As a beginning kayaker, one of the first things you need to learn is how to get in and out of a kayak. As straightforward as it may seem, many find that this is more difficult than paddling the kayak itself. In fact, the likelihood of you falling into the water is higher here than when you’re out there paddling. So we have here several tips to help you get in and out of a kayak properly and safely so you can avoid an unexpected swim.
Along this line, different people will have different ideas and techniques about how to best execute these maneuvers. However, the tips mentioned here should be applicable to most kayakers and for most conditions.
Choose Your Launching and Landing Spots
Choosing the perfect site to launch and land your kayak is essential to a successful kayaking experience. The right spot will also play a role in how easy or difficult it will be for you to get in and out of the vessel. Alternatively, the wrong place will give you an awkward dunking. There are three common places where you can launch and land your kayak: the beach, a dock or an uneven shoreline.
Before Getting Into Your Kayak
Before you plop yourself (or try to) into your kayak, set your kayak down in a safe place first and do a pre-launch check. Make sure that your life vest is snug and comfortable, and attachments like survival whistle or handheld navigational device is firmly leashed.
Also, check that you have all kayak accessories you’ll need for the trip stowed properly in the kayak or within your reach. It can be really frustrating to realize that you forgot your water bottle back in the car just when you’re getting ready to launch. This is especially true for your paddle. You’ll want is as close as possible to reach when you’re seated comfortably in your kayak.
Now that’s done, it’s time to get your feet wet.
Launching from the Shore Technique #1
Getting into a kayak is much easier when done from the shore. There are several ways to do so, this being the first on the list.
- Put your sea kayak perpendicular to the shore with bow in the water and the stern resting on the sand. It is recommended that more than half the kayak is in the water’s edge. If not, then you’ll likely to be beached and you’ll have to get out of the kayak to move it closer to the water.
- Hop into the kayak.
- Push yourself out into the water with your hands.
Keep in mind though that this method is only recommended on a smooth beach with fine sand. You should only use strong plastic kayaks for this method since such kayak material can stand against this type of abuse well. If you have a fiberglass or carbon fiber kayak, then you should avoid this technique altogether and try technique #2 instead.
Launching from the Shore Technique #2
Here’s a second way to get into your kayak when you’re on the beach.
- Put your kayak just a few inches on the water. About ankle- or knee-deep should do.
- Put one leg on each side of the kayak just above the cockpit.
- From this straddling position, grab the cockpit firmly and quickly but carefully lower your bum down behind the cockpit.
- Bring one foot at a time into the cockpit into the leg room keeping your knees bent.
- Straighten your legs into the thigh braces and slide yourself forward into the seat. If you have a sit-on-top kayak, you can simply swing your legs in once you’re seated.
This works best if you have a companion who can hold and steady the kayak for you while you attempt to get in. However, it still works even if you’re alone.
Landing and Exiting on the Shore
Here is where it gets tricky because believe it or not more people find getting out of the kayak more challenging than getting in it.
When landing your kayak onto the beach:
- Bring your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline, paddling up to the sand so that the kayak beaches or when it is floating a just a few inches above the water.
- Get one foot out of the kayak and planting it firmly onto the sand.
- Work on getting your second foot out until you’re back into a straddling position.
- Reach forward and grab the front of your cockpit.
- Pull yourself forward up to a standing position, never letting go of the kayak until you’ve found your balance.
Launching from a Dock
As mentioned earlier, you need to find a good launching spot, and this couldn’t be truer than when you’re attempting to get into your kayak from a dock. So first, you need to take a look at the dock and evaluate your situation. If the dock is significantly higher in the water, then you’re going to have a more difficult time getting into your kayak. Thus, you’ll want to look for the lowest point between the dock and the water to be your launching spot.
Now, time to get yourself into the kayak.
- Place your kayak parallel to the dock.
- Sit on the edge of the dock next to your kayak, placing the paddle on the dock within arm’s reach for when you’re seated on the cockpit. This is important especially if you don’t have anyone to hand you paddle when you’re nice and comfy in the cockpit.
- Dangle one leg over the dock placing it carefully into the cockpit of the kayak to pull and hold it closer.
- Hold onto the edge of the dock and place the other feet into the cockpit.
- Turn your body towards the bow of the kayak.
- While holding on to the dock lower yourself quickly but carefully into the cockpit.
Once you’re comfortable inside the cockpit you can use your free hand to grab the paddle, and then you can let go of the dock and push yourself away from the dock.
Getting out of the Kayak on the Dock
When landing in a dock, again find the lowest point between the water and the dock as this will be your landing point.
- Paddle until your kayak is parallel to the dock until you can grab it.
- Hold onto the edges of the dock with both hands.
- Rotate your torso until it faces the dock.
- With both hands firmly in place, use your arms to pull yourself out of the kayak.
- Once you’ve pulled yourself up, raise one leg and put your knee on the dock. With both hands and a knee on the platform, raise your other leg up until you’re up in platform.
The key to this technique is to put all your weight on the dock as you are pulling yourself up. Don’t worry about leaning too much on the dock, they’re pretty strong and will hold up nicely so put your weight on it.
Getting in a Kayak on an Uneven or Rocky Shoreline
This is perhaps one of the more difficult places to launch and land your kayak, and consequently to get into and out of it. On a rocky or uneven shoreline, you can’t slide your kayak into the water because all the rocks will damage its hull, so you’ll need to start with the kayak floating on the water.
- Place kayak about ankle- or knee-deep on the water.
- Use your paddle to hold on to as you get into the kayak by placing one end of the paddle on the stern of your kayak and the other end on a rock or on the shore.
- Holding on to the paddle behind you, squat down beside your kayak.
- Raise your bum and rest it onto the back end of the cockpit.
- Raise one leg (the one nearest to the kayak) slide it into the cockpit.
- Once one leg inside the cockpit, do the same for the other until both legs are firmly inside the cockpit.
- Push your legs forward and slide your bum down into the kayak seat.
Getting Out of the Kayak on an Uneven or Rocky Shoreline
To get out of the kayak on an uneven or rocky shoreline, here’s what you need to do:
- Paddle to the shoreline and align your kayak parallel to it.
- When you’re close enough, put your paddle behind you with one end resting on the stern and the other on a rock or the shore.
- Grabbing the paddle behind you, pull your bum out of the cockpit and sit on its back end.
- Pull one leg out of the cockpit and plant it firmly on the ground for balance.
- Pull your other leg out, plant it firmly on the ground and stand up.
Now You Know
One of the basic skills you need to master in order to kayak successfully is how to get in and out of the kayak. As you can see from the above paragraphs, much of the technique you will use will depend on where you’re kayaking and you’re launching and landing spot. But aside from that, it really is more of getting used to it.
Learning this skill won’t be easy at first. There will be epic fails also. So in the meantime, be gentle with yourself when you don’t get it right the first time. Smile and laugh at yourself to keep it light, and know that it will get easier and will look more effortless with more practice and as you gain more experience.
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