up and fish.

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Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.