How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak

Getting in or out of a boat can be tricky at the best of times, but for kayaking it can be even more difficult, and it can definitely be a little daunting if you’re new to the sport. So, how do you do it?

We have put together a step by step guide to show you how to get in and out of a kayak safely.

Hopefully with our handy instructions you can avoid any embarrassments or mishaps when you next take to the water.

How To Get Into A Kayak

From The Water

Step 1: Hold On

The most important thing when you’re in the water, trying to get back in your vessel is to keep a hold of both the yak and the paddle.

If your yak is upside down, roll it over so that it’s the right way up. To do this you should position yourself at the side of the yak, near the center where the seat is. If it’s a sit-inside you may want to bail it out by heading back to shore.

Step 2: Secure Your Paddle

Place your paddle somewhere on the deck of the boat so that it’s not going to float away while you try to climb back in. If it can be secured with anything on the craft then do this.

Step 3: Jump Back On

Once your paddle is secure and you’re positioned at the side of your yak, facing your seat, grab hold of the rim of the cockpit closest to you and kick your feet up to the surface of the water.

Lift yourself up and across the kayak so that you’re lying over the kayak with your abdomen over the cockpit or seat.

Step 4: Reposition Yourself

Now that you’re lying over your vessel, put one hand on one side of the cockpit and the other on the opposite side and pull your legs in as you swivel yourself back into your seat.

From here you can readjust yourself in your seat and swing your legs back into paddling position.

For a little extra help, this video shows you how it’s done.

If you've flipped your kayak over, this article will help.

How To Launch From Land Or A Dock

Step 1: Line It Up

Before you attempt to climb in, you need to make sure your yak is stable and not going to float away. If you’re on a shore or dock, your kayak should be parallel with the shore or dock, so that you are standing on one side and the water is on the opposite side.

Step 2: Keep It Steady

The last thing you want is for your craft to float away before you’re even in it, so make sure you keep a hold of it and the paddle. If the bow (the front) is on your left then use your right hand to hold the rim of the back of the cockpit, as well as the paddle.

You should then turn your body so that it’s facing the direction that you’ll be facing when you’re seated in the vessel. You should be crouched down to do this.

Step 3: Climb In

Assuming your bow is on your left and you’re using your right hand to hold the cockpit, steady yourself by putting your left hand on the ground or on the other end of your paddle, which you might be using to stabilize yourself, if it’s strong enough.

Put your right leg inside the cockpit and let both arms take your weight as you lift your left leg in, so that you can slide down into the kayak. Then you simply push yourself away from the dock or shore with your hand or paddle.

This video demonstrates this technique.

Alternative Method

Another way of getting in your yak, particularly from a beach, is to straddle it and lower your butt into the seat before pulling both legs in one at a time. It can also be easily reversed when you go to climb back out.

You will only be able to do this where you can stand on land on both sides of your yak with the bow facing the water and stern facing the land but it’s suitable for both SIKs and SOTs.

This video shows you how.

You can also try this technique, which can work well for a sit-on-top. Similar to the step by step guide, you put both feet in first, instead of one at a time, before lifting yourself in with your arms.

How To Get Out Of A Kayak Again

Via Shore Or A Dock

Step 1: Paddle Up To Shore Or Dock

If you’re paddling up to a dock, use your paddle to come alongside the dock. If you’re heading for a shore, then you can do the same thing, or if it’s a beach you might find it’s easier to paddle straight up to it until you hit the sand and can’t go any further.

Step 2: Steady Yourself

If you’re climbing out onto a dock, this will be vital. Position your paddle with one end on the dock and the other end on your kayak. You can do this by resting it behind the seat.

If you have another paddler nearby, they can help steady your vessel by pulling up next to it. Or if there are two of you in a tandem, you can have one person steady it while the other one climbs out and vice versa.

Step 3: Climb Out

Turn your body towards the dock and place both hands on the ground. Let your arms take your weight but remember to keep your knees close to you so your yak doesn’t float away.

With your weight mostly on your arms, lift one leg at a time up and onto the dock. Try not to push yourself with your legs or the kayak will come away from under you and this is where you could fall in the water.

This video shows you how to perform this maneuver.

Exiting Onto The Water

If you’re getting out of your vessel on the water or a beach, the simplest way to do this is to swing your legs around to the side and step out, using your arms to steady yourself and push yourself up.

You can also reverse this method for getting back in, butt first, just like in this video...

Kayaking Basics: Paddling

We have a full guide on how to paddle a kayak. This is a mini-tutorial.

When you’re just starting out, paddling in the wild can be a daunting prospect. But it’ll just take time to learn the techniques and you’ll be feeling confident on the water in no time.

The best way to build confidence in your vessel is to practice in shallow, calm water or in a pool: somewhere without currents or waves.

What You’ll Need:

  • Kayak
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
  • Paddle

Step 1: Hold Your Paddle

Assuming you’re in your craft, ensure you’re holding your paddle correctly. Your body should be positioned at the center of the paddle when you’re holding it with both hands and your elbows should form right angles. Each hand should be positioned at an equal distance from each end of the shaft.

Step 2: Rotate Paddle

Your grip on the paddle should be firm but loose enough for the shaft to be able to rotate as you paddle. The hand that is powering the blade through the water will be the hand that has a firm grip and the other will be looser to allow for the rotation, so each will alternate between loose and firm grip.

Step 3: Forward Paddling

In order to move forwards, place one blade fully into the water and pull back with the hand that is closest to it. As you do this, use your other hand to push forward. You will find that your body will twist into the movement.

Then, alternate this step with the opposite blade in the water. You should now be moving forwards with this alternating action repeated.

This video demonstrates the motion.

Step 4: Paddle Backwards

To paddle backwards, repeat the forward paddling action, only in reverse. So instead of pulling back with your hand closest to the blade in the water, you will be pushing forwards.

Remember to twist your body as you paddle, so you can see where you’re going and it will also help to power you along.

Step 5: Turning

To turn your kayak, simply repeat the paddling motion on only one side - the side that’s closest to the direction you want to turn. You should use short, strong strokes that don’t go behind your body.

You should keep your head facing the direction you want to turn and also lean, creating edging, into the side you’re paddling on. This will help to propel your turn, just like in this video.


Did you have fun learning our kayaking techniques? We know you’re probably desperate to get out on the water and try them for yourselves.

Remember that safety is important no matter where you’re paddling. Whether you’re launching or exiting, keep in mind that you should only attempt what you’re capable of and when the conditions are safe.

> Learn More About Kayaking

If you have any questions or comments, just let us know. And don’t forget to share this article with all your fellow paddlers.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Cindy F

Thank you so much for this info. I was much younger and more agile when I used to kayak. I’m older and much heavier than before. I want to enjoy this sport and also get back into shape. Again thank you theinfo will help me greatly.


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