Are you struggling to get in and out of your kayak? We’ve got tips and tricks for entering and exiting boats at a variety of landings.
Once that new kayak bliss has worn off, it’s time for you to get down to business. For many, the most challenging hurdle is getting in and out of a kayak cockpit. Having struggled to enter a boat ourselves, we can empathize with beginner paddlers who may be struggling to overcome this inevitable learning curve. We’ve compiled everything you need to know before entering and exiting kayaks at a variety of landings, including beaches, ramps, docks, and rocky shorelines.
Short on time? Check out this video tutorial on how to smoothly enter and exit a kayak.
Table of Contents
Do Kayaks Tip Easily?
When properly manned, most kayaks maintain an upright in the water. That being said, some kayaks are far more likely to capsize than others. Moreover, unpredictable and harsh weather can put paddlers in precarious positions.
Is it Safe to Kayak Alone?
Kayaking is safest when performed in small groups consisting of at least one experienced kayaker. Solo kayaking involves several inherent risks. If you want to make several successful and safe trips in your new boat, adhere to these simple and effective rules:
Chart Your Trip Ahead of Time
It’s imperative that you to chart your trip before setting out on a paddle. Identity a course that you can comfortably navigate at your skill level. Use a map, compass rose, and tide chart to plan your trip from start to finish.
Print a paper copy of your trip itinerary. While cell phones and GPS devices are amazing technological assets, few are impervious to water. It’s a wise idea to store a paper copy of your plan and a waterproof compass in your cockpit.
Are you struggling to find a place to paddle? Seek out kayaking guide books at your local library or bookstore. These books contain a wealth of knowledge, including the depths, distances, and topography of chartered kayak routes.
Check the Weather
All that research is going to be in vain if you don’t bother to check the weather ahead of time. The National Weather Service provides accurate weather forecasts, including wind, flood, and rip current advisories.
Share Your Plan
Inform a vested individual about the trip you will be taking. Provide them with a full trip itinerary, including your planned course, expected start/finish times, and any members of your boating party. Plan to check in with this person before and after your trip. Advise your confidant to notify the appropriate authorities if you do not check in with them as planned.
Pack Essential Safety Equipment
What items should you pack to ensure you are prepared for worst-case scenarios? Never leave the shore without a coast guard-approved PDF, or personal flotation device. This simple piece of gear could save your life. So invest in a quality jacket and ensure that it fits properly.
Other essential safety gear items include a waterproof first-aid kit, an emergency whistle, an extra paddle, a reliable communication device, potable water, and a headlamp.
Where Should You Launch or Disembark and When?
More often than not, kayakers don’t have the privilege of choosing a launching point. For those that do, we’ve compiled a list of the pros and cons of disembarking from various spots.
Many amateur kayakers assume that launching from a beach is going to be a breeze. At calm lakes and bays, this is sometimes the case. These areas provide paddlers with a naturally gradual decline. With that being said, many ocean and freshwater beaches force paddlers to comfort a unique challenge: surf.
Those tall, white crests may look attractive from a distance, but they can quickly capsize and sink a kayak. You must keep your boat perpendicular to the water line until you pass beyond the breakers. Pay close attention to the ebb and flow of the water, as you want to avoid positioning yourself directly below a falling wave.
Keep in mind that launching beyond surf is a relay race, not a marathon. You will need to intrinsically apply force and resistance along with the rhythm of the water. There’s plenty of room for error and misjudgment. Getting beyond the surf is an accomplishment that comes with practice.
Sandy beaches are naturally abrasive. Inferior materials will become scratched when pulled across the surface of a beach.
Sometimes, concrete boat ramps are the only accessible launching point for your boat. While the gentle slope a boat ramps may appear to be an ideal launching boat for your small boat, this isn’t always the case. For one, concrete surfaces are highly abrasive. You’ll need to use a kayak dolly to safely move your kayak to the base of the boat ramp. On average, kayaks weigh anywhere from 20 to 80 boats. As such, it may be challenging for you to lift your boat.
You’ll also need to enter the water to launch your boat, a requirement that can lead to discomfort in cold weather.
Many paddlers find it easy to launch their kayaks from the safety of a dock. You should be able to gently lower your boat into the water before entering the cockpit. For one, a boat is less likely to incur damage when you depart directly from the water. On top of that, you can enter your boat without getting wet. On the downside, you need a lot of upper body strength to disembark from a kayak at a dock.
Logistically, rocky shorelines aren’t the most sought-after launch points for kayaks. Still, when it comes to outdoor sports, nature rules the roost. Paddlers must learn to adapt to their surroundings. Many paddlers will only deploy these skills during emergency landings. Still, it pays to know how to navigate some of the earth’s most radical geological forms.
When launching or disembarking from a particularly rigid or slippery shoreline, it’s essential that you paddle into deeper water and slip your way into the cockpit. On smoother rocky shorelines, it may be possible for you jump directly into the cockpit.
Needless to say, these launches/disembarks require a great deal of skill. They’re simply not for novice paddlers. In addition to the obvious safety hazards, rocky shorelines pose a huge risk to boats. A bad takeoff can scratch and even gauge boats.
How to Launch and Disembark
Let’s discuss the best way to launch and disembark from different landing spots.
- To launch your kayak from a beach, place your kayak in the water and position it so that it is perpendicular to the shore.
- Place the nose of your boat in the shallow end of the water. Leave the back of the boat on the sand. With the tail of your kayak resting on the beach, it should be stable enough for you to step inside.
- Straddle the back or side (if you don’t mind entering the water feet-first) of your boat.
- Place one foot inside the cockpit.
- Scoot your bottom onto the deck just behind the cockpit.
- Loop your second leg into the cockpit.
- Slowly slide your body into the cockpit while maintaining the boat’s balance.
- Open your hips so that the outsides of your legs rest up against the thigh and hip pads.
- Push the soles of your feet up against the foot braces. Grab your paddle.
- You’re ready to paddle!
- When disembarking from a kayak at the beach, position your boat so that it is at a 90-degree angle with the shoreline.
- Use your paddles to gently push your boat through the shallow water and up onto the sand.
- When the stern of the boat is anchored on the shore, pull one of your legs up and out of the cockpit.
- Swing it over the side of the boat. Then, do the same with the other.
- Lunge your body forward to assume the standing position.
- Then, pull your boat onto the shore using the handle on the front.
- Either strap your boat onto a kayak dolly or carry it down to the end of the ramp. Do not attempt to drag your kayak down the ramp, as concrete is highly abrasive and will leave the bottom of your boat looking worse for wear.
- Straddle the area of the boat that is directly behind the cockpit. Place your legs in one at a time.
- Slide your body into the boat.
- Use your paddle to maneuver away from the ramp and into deeper water.
To disembark from your kayak at a ramp, you must paddle your boat into the shallow area just outside the exposed cement.
- Use your paddle to create a secure connection between your boat and the ramp.
- Place one hand on the cockpit and your other hand on the paddle that is extended over the side of your boat.
- Slide your bottom up against the backrest.
- Use your hands to raise your body. At the same time, pull your legs up so that your knee caps are now raised above the cockpit.
- Pull one foot up and over the side of the boat. Place that foot firmly on the boat ramp.
- Pull your body up using the foot on the ramp as your launching point.
- Pull your other foot out of your kayak. Then, lift your kayak and carry it to your kayak dolly or car.
- Using a short tether (side to a secure point along the side of thecockpit) and your opposite hand, gently place your boat in thewater, positioning it so that it is a few inches from and parallel with the dock.
- Leave your paddle on the ramp. If possible, tie the rope to a secure point on the ramp
- Slip your left leg into the kayak.
- Then, sit on the edge of the dock.
- Slip your right leg into the kayak cockpit.
- Gently slide your body into the cockpit.
- Reach onto the dock to retrieve your paddle and untie the rope securing you to the dock. Off you go!
- Pull your boat up so that it is parallel with the dock.
- Place your paddle on the dock.
- Stabilize your boat.
- Rotate your body so that you are facing the dock.
- Plant the palms of your hands on the dock’s surface.
- Use your hands to leverage your lower body. Pull your knees up before bringing your feet into the cockpit of the boat.
- Use your upper body to pull your legs up and out of the boat in one swooping motion.
- Place your knees on the surface of the deck. Avoid putting pressure on the cockpit, as the boat will likely be forced away from the dock.
There are several different kinds of docks, including high, low, anchored, and floating varieties. If you are disembarking from a low floating dock, use your paddle to secure your kayak before exiting the cockpit.
Techniques for Getting In and Out of These Kayaks
We’ve gone over the basic entry and exit steps for kayaks, but how do these techniques vary when it comes to different types of boats?
The good news is that sit-on-top kayaks are even easier to enter and exit. Check out the process in this brief video tutorial.
- First, pull your sit-on-top kayak into knee-deep water.
- Sit on top of the cockpit with your legs handing over one side.
- Flip your legs onto the deck. Then, place them in the footrests.
- Paddle your boat into knee-deep water.
- Secure your paddle on the kayak.
- Swing your legs to one side of the kayak.
- Plant your feet under the water.
- Grab the handle on the front of your boat.
- Drag your boat onto the shore.
- Place your recreational boat in knee-deep water. Position it so that it is parallel to the shore.
- Stand over the kayak with one leg planted on either side.
- Place your bottom in the cockpit.
- Pull your back against the backrest.
- Slowly lower each leg into the cockpit.
- Paddle your boat into ankle-deep water.
- Position your kayak so that it is parallel to the shore.
- Use your paddle to stop your kayak. Secure it on top of the boat.
- Pull your legs up one by one.
- Then, plant your feet in the water.
- Loop one foot over the back of your kayak.
- Grab the handle on the front of your kayak. Pull your boat to shore.
Touring kayaks tend to be longer and narrower than recreation kayaks. This makes it easier to capsize. You can enter and exit your touring kayak in the same way you would a recreational one. Here’s a video of a professional kayaker reentering touring model. In the section below, we share an alternative method for entering and exiting a touring kayak.
- Place your kayak halfway in the water. Position it so that it is perpendicular to the water.
- Place your paddle over the back of your boat. It should be perpendicular to your boat, Position one side of the paddle over the shore and the other over the back of the boat. The blade should be parallel with the shore.
- Using the paddle as support, lift your body onto the paddle.
- Slide your bottom across the paddle rod and into the cockpit.
- Slip your legs into the cockpit. Push your feet up against the foot braces.
- Using a vertical paddle and one hand, slowly shove your boat into deeper water.
- Paddle on!
- Pull your boat into the shore.
- Place your paddle on the deck, securing it under the bungee rigging.
- Place your hands on the sides of the cockpit.
- Push down to lift your upper body and free up your legs.
- Swing one leg up and out of the cockpit.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Swing your feet to one side of the boat, and slowly lower your feet onto the ground.
- Grasp the handle on the front of your kayak.
- Bring it to shore.
Your Sitting Position
You can improve your comfort and safety by positioning yourself properly inside your kayak’s cockpit.
- If you have a sit-in kayak, push your back up against the backrest. To start, adjust the backrest so that it is at a 90-degree angle to the seat pad. Your back should be perpendicular to the kayak.
- Your boat should also boast adjustable thigh and hip braces. Tighten these to ensure that you have the proper support on all sides.
- Open your hips. The base of your feet should be resting up against the adjustable foot braces located inside the front end of your kayak cockpit.
- Still, confused? Check out this brief video tutorial on how to sit in a kayak. This seating position is designed to improve the paddlers’ comfort and efficiency.
- Dip your paddle blade into the water in front of you. The rod should be in the vertical position.
- While maintaining a 90-degrees angle, dig the blade into the sand to build resistance. Perform the same action with your fist on the opposite side of the boat. Your boat should move forward.
- Repeat this motion while alternating sides.
- Continue until your kayak is in open water.
- Then, paddle along your intended course.
We hope you enjoyed how-to guide on getting in and out of kayaks. Once you master these techniques, you’ll be able to launch and disembark from a variety of landings. These skills will make your time on the water inevitably safer and more enjoyable. We hope these tips and tricks will serve as the foundation for all your future outdoor excursions. Do you have a favorite landing spot? Let us know in the comment section below!