How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak


How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak

One of the skills you must learn when first starting out is how to get into kayak. It will definitely make for a great kayaking experience. There are different techniques for all different scenarios.

How do you get in and out of a kayak? Learn step-by-step from a dock, the shore, or even open water. Know different entry techniques for a sit in or sit on top kayak, and even sea kayaks.

General Kayaking Tips

  • Always kayak with a partner. It is safer to have a buddy along if you need help.
  • Let someone know when you are out on the water and when you should return and give a clear location.
  • Wear a personal floatation device or life jacket at all times.
  • It is preferable to kayak wearing a good pair of deck shoes. This will be handy if you need to enter or exit the kayak on a rocky shore.
  • Secure your kayak paddle with a paddle leash or bungee cord.

Learn all about paddling your kayak before you head out here.

Getting To Get Into A Kayak

There are a few key things to keep in mind. First, there are a few types kayaks and each will be a little different in getting in and out.

I will cover getting into the kayaks and then how to get in during different situations.

Entering A Sit On Top Kayak

Sit on top kayak

The sit on top kayaks have a platform for a cockpit and are the widest of all the kayaks. This will make getting in and out of it much easier.

Most sit on tops are between 33 and 36 inches across and are fairly stable. You can step onto the cockpit from the shore or a dock.

Getting Into A Sit In Kayak

Sit in kayaks are still fairly stable with a width between 29 and 32 inches.

It is better to enter from a sitting position like from a dock. Slide your legs in one at a time until you are firmly in the seat.

How To Get Into A Sea Kayak

sea kayak touring kayak

Sea and touring kayaks have narrow sit inside cockpits, are long and tippy, and made for speed with effortless paddling.

All sit in kayaks including touring and sea kayaks will fill with water if capsized. So a bilge pump is handy to clear the cockpit. And most seasoned kayakers will use a spray skirt around their waist to keep warm and dry inside.

Interested in sea kayaks but not sure what size would work best for you? Read here about all the styles and capacity choice available here.

Getting In A Kayak From A Dock

Getting in a kayak from a dock

  • Pick the lowest point of the dock. The further down the dock you launch, the harder it is to enter the kayak
  • Position your kayak parallel to the dock with the bow facing away from shore.
  • Place the kayak paddle across the dock and your kayak.
  • Sit down holding on to the dock and kayak.
  • Turn your body and lower yourself from the dock to the seat of the kayak. This is with one hand still on the dock.
  • Put your feet into the kayak. Slide your legs forward and into the cockpit one at a time.
  • Keep your balance as you enter.
  • Secure the spray skirt for a sit in kayak or sea kayak.
  • Hold the paddle and use one hand to push the kayak from the dock.

How To Get Into A Kayak From The Shore

  • Sandy beaches are best where you can push off from shore with both hands.
  • Avoid dragging your kayak across a concrete boat launch or a rocky shoreline. It can scrape your kayak and damage the hull.
  • Place your kayak in 2 to 3 inches of water and perpendicular to the shoreline.
  • Wait for incoming the incoming tide when beach launching.
  • Swing your leg over and straddle the kayak.
  • Pull your legs in and slide your legs into the cockpit one at a time.
  • Secure the spray skirt for a sit in kayak or sea kayak.
  • Push off with both hands or your kayak paddle.

From The Deep Water

You might be in the water for one of many reasons. You lost your balance and fell out. Large waves rocked you out of your kayak. Or you are wade fishing and are ready to reenter your kayak.

Here are the techniques to get back in a kayak from open water.

Walk Your Kayak Back

  • If you can touch the bottom and you are close to shore.
  • Then you can reenter using the “from the
  • shore” technique above.

Open Water Entry

  • Roll the kayak back upright if it capsized.
  • Secure your paddle to the kayak and use it as an outrigger.
  • Facing the side of the kayak, grab the gunwale or side of the cockpit with both hands.
  • Brace your paddle across the kayak and use it to leverage with one of your legs to climb onto the kayak.
  • Lift yourself up and across the kayak with your belly button resting on the top until you are balanced.
  • Work to reposition yourself and slide your legs into the cockpit.
  • Secure the spray skirt for a sit in kayak or sea kayak.

Getting Out Of A Kayak

Getting out of a kayak

It is easier to get out of a kayak than getting in one. The easiest way to exit a kayak is from the shore.

Getting Out Of A Kayak On The Shore

Paddle the kayak towards the shore until you reach about a foot of water. You can check this with your paddle. Turn until you are parallel to the shore until you are in 2-3 inches of water.

From A Sit In Kayak

  • Unfasten your spray skirt if you have one.
  • Pull yourself up with each arm and slide back onto the top of the kayak. This can be the top of the seat or behind it.
  • Straddle the hull with one leg on each side.
  • Swing one leg over and dismount from the kayak

From A Sit On Top Kayak

  • The kayak platform should be stable at 2-3 inches of water.
  • Stand onto the platform and step off to one side.
  • Use the paddle to balance if necessary.

Exiting A Kayak On A Dock

  • Line up and snug against the dock.
  • Slide your kayak paddle across the dock and out of your way.
  • Secure your kayak with a towline if you have one.
  • Put one hand on the dock and steady your kayak.
  • Turn your body to face the dock and put both hands on its edge.
  • Push yourself up and slide your rear onto the dock.
  • Swing your legs onto the dock if you have a towline.
  • Swing only one leg onto the dock If you don’t have a towline. Use the other leg to hold the kayak to the dock until you can pull it out and onto the dock.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can big guy kayakers get in and out of kayaks safely?

Yes, keeping two things in mind. Avoid standing in sit on top kayaks. This means get in and out on your knees or in very shallow water. Second, work on your balance. Keep low and hold onto the seat or the hull whenever possible.

Do I need a bilge pump if my sit on top kayak flips over?

Yes. Check if the hatches have filled with water. You will need to pump out any excess water. Otherwise, the water will sink or float below the waterline.

How do I use my paddle to get in the kayak?

Include a paddle float in your hatches. Put it on one paddle blade and fill with air. This will allow leverage when you use it to climb back into the kayak.

Tracy Villarreal

I'm the owner of Active At The Beach. I grew up in a beach town in which I was fortunate enough to spend tons of time around the sea and the beach.

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