why do I flip?

I raft Class 3 rivers about 3-4 times a year – Kasilof, Grewingk, Woz, Kenai Canyon. I am 5 ft 7 in tall, 195 lbs., 31 inch inseam, 40 lb pack on the bow of my 2006 decked alpaca. Every time I raft I flip the boat. My buddies don’t flip. Why do I flip? I have tried the inflatable floor. I have tried no inflatable floor, I have tried deflating the seat cushion. It always happens on eddy fences. 3 and 4 ft wave trains, no problem. I just try to cross the eddy like everyone else and I flip over. I am willing to buy a new raft if that would help. I don’t know if I should have a YAK? In my Alpaca my knees are slightly bent. Would the “Big Butt” feature help me? Photographs in calm water even with the pack on the bow look like I float butt heavy. Do you think a cargo fly would help? Seems counterintuitive to me to put more weight in the back. Any thoughts on this.


It does sound like your boat is a bit small for you. A larger boat will be more stable for you, and the Cargo Fly will help even more by allowing you to stow your gear in the boat and lower your center of gravity.

My guess is that you are now gun shy crossing eddy lines, which makes the problem worse. You need to cut across eddy lines aggressively with a well-timed lean. It can be tricky and requires confidence and practice.

Brad Meiklejohn

Hey flipper,


Brad is right… its all about the lean. Even with the cargo fly and a big butt boat, if you are not crossing a eddy line properly your going to flip. Think about it as riding a bike, if your going really fast and just turn the handle bars really hard and do not lean the bike your gonna wreck. The water in an eddy is traveling in the opposite direction (upstream) as the downstream current your trying to not “trip over the water”.

Entering/exiting eddies: In a perfect world you should be entering/exiting an eddy at roughly a 45-60deg angle to the line with speed, enough speed to cross the eddy line and get into the current flowing in the opposite direction. Your lean should happen and continue to happen before and after you cross this line and continue until you are faced the direction of the new current before flattening out. You are trying to “carve” a turn across the line and into the eddy or from the eddy into the current. If you just cross it with no lean or turn, basically you are tripping over the water. Your downstream tube is loading up with the water flowing upstream in the eddy and your momentum is still going downstream or you are in the eddy with relatively still water and throwing your boat into the current flowing downstream and the water is loading on you your upstream tube thus flipping you. You want that water going in the opposite direction to go under the boats tube, not smash into the side of it because the water will want to go over the top of the tube thus once again flipping you.

Your paddle strokes are important also. I`m not going to try and explain this by writing but get on YouTube and type in “kayak eddy turn” or “kayak peel out”, though not a packraft a kayak exaggerates this movement as far as the lean and the paddle strokes and angles are the same.

Look at the guy with the red helmet packrafting, not an awesome video but the body position, paddle strokes, paddle drag (using current to pull the boat through the turn) and leaning is pretty good in reference to eddies and even with a pack on the front your boat principle is the same. Notice at the very beginning (18 seconds) how he almost flips because he does not hold his edge and paddle stroke long enough and flattens out before finishing his turn and before the boat is facing downstream thus almost flips. At 1:51 is a decent example of entering a eddy. I am sure there are other videos with examples but look at the boat angle, body lean, paddle strokes, and direction the shoulders and head are pointing (all very important).

Practice on small eddy lines and the bigger ones will become easier! Position-Angle-Speed-Edge

Good Luck

One thing that helps me get a good lean is to be really aggressive with a correct paddle placement and brace as I cross the eddy line. Without these, I too flip.

For example, imagine you are on the right side of the river behind a rock looking upstream and want to exit the eddy to the left of the rock. Paddle hard at a 45-60 degree angle left, cross the eddy line, and immediately throw your paddle (and body mass) at 11 o’clock and deep into the current and lean on it resisting the pull of the current. The longer and deeper the reach the better. As your boat whips around, keep that paddle placed and braced until you are fully up to speed in the main flow. It can help to pull the paddle too but not too much or you won’t be able to lean on it. You’ll know when to stop when the pull of the current is negligible.

Classic mistakes:

  1. Not paddling hard enough initially to get your boat entirely across the eddy line. More momentum the better.
  2. Releasing the paddle placement/brace/lean too early.
  3. Not really leaning the boat. You’ve got to get that upstream tube tilted up so that the water flows underneath your boat. The faster the current, the more critical.

These peel outs are a lot of fun once you get the hang of it! Good luck!