There are a lot of people who want to go kayaking but are unprepared for the delicate dance of trying to get in one. Don’t underestimate this remedial task as it takes a certain amount of finesse to master it – especially without losing your paddle. You will probably fall a couple of times, get wet and maybe even be the butt of your friends’ jokes. But take solace in the fact that with each fall you are getting better – and you’ll fall less with this guide we put together. As avid kayakers, we want to try and speed up the learning process while minimizing embarrassing moments. The more fun you have the more you’ll come back for more. Study the tips below to ensure your next trip will be a dry one.
Kayaking is a water sport that involves a long slender boat, reminiscent of a canoe. To propel your kayak you will use a double-sided kayak paddle: one long shaft that has a paddle blade on each end.
Kayaks come in a few different designs and formats, the most common of which is a single rider setup where the front is fully enclosed so your legs are inside the kayak. Other designs include a tandem style, allowing two people to operate the kayak: one person in front and one in the back.
Kayaking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air. It’s a peaceful activity that also provides an excellent source of exercise.
Where You Can Launch Your Kayak?
Technically you can launch your kayak anywhere there’s water. Everywhere from a sandy beach to a rocky shoreline – in theory you could even launch your kayak in the community pool if you want to, however, the lifeguards may disapprove. Before you go launching just anywhere though, some places are safer than others.
Getting into a kayak can be difficult the first few times. Launching in a safe place, in a few inches of water, that is away from waves and current is the best place for you to start. Try to avoid launching from a dock at first, as the dock is the most difficult way to get in the water. Have a friend help you in the beginning – they can lend a hand, hold your paddle or keep the kayak steady while you get settled.
How To Get Into Your Kayak…
…From The Dock
Getting in from a dock can be a little tricky. The higher the dock is from the water means the more difficult it will be to get in safely. The best scenario is to have a friend help you by keeping the kayak parallel and steady while you maneuver into it. For this tutorial, we will teach you how to get in without any help.
Start by sitting on the dock with your feet hanging over the edge. Put one foot in at a time. With your feet in the kayak, carefully shift your body weight on them while keeping your hands on the dock. Turn your body 180 so that you are facing the dock with your hands still holding on and your feet in the boat. Keep your kayak parallel to the dock. From there lower your backside down so you can sit in the seat. Be sure to have set your kayak paddle in a place where you can easily reach it once you’re in.
…From The Water
To enter your kayak from the water is much easier than from a dock. Find yourself a spot that has little to no waves or current and is only a few inches deep. Ensure the kayak is floating in some water but not deep water – about a foot of water is perfect for most recreational kayaks.
From here, straddle your kayak just over the cockpit while you’re facing forward. Lower your backside down in the seat slowly to maintain balance. Once you have done so, bring your feet in one at a time. You can be holding your paddle the entire time or you can lay it across the kayak just in front of the cockpit as you get each leg inside.
…On The Beach Or Shoreline
Start by aligning your kayak so that it’s perpendicular to the shoreline. The backend should be on the shore and the front should be floating in a few inches of water. You can lay your paddle down on the ground next to your kayak, and ensure that it’s within arms’ reach.
Using almost the same technique as a water entry, start by straddling your kayak just over the cockpit. Carefully lower your butt into the seat – you can brace your hands on the cockpit rim here for more stability. Once your behind is securely in the seat you can lift your feet in and you’re ready to go.
Sitting In Your Kayak Properly
Once you’re in the kayak it’s very important to sit properly. If you’re like us you’ll want to spend a lot of time out there so taking care of your back is very important.
Most kayaks have a backrest that you can adjust to your liking. While it may be tempting to lean back and get comfortable, this is not the optimal way to kayak. Set the backrest so that it fully supports your lower back – you want to sit tall with your chest out so you can use your paddle blade to its full potential.
- You’re going to be doing a lot of paddling so being in a strong position is to your advantage
- You should feel strong in your core so your shoulders have full mobility; use your abdominal muscles to keep you upright
- Place your feet on the pedals that are on the inside
- Your legs should be outstretched but keep your knees slightly bent, not locked
The purpose of good posture is not only to provide powerful strokes but also to prevent injury. Sit with a strong back and keep a wide shoulder width so you can paddle safely all day long.
Some additional advice for when you are out on the water.
For Inflatable Kayaks
The most important tip for inflatable kayaks, like those seen in our best inflatable kayak article, is to always have your pump with you. Not just for the initial inflation but also for top-ups along the way. An inflatable kayak works best when it’s at full inflation. Paddling becomes much more difficult if your kayak loses air. A secondary tip would be to plan your launch around any sharp objects. There’s nothing worse than ending a kayak trip before you even started because you punctured it on a rocky shoreline.
Avoid Getting Wet
This can be tough to do when you’re out on the water, especially if you’re in any kind of rapids. The best way to stay dry is to wear a wetsuit. You can get full-body ones that cover you from neck to ankles which will not only keep you dry but also warm if you need the extra layer.
Getting Out Of Your Kayak
Getting out can sometimes be harder than getting in. It’s basically the reverse of getting it but this time you don’t have gravity on your side. The first thing to do is to free your feet and legs from the cockpit and place one foot on each side of the kayak. If you’re in shallow and calm water, use your paddle blade to brace against the bottom for added stability. Once you find firm footing then you can lean forward, stand up and exit your kayak safely. You should now be straddling your kayak just like how you entered.
Safety is always at the top of the list anytime you’re dealing with water. Whether it’s a tranquil lake, raging rapids or the pristine ocean, water conditions can change at the drop of a hat.
Your first line of defense against the unpredictable waters is a personal flotation device or life jacket. PFDs are perfect for kayaking as they will keep you safe but also allow for full mobility. There is a wide range available so there is no excuse to not wear one.
To also keep you safe it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the weather. Check it the day before so you can prepare, and if it’s going to be cold you can pack an extra layer of clothing. Check the weather again the morning before you’re scheduled to kayak – storms can pop up at any time especially if you are near an ocean.
Safety In Numbers
Lastly, if you can go with a friend or your other half it’s even better. While kayaking alone can be peaceful and provide you with some quiet time, it can also be very dangerous. Having even just one other person with you can help avoid tragedy.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, kayaks are not hard to get into once you know the proper technique. Depending on what environment you plan on entering your kayak you can plan accordingly. Entering from a rocky or uneven shoreline is always a little trickier and does require some practice, especially to make sure you don’t lose your paddle in deeper water. Getting in while you’re on a sandy beach is the best place to start.
To get a kayak in the water first you must position your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline with only the back still on dry land. Straddle the kayak so you have one leg on either side of it at equal distance. From here, lower your rear end down into the kayak seat and slide forward. Once you are securely seated, bring one leg in first and then the other leg. Position yourself so you’re comfortable and then you’re ready to go.
If you fall out of your kayak the first thing you should do is locate and hang on to your paddle. Then make sure your kayak is upright so you can get back in. From here, line yourself up with the middle and grab hold of the near edge of the cockpit and the far edge. Use a couple powerful kicks and simply push yourself up so your body is perpendicular with the kayak. Now you can rotate your body to put your feet in and sit your butt down.
Some kayaks flip more easily than others. If you’re using a flat kayak then you’re more susceptible to tipping. This is because you sit on top more and the center of gravity is much higher, so a wave or even a strong wind could send you overboard. As easy as it is to tip, it’s just as easy to flip it back over and be back in the cockpit in no time. Keep calm, keep your paddle close and remember what you have learnt.
No, it is not hard to get in and out of a kayak with a little bit of practice. Your first few times may not be so graceful, but after a while you won’t think twice about it. There are various ways to get into a kayak from different launching points. Experienced kayakers know that repetition is the way to overcome these small challenges.
Getting in and out of a kayak cockpit might be the least fun part about kayaking. With some practice you can master these two moves and learn just how to get into a kayak in no time. Stick to places that have little or no waves in your early days as it is a great way to build confidence for when you face more difficult launches. At the end of the day kayaking is a great source of enjoyment and exercise – take your time and enjoy the ride.