Be prepared. You've heard that saying over and over. When there
is a kayak emergency, hopefully you will have practiced enough so that whatever is needed to be done becomes very natural and you don't have to think about it. The kayak wet exit should be practiced until there is no doubt that you can perform in an emergency situation.
There doesn't have to be a major storm, high winds, large waves, etc. to hurl you into an upside down position under water. You can be paddling along and a school of fish could jump right in front of your kayak, startle you, and all of a sudden you find yourself upside down in the water. If you panic and don't know what to do, it could be disaster.
Get Ready For The Cold Water
If the water is very cold and you don't have the appropriate clothing for your body and your head, even if you know how to wet exit, you could be in trouble. Dress appropriately for the cold water.
The Grab Loop
Make sure the grab loop of the spray skirt is not caught under the spray skirt and in the cockpit as you will have a very difficult time removing the spray skirt.
Start counting 1,2,3 before even attempting the next step to calm and relax yourself. The last thing that you want to be happening is total panic. You will find that you can hold your breath under water for a longer time than you think you can.
Pull The Grab Loop
Lean forward and run you fingers around the cockpit towards the front of the cockpit to find the grab loop. Once you've got a firm grip on the grab loop, pull it forward and then back to release the spray skirt from the cockpit.
Out Of The Cockpit
Once the spray skirt has been removed from the cockpit, lean forward and push off from the cockpit with your two hands. You will easily fall from the cockpit. Make sure all rope and cords are not tangled around you. The reason that you lean forward is to protect your head from hitting any objects below in the water.
Don't Lose Paddle Or Boat
Be thankful that you are safely out of the kayak, but do not lose track of the paddles and the kayak. Make sure that you have full control of the paddles and the kayak. If someone is approaching you close by, you don't have to think about turning the kayak over at that time. If you are alone, you must be able to lift the bow of the kayak out of the water and twist it around so the kayak becomes upright.
Being prepared and practicing is the first step for a successful kayak wet exit.