How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak

How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak9 min read

When I first started kayaking, I was nervous that getting in and out of a kayak would be too difficult. I wasn’t sure if you needed years of experience to master this activity, but I decided to learn how.

It would be best to learn to enter and exit a kayak from a dock, the shore, and open water. Sit-on-top and sit-in kayaks each have their steps to use.

Read on and learn:

  • General kayaking safety tips
  • The ins and outs of three types of kayaks
  • The steps needed to enter and exit your kayak at a dock
  • How to get in and out on the shore
  • How to reenter your kayak from the open water

First, Let’s Review General Kayaking Safety 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 return and give a precise location.
  • Wear a personal floatation device or life jacket at all times.
  • It is preferable to kayak wearing a good pair of deck shoes. They 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.

How To Enter Three Different Types Of Kayaks

Getting in and out of a kayak is an essential skill. The first is learning how to get into a kayak. There are different types of kayaks, each with different ways to enter and exit.

sit on top kayak

What Is The Effort To Enter A Sit On Top Kayak?

The design of a sit-in kayak makes it harder to learn the ins and outs. In addition, it has an enclosed cockpit that makes it a little more challenging than the sit-on-top models.

You can’t just climb over the sides as you do with a sit-on-top kayak. To get in the sit-on-top kayaks, you sit on the edge and lower yourself inside. There is a slight learning curve for this process, but most people can figure it out pretty quickly.

Sit In Kayak Cockpit
Sit In Kayak Cockpit

How Is Entering A Sit-In Kayak Different?

I suggest grabbing the seat from behind and pulling it towards the cockpit, and lowering yourself in the opening. Then, sit down inside and move forward until you have taken all of your weight off of your legs. Once you are in the kayak, check to see that your feet are in front of you and firmly planted on either side of the cockpit opening.

Slide your butt to the back of the kayak and rest your feet on the back support. Then, use your upper body to lift yourself and slide into place.

sea kayak touring kayak

What Are The Challenges Of Getting Into A Sea Kayak?

Now the challenges of getting into a sea kayak. What is a sea kayak?

Sea kayaks are long and narrow with flat wider sides for stability in waves and wind. They have no keel or rudder for controlling direction, but you can steer using foot-controlled rudders.

They also have no cockpit coaming or high sides like smaller kayaks but have large cockpits to allow easy entry and exit.

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

entering kayak at dock
Entering Kayak At Dock

Here Are The 9 Steps Used To Get Into A Kayak From A Dock

  • Pick the lowest point of the dock. The further down the pier 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 pier and your kayak.
  • Sit down, holding on to the dock and kayak.
  • Turn your body and lower yourself from the pier to the seat of the kayak. Do this is with one hand still on the pier.
  • 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.

Use These 8 Steps 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 coastline.
  • Wait for 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.

Here Two Options For Getting Back Into Your Kayak From 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 To The Shore To Reenter Your Kayak

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

Perform An Open Water Entry Using These 7 Steps

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

Read more about how to reenter a kayak in deep water here.

Here Are Two Scenarios For 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
Getting Out Of A Kayak

Get 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 coast until you are in 2-3 inches of water.

4 Steps To Exit From A Sit-In Kayak On The Shore

  1. Unfasten your spray skirt if you have one.
  2. 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.
  3. Straddle the hull with one leg on each side.
  4. Swing one leg over and dismount from the kayak

3 Steps To Exit A Sit On Top Kayak On The Shore

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

Exit A Kayak At A Dock Using These 8 Steps

  1. Line up and snug against the dock.
  2. Slide your kayak paddle across the pier and out of your way.
  3. Secure your kayak with a towline if you have one.
  4. Put one hand on the dock and steady your kayak.
  5. Turn your body to face the dock and put both hands on its edge.
  6. Push yourself up and slide your rear onto the pier.
  7. Swing your legs onto the dock if you have a towline.
  8. 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 pier.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

 Yes, keeping two things in mind. First, avoid standing in sit on top kayaks, and doing 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?

First, include a paddle float in your hatches. Then, put it on one paddle blade and fill it with air. Doing this will allow leverage when you use it to climb back into the kayak.

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