Kayak Entry and Exit Techniques


Getting into and out of your kayak can be embarrassing if not done right and you end up in the water and not your kayak. You don’t have to look graceful doing it, just have to be effective at staying out of the water.

Kayak Dock Entry or Exit
If you have a dock for entry that is close to the water, I find this the easiest and best way to get in and out of a kayak dry. The technique is simple but there are a couple of pitfalls to keep in mind. First make sure you have what you need in the kayak or within reaching distance. Most important is knowing where your paddle is and not losing it. If you are a beginner kayaker, you can use a paddle strap / cord that keeps the paddle loosely attached to your kayak.

Last  fall I was getting in at my dock and the paddle was on the dock (no strap) and I was in the kayak adjusting the foot peddles, not paying a lot of attention to the dock, it was a very windy day, and before I knew it, I was away from the dock, the water was not deep but cold, so I did not want to paddle with my hands or get my feet wet. Glad there was nobody there to see me, pretty embarrassing, so I had to wait until the wind blew me side ways to my neighbors dock, then I could get back out and go get my paddle. Fortunately the wind was in the right direction rather than blowing me out in the lake. This is perhaps another reason to have a back-up paddle attached to your kayak (another tip).

The dock technique is to sit down next to your kayak (don’t let your kayak get away from you, use a rope or cord attached to the dock if you need to). Then put your feet in, turning your body towards the bow of the boat, and then quickly move your butt from the dock and into your seat while still holding onto the dock. Make sure your weight is distributed correctly so the kayak does not roll to the side during this maneuver. Moving quickly is effective in keeping the kayak stable. To get out just reverse the actions getting your butt out of the seat and onto the dock with your feet still in the boat. I have even used a belly flop onto the dock and a roll, at times when I’m tired, this also works. Just not pretty. The proper dock technique can be practiced at the pool session in the off season. I will cover other entry methods in following blogs, those however will require warmer conditions to practice.

Sitting In Your Kayak – Many new kayakers are not used to sitting in a kayak and may not know how to adjust their recreational kayak seat properly. The best position for kayaking is an upright position.  Most recreational kayaks have seat back supports that can be adjusted. Remember a kayak is not a ghetto cruiser and having your seat back adjusted all the way back is not what you want, otherwise you will have a sore back. Adjust the seat back so that it forces you to sit upright. If adjusted correctly you will be using your abdominal muscles to sit upright, you won’t be leaning forward. The balls of your feet will be on the foot pedals and your legs will be rotated outwards against the sides of the kayak and under the side pads if your kayak has them. When you purchase a kayak look for kayaks that have pedals, if it does not have them, then look for another model.

Getting in and out of your kayak from shore.
Some people will tell you that you can have your kayak perpendicular to the shore with the front of the kayak on shore or on a ramp to get in then push off.  I have never found this method to work for me, too much effort to get the kayak off the shore when you’re in it.  So I am not going to cover that method.

This method works on a sandy beach, a rocky shore line, on a ramp, or a river bank.  Line your kayak up parallel to the shore in enough water to float the kayak.

Put your paddle across the back of the cock pit on the deck, the rest of the paddle is on shore.  You will be placing your weight on the paddle such that the pressure is on the part on shore using your hands about shoulder length apart on the paddle shaft.

Now there are two ways to get in from here.  One is to sit on the shore and swing your feet in then keeping the weight on the paddle quickly move your butt into the seat.  The other is to straddle the kayak with your legs over the cock pit then when lowering your butt into the seat keep the weight on the paddle on the shore to stabilize the kayak, the once your butt is in the seat quickly pull your legs into the kayak.  This second method only works if the cock pit is large and the opening in front of the seat is big enough for you to get your feet in after you’re seated.

To get out basically do the reverse of which ever method you used to get in.

One way you can keep your feet dry, the other make sure the ground is dry before sitting down if you want to keep your seat dry.  Either way just a little practice and you can look like you know what you’re doing and not dump yourself into the water.

Look for a certified instructor for basic kayaking techniques who can show you all the correct ways to start kayaking.

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