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Getting in and out of an inflatable kayak can sometimes be a little different to getting in and out of a traditional hardshell kayak. However, some of the steps are similar.
So before you pack your boat for a remote adventure, you might want to know how to get in an inflatable kayak without falling in.
But we can’t guarantee you won’t get wet during your adventure.
Most inflatable kayaks are sit-on-top kayaks, which can make getting in them a little easier compared to sit-inside kayaks. Inflatable kayaks generally have an open, flat deck and wide sidewalls, which can be an advantage for stability when you’re climbing in.
However, some inflatable kayaks have sit-inside hulls. Getting into an inflatable sit-inside kayak can be a little different to a sit-inside kayak, as there is an enclosed cockpit to climb into. Getting in an inflatable sit-inside kayak can be more similar to getting into a hardshell sit-inside kayak.
Getting in an inflatable kayak (or any other sit-on-top kayak) from the beach can be one of the easiest ways to do it. But you will probably get your feet wet in the process.
You might find it easier to have someone to help you. This way they can help hold and stabilize your kayak while you safely sit down. However, you can get into an inflatable kayak on your own if necessary.
Step 1: Take To The Water
Bring your kayak into the water, with the bow facing forward. Wade out a little, pulling the inflatable kayak with you. Wade into the water until the water is deep enough that your kayak will float with you in it – roughly calf-deep should be sufficient.
Step 2: Straddle The Kayak
Depending on what side of the kayak you are standing on, swing one leg over the kayak so that you are facing the bow with the kayak between your legs. This could be difficult depending on the width of your kayak and the length of your legs.
You might find it easier to straddle the kayak slightly behind the seat or cockpit area. But whatever works for you can be the best option.
If you’re a petite, lightweight paddler, you might find it’s easier to straddle the kayak at the narrower bow end and slide yourself back into the seat once you’ve lowered your body into the kayak.
You could also use this method for an inflatable sit-inside kayak and lower yourself into the cockpit before swinging one leg at a time into the cockpit.
Step 3: Lower Yourself Into The Kayak
Carefully bend your knees and lower yourself into your kayak.
You can use your paddle by placing it across the back of the kayak (perpendicular to the kayak) to help you lower yourself into the boat but this tends to be more useful for getting into a hardshell kayak. Depending on the type of inflatable sidewalls you have, using your paddle for this purpose might not work.
It might be easier for you to secure your paddle inside your kayak before you get in.
Once you have sat down in the seat or on the deck, swing both of your legs into the kayak and position your feet on the footrests (if your kayak has footrests).
If you have a rigid drop-stitch floor in your inflatable kayak, this can be a little easier to do than if you have a less rigid deck.
In most cases, the dock is going to be higher than the water. So you will probably have a bit of a drop between the dock and the deck of your kayak.
The distance between your kayak and the dock may determine how you go about getting into your inflatable kayak.
Step 1: Position Your Kayak Parallel With The Dock
To begin with, position your kayak so that it is in the water parallel to the dock. You might find it easier to secure your kayak to the dock with a rope so that the kayak doesn’t move away when you try to get in.
Step 2: Kneel On The Dock
If there is a short height distance between the dock and the deck of your kayak, you can kneel on the dock alongside your inflatable kayak.
Place your paddle on the deck of your kayak.
Hold the sides of your kayak for stability. And move one knee at a time onto the deck of your inflatable kayak, so that you are kneeling on the deck of your boat. You can then position yourself into your seat and paddle away.
This is a similar way to how you would board an inflatable SUP from a dock.
Alternative Step 2: Sit On The Dock
If there is a larger gap between the dock and the water then kneeling might not be the best option.
Alternatively, you can sit on the edge of the dock, with your legs hanging over your kayak below.
Hold your paddle in one hand and hold the dock with your other hand.
Carefully step onto the deck of your kayak, using the dock for balance and support. Position your feet around the center of the kayak, in front of your seat. One foot should be on either side of the deck for better balance.
Make sure you are suitably balanced on two feet. If your kayak is safe for standing, you can slowly push yourself away from the dock in a standing position if you feel sufficiently balanced (and have a drop-stitch floor to stand on). You can then sit down in your seat when you’re ready.
Video: How to Get In And Out Of An Inflatable Kayak (from a dock)
Remember to untie your kayak from the dock before you do this, or have someone untie it for you after you’ve safely boarded.
Alternatively (and if your kayak does not have a rigid floor), you can sit down as soon as both feet are in the kayak. You can use the dock to help lower yourself into your seat.
If the water is not suitable for you to wade in for easier boarding, you might find it’s necessary to use the methods of entering an inflatable kayak from a dock.
However, you might not be able to secure your kayak with a rope to a suitable anchor. It can help if you have another person with you to help steady the kayak while you get in from a riverbank.
Be careful if you are entering your kayak from rocks, as rocks can be very slippery.
If there is only a gradual slope on the riverbank or a small rocky shoreline, you could get in the kayak a slightly different way than from a dock or the beach.
Step 1: Position Your Kayak With The Stern Facing Out
Place your inflatable kayak in the water with the bow facing towards the shoreline. The stern should be in the deeper water and the bow should be in the shallower water closer to the shore (and closer to you). The shoreline should be perpendicular to the kayak.
This is so that when you climb in the kayak, the heavier stern end of the kayak will be in deeper water so that it won’t get stuck. And you should be able to push out more easily.
Step 2: Climb Aboard
Stand on one side of the kayak, with the bow of the kayak against the shoreline for support. Your feet should be in the shallow water beside your kayak.
Grab hold of your paddle in one hand, and place it across the kayak (keeping hold of it). Use this for stability as you climb into the kayak one leg at a time, and sit down in your seat.
Once you’re comfortable and in the correct position in your seat, you can maneuver the kayak away from the shore using your paddle.
Video: How To Launch And Land An Inflatable Kayak
While it’s usually pretty difficult to flip an inflatable kayak, it can happen. And this means you’re going to need to know how to climb back on from the water.
Step 1: Right Your Kayak
The first thing you ought to do is flip your kayak so that it’s the right way up. Keep a hold of your paddle while you do this.
You might find it’s easier to flip the kayak from either the bow or the stern rather than one of the sides at the center.
Once your kayak is the right way up, put your paddle inside and grab hold of one of the sides of the inflatable kayak.
Step 2: Climb Back In
With your arms holding onto the side chambers of the kayak, pull your body up out of the water as much as you can.
Next, use your legs to force your body up onto the kayak in a big kick and launch motion. You should be on your belly across the kayak after this.
Step 3: Reposition Yourself
From a face-down position on your kayak, swing your legs around so that your butt is on the deck. You can then reposition yourself in your seat and grab hold of your paddle to continue on your paddling trip.
Video: How To Get Back Into An Inflatable Kayak From The Water
Most of the methods of getting in an inflatable kayak can be done in reverse when you want to get out. You can follow the above steps in reverse.
If you plan to get out on a beach, you may have waves to contend with on the way in. Remember to keep your kayak perpendicular to the incoming waves and point the bow of your kayak to the shoreline where you intend to land.
It can be better to paddle on the back of a wave rather than the front of it. The back of a wave could help you get to the beach faster. The front of a wave might mean the wave breaks on you or causes you to lose control.
Once you’re close enough to the beach, you can exit the kayak in the same way as you got in from a beach. You could also swing your legs out over the side and jump off or stand up, depending on how deep the water is where you’ve chosen to land.
You can exit your inflatable kayak onto a dock by reversing the steps in which you got in from a dock (just like our methods above).
After you’ve pulled up alongside (parallel to) the dock, tie your kayak to the dock. This can prevent the kayak from floating away when you try to step out.
Remember to place your feet at either side of the kayak deck to stabilize the boat before you attempt to stand up.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you are now equipped with information on how to get in and out of an inflatable kayak with ease.
Remember to keep a hold of (or secure) your paddle and your kayak while you’re getting in and out of your kayak to prevent them from floating away from you.
Try to choose the safest available location to enter and exit your kayak and, if possible, have someone around to help you. And remember to watch your step on slippery rocks (or a slippery deck).
Have you got a better way to get in and out of your inflatable kayak? Let us know.