How to Get In and Out of a Kayak [2022]

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How to get in and out of a Kayak gracefully when your “yaking” (slang for kayaking) can be an adventure.  It can be especially tricky for those who are new to kayaking.  Depending on your launch and landing points here are some techniques to help you safely enter and exit your kayak.

Launching from Shore

​Getting into and out of a kayak is much easier when it’s done from shore.  The following is a simple method you can use:

  1. Place your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline.  
  2. The bow should be placed in the water and the stern should be resting on land.
  3. A helpful suggestion is to have over half of your kayak in the water, which will make launching into the water more manageable.
  4. Straddle the kayak with both feet on the shore.
  5. Sit-on-top of the kayak facing the water and just behind the seat.
  6. Lift your legs into the kayak, one at a time and then straighten both legs.
  7. Lift and lower yourself, sliding onto the seat of the kayak.
  8. Using your hands and/or paddle gently push yourself into the water.
YouTube video

Note: This method should only be used on a smooth sandy beach.  If you have a fiberglass or carbon fiber kayak you should place your kayak into the water approximately ankle or knee deep.  Follow the above steps cautiously as you will be less stable on the water. This will work if you are alone but if you have a companion have them steady your kayak while you get in.

Landing on Shore

After landing, getting out of your kayak can be as challenging if not more difficult than getting in when you launch.  When landing on a beach:

  1. Approach perpendicular to the shoreline.
  2. Paddle your kayak to the point it beaches or until it is floating in only a few inches of water.
  3. Take a foot out of your kayak and place it on the sand.
  4. Take your second foot out so you are straddling the kayak.
  5. Reach forward grasping the front of your cockpit.
  6. Pull yourself forward until you are in an upright position.
Kayak Beach Landing

Launching from a Dock

The challenge of getting into your kayak from a dock will vary depending on the height of the dock from the water.  You should determine the lowest point of the dock to initiate your entrance into your kayak. At this point you can get yourself into your kayak using the following steps:

  1. Place your kayak parallel to the dock.
  2. Sit on the dock and lower your feet into the cockpit.
  3. Place your paddle on the dock within arm’s reach when you are seated in your kayak.
  4. Face forward towards the bow of the kayak holding firmly onto the dock.
  5. While holding firmly to the dock lower yourself into the seat in a smooth, careful and fluid fashion.
  6. Once your into your cockpit you can use your dock side hand to grab your paddle and then push off from the dock.
YouTube video

Landing at a Dock

When landing at a dock you can simply reverse the above techniques:

  1. Pull along side the dock at the lowest point and parallel to the dock.
  2. Hold onto the dock with both hands to steady yourself.
  3. Rotate your torso to face the dock.
  4. With both hands firmly on the dock and using the dock for balance, pull yourself up, either to a kneeling or standing position and then step out onto the dock.  
  5. The key to this method is to place all your weight on the dock as you are pulling yourself up and stepping out onto the dock.

Note: If a dock cleat is available, use one of the kayak ropes to tie-off  the kayak to the dock cleat for more stability. The rope also aides in retrieving your kayak.

Kayak on rocky shore

Launching from an Uneven or Rocky Shoreline

On an uneven or rocky shoreline, you can’t slide your kayak into the water due to the potential of damage to the hull. As a result, this makes for arguably the most difficult circumstances for launching and landing your kayak, so you will need to start with your kayak floating in the water.  

  1. Place your kayak approximately ankle or knee deep in the water.
  2. Use your paddle like an outrigger, placing one end across the back (stern) and the other resting on the shoreline rocks.
  3. Grasp the paddle with both hands behind your back, sliding your backside onto the backside of the cockpit.
  4. Take your leg nearest the kayak and slide it into the kayak.
  5. Slide your second leg into the cockpit making sure both legs are securely in the cockpit.
  6. Pushing your legs forward, slide your backside into the seat. 
  7. Using your paddle you can push off shore.

Note: When you are placing your backside on the kayak position your weight on the side of the paddle that is on shore.  The shoreline is more stable than your kayak when it is on the water.

YouTube video

Landing on an Uneven or Rocky Shoreline

When landing your kayak you can use the same techniques in reverse:

  1. Paddle to the shoreline and align your kayak parallel to the shore.
  2. Position your kayak close enough to shore so you can reach it with your paddle and again use your paddle as an outrigger.  
  3. Place your paddle behind you with one end on the stern and the other resting on the shoreline rocks.
  4. Place your hands behind you on the paddle.
  5. Pull your backside out of the seat and sit on the backside of the cockpit.
  6. Take one leg out of the cockpit and place it firmly on the ground for balance and to stabilize you and the kayak.
  7. Take your other leg out and place it firmly on the ground and stand up.

Getting into your Kayak from the Water

Getting into your kayak from the water can be challenging.  The following technique should be practiced in the event you find yourself in the water and needing to re-enter your kayak:

  1. It is important that you maintain hold of both your paddle and the kayak.  
  2. Your paddle should be placed on the top of your kayak.  If your kayak has bungees or other means you should secure you paddle to the kayak, so it does not float away.
  3. Position yourself at the side of the kayak facing the seat.
  4. Grab the rim of the cockpit and use your legs to kick your way to the surface.
  5. Lift yourself up and across your kayak so your lying over the cockpit with your belly over the seat.
  6. Put one hand on each side of the cockpit.
  7. Swivel your backside into the seat pulling your legs into the cockpit.

Note: If your kayak has flipped over it is important to flip it back over as quickly as possible to avoid taking on water.  Here are two methods for getting this done:

  1. Push your kayak over: put your hands under the kayak near the edge, push up and flip your kayak over.  This can be challenging if you have a heavier kayak.
  2. Pull your kayak over: kick your legs and pull yourself up onto the overturned kayak.  Grab the edge firmly and continue to hold tightly allowing yourself to slip back into the water. Your body weight will pull the kayak back to its upright position.

F​inal Thoughts

Be patient!  Learning these skills will take time and won’t be easy.  Be prepared to fail and to provide anyone watching with a good laugh.  Just know as you practice and gain experience it will get much easier and you will feel much more confident entering and exiting your kayak.

Kayaking is an amazing experience once you’ve mastered the skills necessary for launching and landing.  Time to get started enjoying your yaking adventures! Leave a comment and let me know if these techniques were helpful.