How To Get In And Out Of Kayak

The first step in becoming a good paddler is learning how to get in and out of a kayak. 

Even though it seems straight forward, believe me, it is not as graceful as you think the first few times you try. You will fall into the water, but it gets better with experience.

There are a few tricks of the trade, though, which I will share with you now. They will increase your confidence while entering and exiting your yak and allow you to help others.

These methods work for getting in and out of inflatable kayaks, as well as hard shell models.

Entering your Kayak from the Beach or a Ramp

I’ve found that the easiest way to launch on the beach (or a ramp) is to position your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline. The bow (front) should point towards the shore, so the rear skeg (or rudder) does not touch the bottom.

It’s best to start in shallow water, at about ankle depth. Half of the hull should be touching the sand/ramp, with the other half floating in the water. Don’t be too close to shore, though, since you might get stuck in the sand after sitting down. 

The paddle bridge method

The first way of entering a kayak is using the paddle as a bridge of support. Hence, “Paddle Bridge Method”. Be careful not to put too much weight on the paddle blade, though; you don’t want to damage it.

1. Place your paddle just behind the cockpit rim on the rear deck of your kayak.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 1

2. Step in front of the paddle and squat down slightly to grip the paddle shaft and the rear of the cockpit with both hands behind your back.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 2

3. Use both hands to tip the kayak towards you so that the paddle blade is grounded.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 3

4. Keep the pressure on the paddle, so the blade stays in contact with the bottom. It will support your weight as you put one leg into the cockpit, settle into the seat, and lift the other leg in.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 4

5. Once you’re comfortably seated, you can shift the weight off of the paddle blade.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 5

6. Center yourself in the boat and push off.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 5

The straddle method

This method is getting into a kayak is more straightforward and is especially useful when entering inflatable yaks with large skegs protruding from the hull. You don’t want the skeg to break or bend as it touches the bottom.

1. Again, you will start in shallow water.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 1

2. Straddle your kayak with your legs at both sides of the boat.

Enter Kayak Straddle 1

3. Vertically squat down and sit into the cockpit, or just behind the cockpit rim if you have bad knees or long legs.

Enter Kayak Straddle 2

4. Using your paddle to keep balance, slowly bring one leg at a time into the cockpit. 

Enter Kayak Straddle 3

5. Straighten both legs and settle into the cockpit. If you sat on the cockpit rim, slide forward off to gently hop into the seat.

Enter Kayak Straddle 4

6. Center yourself in the boat, and you’re ready to go.

Enter Kayak Paddle Bridge 6

It is not an overly complicated process but keeping your balance can sometimes be a little challenging. 

Here is a great video by the Canadian Safe Boating Council demonstrating both methods of entering your kayak:

If you are paddling with someone else, you can ask them to steady your boat while you get in. From there, you can hold your friend’s kayak steady as they enter their boat.

Getting out of a Kayak at the Beach/Ramp

Getting out of your kayak and back onto the shore is done in reverse order. You can use either the straddle method, or the paddle bridge.

Getting out is much more challenging, though, since it is more difficult to find your balance and raise yourself.

Entering and Exiting A Kayak on Docks

Getting into and out of a kayak from a pier is easier if the pier is close to the water. For this reason, you always want to pick the lowest spot of the pier to enter & exit your boat.

Getting into your Kayak from the Pier

Find a low spot where the waves and wind will not blow your kayak away, and follow the steps below.

1. Make sure your yak is parallel with the dock and place the paddle on the dock near the edge, so you can easily grab it after entering your kayak. 

Entering Kayak From Docks 1

2. Sit down on the dock and put a leg inside the kayak to make sure it doesn’t float away and it’s close to the pier.

Entering Kayak From Docks 2

3. Put the other leg into the kayak as well.

Entering Kayak From Docks 3

4. Turn your torso towards the dock with both hands laying flat on it.

Entering Kayak From Docks 4

5. Center yourself in your kayak, then quickly and calmly lower yourself into the seat while keeping most of your weight on your hands.

Entering Kayak From Docks 4

The key here is to get yourself seated as soon as possible, in a controlled manner, without just hopping in.

6. Remember to take your paddle from the pier!

Entering Kayak From Docks 6

Here is a video to demonstrate this:

Exiting your Kayak to a Pier

Exiting your kayak onto a high dock is tricky. Here are the steps:

1. Row your kayak parallel with the pier.

Exiting Kayak To Docks 1

2. Put the paddle out with a bit hanging off the edge of the dock, just in case you start drifting away and need to grab it again.

Exiting Kayak To Docks 2

3. Put both hands out onto the pier.

Exiting Kayak To Docks 3

4. Push yourself up and lean your chest against the dock while making sure your feet are still in the boat.

Exiting Kayak To Docks 4

5. Spin your torso so that you end up sitting on the dock

Exiting Kayak To Docks 5

6. All the while keeping at least one leg in the kayak until you can secure it.

Exiting Kayak To Docks 6

Re-entering a Kayak from the Water

All kayakers need to learn how to get back into their kayak after flipping over in deep water.

Here are the steps you’ll need to follow.

  1. Flip your kayak back quickly, so it takes on as little water as possible. This is important with sit-inside boats. To do this, reach over the other side of the boat, and pull it towards yourself with a strong movement.
  2. Place your paddle onto your kayak so it doesn’t float away or get in your way as you re-enter.
  3. Put both of your arms onto the boat, so it basically keeps you afloat.
  4. With a strong kick of your legs, propel yourself up onto the boat tummy down. Wiggle your way up until your belly button is in the center of the boat.
  5. Regain your balance as you lay on your kayak.
  6. Turn your body towards the cockpit, so you end up parallel with the kayak. Your legs should hang off of the sides of the boat.
  7. Sit up, and slide your buttocks into the cockpit.
  8. Pull your legs in, and you’re ready to go.

This self-rescue skill should be practiced to perfection in shallow water. A lot of people panic when they realize getting back into the boat is not a straightforward process.

Kayak entry/exit mistakes

If you don’t know what you’re doing, a lot can go wrong. Here are the most typical mistakes beginners make.

  • Don’t stand into your kayak when entering from a pier. You will end up pushing it away and looking silly.
  • Mind where you put your hands on the dock. Seashells, nails, and splinters are very common, don’t hurt yourself with them.
  • Don’t hop into the kayak. You can lose your balance and flip over.

Every kayak trip starts and ends with getting in and out of your boat, so you should take some time to practice these entry and exit methods.

Are you new to the world of inflatable boats? Then my Getting Started Guide is for you. You’ll find tips, tricks, and how-to articles to start off right.

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