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, even if you have experience paddle boarding. So, how do you do it?

We have put together a step by step guide to show you how, with a little practice, 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 so you can re-enter easily. 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 or using a bilge pump.

Step 2: Secure Your Paddle

Place your paddle somewhere on the deck of the boat so that it’s not going to get lost 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 or belly button over the cockpit or seat.

Step 4: Reposition Yourself

Now that you’re lying over your vessel, put one hand on one edge of the cockpit and the other on the other 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, as a first step, you need to make sure your yak is stable and not going to float off. If you’re on a shore or the edge of the dock, your kayak should be parallel with the shore or parallel to the 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 which can be positioned behind the cockpit.

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 for more stability. Remember to keep your kayak parallel to the shore or parallel to the dock.

Step 3: Climb In

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

Put one foot inside the cockpit and let both arms take your weight as you lift your other 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.

If you have a spray skirt to attach, remember to fit it before you push away.

This video demonstrates this technique.

Alternative Method

Another way of getting in your kayak cockpit, particularly from a beach, is to straddle it and lower your butt into the seat before pulling both legs in, one foot at a time. Keep your kayak perpendicular to your paddle. It can also be easily reversed when you go to climb back out. But it might not be as easy if you have bad knees

You will only be able to do this in shallow water 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 all recreational kayaks, both SIKs and SOTs. If it's rocky or uneven shoreline, this may prove difficult. Some inflatable kayaks may also be a trickier because of their extra width.

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 rocky shoreline, 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 with the front half moving forward until you hit the sand and can’t go any further.

This means the back half or other half of your boat will be facing the water and your kayak will be perpendicular to the shoreline.

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, keeping their boat parallel to yours. Or if you're spending time with a paddling partner and 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, stay calm, and place both hands on the ground. Let your arms take your weight but remember to keep your knees close to you and your weight low so your yak doesn’t float away.

With your body 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 could be difficult with a high dock.

This video shows you how to perform this maneuver.

Exiting Onto The Water

If you’re getting out of your vessel in shallow water or a sandy 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. However, this probably won't work in deep water and can be best if there's only a few inches of water.

You can also reverse the same technique 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 and improve your kayaking experience is to practice in shallow, calm water or in a pool: somewhere without currents or waves. Deeper water can be less safe for beginners, especially if there are incoming waves to contend with.

You may need to slide forward in your seat so you're in a comfortable position before you set off. And make sure you have all the relevant safety gear, such as your life jacket.

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 shaft 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 and your hands should be roughly shoulder width apart.

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 paddle 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 for each of the paddle blades.

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.

Conclusion

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.


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 3 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.

Reply
Robert

Good show on how to exit a kayak. thanks

Reply
    Kayak Guru

    Thanks Robert 🙂

    Reply

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