How to Get In and Out

How to Get in and out of a Kayak Safely

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When it comes to kayaking, so many things come to mind besides choosing the right kayak. One of these is how to get in and out of a kayak. Whether you’re a professional or simply a beginner, learning to get on and off your kayak is one of the most important lessons you need to learn and master.

It’s also one of the most daunting parts of kayaking besides learning how to paddle. It requires you to master the techniques and develop the right physical effort failure to which can lead to a potential embarrassment or even an accident, in case the kayak topples or capsizes over.

Now, in recent times, kayaking has become a major outdoor activity, especially during summer. It’s one of the ways through which people spend most of their leisure time. But, even if that’s the case, navigating the raging waters when you’re a beginner can be quite intimidating.

The kayak may seem a little wobbly at first and you might expect to fall off a few times. Although it might sound annoying, the good news is that through practice, you can always make a better version of yourself.

To add to that, there are various techniques you can employ when getting in and out of your kayak. To help you get started, this short guide will discuss some of these techniques, which, of course, vary, depending on where you’re launching the kayak from. Please read on.


How to Get In And Out of a Kayak: Step-by-Step Guide


First, Choose your Launching and Landing Spots

The first trick to successful kayaking is finding the right spot to launch and dock your kayak. This is one area where most beginners in kayaking actually mess up. Finding the right spot to launch your kayak is considered the first step that will dictate how easy or difficult you’ll get in or out of your kayak. In general, there are three spots where you can launch your vessel. They include; the beach, the dock, and the uneven or rocky shoreline.

As for Beginners: Just Before you Launch…

If you’re a beginner kayaking for the first time, there are those factors you need to understand before you launch your vessel. First and foremost, you need to take a tour of the region you’ll be kayaking just to familiarize yourself with the topography.

Secondly, make sure that you’ve dressed up appropriately. Since you’ll be getting to the water, you need to understand that your kayak will not be 100% a dry boat. Water will definitely get into the cockpit making you wet. You, therefore, need to wear a wet suit and have some spare clothes to wear after you’re done kayaking.

Thirdly, ensure that your life vest is strapped tightly and snugly and that it’s comfortable enough to prevent any disruption. Also, make sure that you have the necessary attachments with you such as a GPS navigational device, a cellphone dry bag, and a survival whistle.

Now, most people might be asking why a cellphone dry bag is required right? Well, the reason why you need one is to ensure that your phone or your camera is tightly sealed inside to prevent any damages caused by water.

It also allows you to take picturesque photos of the waters when kayaking or even check your compass for direction. It also helps you to scroll through your playlist when kayaking in shallow waters.

Next, go through your kayaking checklist to ensure that you have everything present before you launch your vessel. Accessories such as your water bottle, paddle, spray skirt, helmet, throw rope, and float bags should not be left out whatsoever.

Now that you’ve accomplished all that, it’s now time to get started.


First: Getting In and Out of a Kayak From the Shore

According to experts, launching a kayak from the shore is one of the easiest methods for anyone including beginners. It’s less challenging and very easy to master as compared to launching from a dock or on rocky ground.

So, to launch from the shore, you can consider using any of these two methods.

Method One

  • Step 1.

Start off by pushing your kayak to the shoreline where you’ll be launching it. If your vessel is constructed from heavy-duty plastic, you can launch it while it’s perpendicular to the shore. This means the bow of the kayak should be resting on the water while the stern rests on the sand.

It’s usually recommended that half of the kayak be submerged in the water to make the launching process smoother. It also helps to prevent beaching where your kayak gets stuck on the sand.

  • Step 2.

Once you’ve positioned your kayak correctly, get at the back of the cockpit and get ready to dive in. Here, you’ll have to get in systematically by sliding one foot at a time inside the cockpit. When both feet are inside the cockpit, slide your lower body forward to sit upright on the kayak’s seat.

In the case of a sit-on-top kayak, all you need to do is simply swing your legs on top of the kayak, sit upright and start paddling.


Method Two

Now, in case you’re wondering how to get in a kayak that’s made of fiberglass or carbon fiber, then you don’t have to worry. You see, our first technique was for kayaks made of plastic, which are tough enough to resist the heavy abuse caused by pushing them on top of the sand.

So, in case your kayak is constructed from any of these fragile materials, then here’s a safer technique you can adopt. By the way, this technique is also recommended for very long kayaks.

  • Step 1. Start off by placing your kayak a few inches into the water. Make sure the depth of the water is about your knee-deep to prevent scratching your kayak. For the case of a sit-in kayak, get over the kayak just above the cockpit.
  • Step 2. While in this straddling position, lower your butt slowly down onto the cockpit seat.
  • Step 3. Next, place one foot at a time inside the cockpit with your knees slightly bent.
  • Step 4. When both feet are inside the cockpit, adjust your butt to sit firmly on the seat. For the case of a sit-on-top kayak, all you need to do is to swing your feet firmly to sit upright.

How do you Land or Exit your Kayak While on the Shore?

Unbelievably, getting off a kayak is one of the trickiest and most challenging parts of any kayaking experience. However, though, we’ve put in some simple steps that will guide you through.

  • Step 1. Paddle the kayak to the shoreline up to the sand leaving it in a perpendicular position.
  • Step 2. Remove your spray skirt if you had one then grab each side of the kayak (next to your hips).
  • Step 3. While grabbing the kayak, bend your feet with your knees facing upwards then bring your feet close to your butt.
  • Step 4. Lift one foot and place it outside the kayak onto the shallow water. Balance yourself carefully using the foot that’s outside then stand up while taking the other foot off the cockpit and onto the water.


Second: Launching and Exiting a Kayak From a Dock

Unlike launching a kayak on a shore, launching it on a dock is considered more challenging regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a professional. Now, the first step you should take in such a situation is to evaluate your situation to see what suits you best. If you have a friend in close proximity, then he/she can hold the kayak for you as you get on.

However, if you’re launching all by yourself, then you need to find the lowest position on the dock where the distance of the dock from the water is less.

  • Step 1. Once you’ve dragged the kayak in a position lowest and closest to the water, set it in a parallel position for a much smoother launch.
  • Step 2. Next, put on your spray skirt and place the paddle close enough at arm’s reach to prevent any hassle once you get onto the cockpit.
  • Step 3. Sit at the edge of the dock then dangle one foot on the cockpit to adjust the kayak and bring it closer.
  • Step 4. Hold tightly on the dock and place the other foot on the cockpit. Slowly but carefully, hold the kayak with one arm while the other arm holds the dock. Lower your body steadily with your butt heading towards the cockpit seat.
  • Step 5. Once you’re seated, release the dock and adjust yourself properly on the cockpit. When you find a comfortable position, relax a bit then grab the paddle from the edge of the dock before paddling off.


Exiting a Kayak on a Dock

Just like launching your kayak, exiting will still use the same procedure where you’ll first need to find the lowest point on the dock where it’s nearest to the water.

  • Step 1. Once you’ve recognized the lowest point on the dock, paddle the kayak and position it parallel to the dock.
  • Step 2. Next, hold the dock steadily with both hands to balance yourself as you attempt to stand up. Make sure you rotate your torso until your upper body faces the dock.
  • Step 3. While holding the kayak, pull your body steadily as you get off. Raise your butt then remove one foot at a time from the cockpit. Make sure that you raise your leg to support yourself with your knee at the edge of the dock.
  • Step 4. While keeping your weight low, lift the other leg from the cockpit and onto the dock. Here, you need to be really careful to prevent the kayak from drifting away into the water.


Third: Kayaking on Uneven or Rocky Shoreline

Of all the kayaking basics we’ve discussed in this guide, this is one of the most challenging parts that call for a lot of care. Launching a kayak on uneven or rocky shoreline requires you to be a professional kayaker rather than being a beginner. Nonetheless, here’s a simplified procedure that can help you get through this tricky endeavor.

  • Step 1. Start by pushing your kayak on the shore where the water is at least your ankle or knee-deep.
  • Step 2. Position the kayak to parallel to the shore then place one end of the paddle on the kayak’s stern while the other end is on the shore or on a rock on the shore.
  • Step 3. While holding the paddle behind you (make sure it’s stable), slide your butt onto the cockpit then raise one leg at a time onto the kayak.
  • Step 4. Once both feet are on the kayak, adjust your body firmly to seat comfortably while making sure that your feet are straight.


Getting Off the Kayak on Uneven or Rocky Shoreline

  • Step 1. So, the first step you need to take when landing your kayak in such a situation is to paddle towards the shoreline. You need to be really careful in such a situation as a little blander can cause the rocks to damage the hull of your kayak.
  • Step 2. Once you’ve settled on a spot close enough to the shore, place one end of the paddle on the stern while the other end rests steadily on the shore or on a rock.
  • Step 3. Now, grab the paddle from your back and use it to support yourself as you get off the cockpit. Here, start by sliding your butt off the seat and onto the back end of the kayak.
  • Step 4. Pull the first leg from the cockpit and plant it firmly on the water. Use it to support the other foot and plant it on the water as you raise to stand up.



And there you go. In case you’ve been wondering how to get on and off a kayak in various conditions, then you have everything that’s needed to get started. As you can see, getting in and out of a kayak is one of the hardest parts of the entire kayaking course.

It also varies greatly depending on where you’re launching. So, to enjoy the best out of your kayaking endeavor, always launch and exit in situations that favor your skill level. Also, make sure that you anchor your kayak properly and if possible, call a friend to hold the vessel for you as you get on and off the kayak.

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