The first thing you should probably learn about as a beginner at kayaking is how to get in and out of your kayak. For sit on top kayaks and canoes it’s not too difficult but a closed cockpit kayak can prove a little more tricky, especially if it’s your first time.
In this guide we’ll cover a few of the different locations that you’re likely to launch from and go over the different approaches and techniques to ensure a graceful entry (and exit) from your kayak.
Finding a suitable location
An important part of getting in and out is finding the right location to launch off from.
If it’s your first time you’re going to want to choose somewhere calm and without any tidal waters. Check out our post on where and when to go kayaking for more information about the sorts of places that are good for beginners.
The ideal location is going to be somewhere that has:
- Calm flat water
- No tidal rivers or beaches with strong currents
- No obstacles
Once you’re more experienced you’ll be able to branch out to some more adventurous locations. On your first times going out kayaking you should always go with other people. It’s much better to go with experienced kayakers who can help you out if you’re having any trouble!
How to get into a kayak
The main spots that you’re going to be getting in to your kayak are:
- From the shoreline or a beach where you can straddle the kayak
- From a dock or jetty where you’ll step in first and balance as you place your butt in
Ideally you want a shoreline that’s not too rocky (although we’ll cover how to get in on a rocky shoreline) or a dock that’s not too high. You also want to start with a flat shoreline that doesn’t have large waves.
Let’s start by looking at how to get in.
From the shoreline or beach
- First you’re going to want to place your kayak in the water, find a spot where the water isn’t too deep but deep enough that once you’re in you’ll still be afloat. Pop your paddle under deck line if you have one.
- Place the kayak in the water with the bow (the front) pointing away from the shoreline and the stern (the back) pointing towards the shore.
- Stand over the kayak with a leg on each side of the cockpit just above your seat.
- Hold each side of the cockpit rim with your hands and lower your bum into the seat, you’ll then be able to place your legs inside while balancing with your hands
- Grab your paddle and you’re off!
The other way of getting in is slightly different. Instead of having the kayak perpendicular to the shore you have it parallel and go in feet first.
This method is best if you’re launching from a rocky shoreline as you can’t just get into the kayak and slide yourself away.
- Place your kayak parallel with the shoreline and have your paddle across the back of the cockpit just behind your seat as an outrigger perpendicular to the shoreline. The other blade of the paddle is resting on the shore.
- With one hand holding the paddle, grab the rear of the cockpit rim and squat down next to the kayak.
- Place your feet in first using your other hand to hold the end of the paddle shaft on the shoreline for balance.
- Lower your butt in and then pull the paddle around in front of you to set off.
Heres a video demonstrating this way of getting in.
Launching from a dock
Launching from a dock is just as easy as launching from the shoreline.
First, find the lowest point of the dock where the gap between the surface of the water and the dock is very small. Remember to keep your paddle nearby and within easy reach.
- Place your kayak parallel to the dock and sit down on the edge and place your feet inside the cockpit in front of the seat.
- Then with your feet inside, hold the far side of the kayak and turn your body towards the bow whilst still holding on with your other hand to the dock itself.
- Lower your butt into the seat whilst holding on until you’re seated properly and comfortable.
- Grab your paddle and push yourself away from the dock and you’ll be good to go.
Here’s a video so you can see for yourself.
Getting into your kayak from water
If you need to get back in your boat after capsizing or any other reason there are a few things you need to do.
- Hold on! Make sure that you can hold on tight to your kayak to stop it from getting away from you. If you’re in a river with even a small flow it’s going start to move away so get grip of your yak first.
- Then you’re going to want to secure your paddle. Place it under the deck line if your kayak has one or if not try to place it behind the cockpit securely so it doesn’t float away.
- Position your body in front of the middle of the cockpit facing your seat. Bring your legs up to the surface of the water behind you.
- With your legs behind you you then give a powerful kick and pull yourself up so that your chest and abdomen are over the kayak.
- Grab the rims of the cockpit at either side to balance yourself as you then twist your body around so that you can place your bum into the seat. From there you’ll be able to swing your legs around back inside from and you’ll be good to go.
Check out this video demonstrating how to get back into a kayak from the water.
How to get out of a kayak
Getting out is just as easy as getting into a kayak. In most circumstances you just reverse the method of getting in with a few subtle changes.
Most of the time you’ll be getting out at the same spot you got in at but if you’re exiting the water somewhere unfamiliar again you want to look for flat beaches without high waves or a dock that’s not too high.
Exiting on to the shore
When getting out on a sandy beach or a ramp, point the kayak so that it’s perpendicular to the shoreline.
- Paddle up to the shore until your kayak beaches and you can’t go any further.
- Secure your paddle and then place your hands either side of the cockpit so you can push your self up.
- Then step out one foot at a time and push your self up so you’re standing.
It’s a lot easier than getting in so you shouldn’t have any trouble.
Getting out at a dock
To get out of a kayak at a dock you reverse the procedure we covered earlier.
Make sure though that you don’t reach too far to grab the dock when pulling up to it. It’s very easy to miss judge the distance and end up tipping over so get as close as you can first before reaching out.
- Pull up alongside the dock so that you are parallel to the dock. You want to find the its lowest point.
- Make sure you paddle is secure and then hold on to the dock with both hands.
- Using the dock to balance yourself stand up and twist your body so you can sit on the edge of the dock keeping your feet inside the kayak.
So hopefully that’s helped make a little more sense of the different ways to get in and out of a kayak. Just remember to look for safe places to launch from and always try and go with a group so you can have someone help you if you’re having trouble.
If you have any questions that we haven’t covered just post a comment below.