Mastering the Art of Getting In and Out of a Kayak

Are you ready to embark on a thrilling kayaking adventure? The process of getting in and out of a kayak can be a bit challenging, especially for beginners. But fear not! We have compiled a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this hurdle and ensure a safe and seamless experience on the water. So, let’s dive in!

Mastering the Entry

Entering from the Water

To enter your kayak from the water, there are a few key steps to keep in mind. First and foremost, make sure you maintain a firm grip on both the kayak and the paddle. If your kayak is upside down, flip it over to its correct position, ensuring an easy re-entry. Position yourself at the side of the kayak, near the center where the seat is located. For sit-inside kayaks, you may need to bail out any water using a bilge pump or by returning to shore.

Next, secure your paddle by placing it on the deck of the kayak, ensuring it won’t get misplaced during your re-entry. Once your paddle is secure and you are positioned at the side of the kayak, facing your seat, grab hold of the rim of the cockpit closest to you. Kick your feet up to the surface of the water and lift yourself up and across the kayak, allowing your abdomen or belly button to rest over the cockpit or seat.

Now that you are lying over your kayak, place one hand on each side of the cockpit rim and pull your legs in as you swivel yourself back into the seat. Take a moment to readjust yourself in the seat and position your legs for paddling. For a visual demonstration, you can refer to this helpful video: Video: How To Re-Enter A Sit On Top Kayak.

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Launching from Land or a Dock

If you are launching your kayak from land or a dock, follow these steps for a smooth entry. Start by ensuring your kayak is stable and parallel to the shore or dock to prevent it from floating away prematurely. Keep a firm grip on the kayak and the paddle, with the bow (the front) on your left side if possible. Use your right hand to hold the rim of the back of the cockpit, while positioning the paddle behind the cockpit.

Turn your body to face the direction you will be seated in the kayak, maintaining a crouched position for stability. Remember to keep your kayak parallel to the shore or dock. To climb into the kayak, place one foot inside the cockpit and use both arms to support your weight as you lift your other leg into the kayak. Slide down into the kayak and push yourself away from the dock or shore with your hand or paddle. Before pushing away, ensure your spray skirt, if you have one, is properly attached. You can watch this video for a visual demonstration: Video: How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak.

Alternative Entry Methods

If you find yourself on a sandy beach, an alternative method for entering your kayak is to straddle it and lower your buttocks into the seat before pulling both legs in, one foot at a time. Keep your kayak perpendicular to your paddle for easy reversal when exiting. This method works best in shallow water where you can stand on both sides of your kayak, with the bow facing the water and the stern facing the land. Please note that this method may be challenging for individuals with mobility issues or bad knees. Keep in mind the suitability of this method based on the shoreline conditions and the type of kayak you’re using. For a demonstration, you can refer to this video: Video: Entering – Exiting A Kayak.

Mastering the Exit

Exiting Onto Shore or a Dock

When it’s time to exit your kayak, whether onto a dock or shoreline, follow these steps for a safe return. If you’re docking, use your paddle to guide your kayak alongside the dock. If you’re approaching a rocky shoreline, you can use the same technique. If it’s a sandy beach, paddle directly towards it until you reach the shallow water.

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Once you’re in position, use your paddle to steady yourself. Rest one end of the paddle on the dock or shoreline while placing the other end on your kayak, behind the seat. If you have another paddler nearby, they can provide additional support by keeping their boat parallel to yours. If you’re in a tandem kayak, one person can steady the kayak while the other exits, and then switch roles.

Turn your body towards the dock or shoreline, keeping your knees close to your body and your weight low to prevent the kayak from floating away. Place both hands on the ground and let your arms bear your weight as you lift one leg at a time onto the dock or shoreline. Avoid pushing yourself with your legs to prevent the kayak from moving away from you. This video provides a visual demonstration of the maneuver: Video: Exiting A Kayak.

Exiting onto the Water

If you’re exiting your kayak in shallow water or a sandy beach, simply swing your legs to the side and step out, using your arms to steady yourself and push yourself up. This method works best when there’s only a few inches of water. To re-enter your kayak, reverse the same technique, starting with your bottom in the seat, and gradually sliding your legs back into the cockpit. For a visual demonstration, you can refer to this video: Video: How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak.

Mastering Kayaking Basics: Paddling

Now that you’ve mastered the art of getting in and out of a kayak, let’s explore some basic paddling techniques to enhance your kayaking experience. Before setting off, ensure you’re in a comfortable position within your kayak. It’s also essential to have all the necessary safety gear, including a Personal Flotation Device (PFD).

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To begin, hold your paddle correctly, with both hands positioned at the center of the paddle shaft, forming right angles with your elbows. Your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart, equidistant from each end of the shaft. Maintain a firm grip to power the blade through the water while allowing the shaft to rotate with each stroke.

To move forward, fully immerse one paddle blade into the water and pull back with the hand closest to it, simultaneously pushing forward with the other hand. Alternate this motion with the opposite blade, propelling yourself forward. Twist your body to align with each paddle stroke, generating a fluid movement. This video provides a visual demonstration of the paddling technique: Video: Paddle Basics.

To paddle backward, simply reverse the forward paddling motion. Instead of pulling back with your hand closest to the blade in the water, push forward while twisting your body as before.

To turn your kayak, paddle on only one side, focusing on the side closest to the direction you want to turn. Use short, powerful strokes that don’t exceed your body’s width. Keep your head facing the direction of the turn and lean, creating edging, into the side you’re paddling on. This video demonstrates the technique: Video: Turn Your Kayak Quickly – Sweep Stroke + Edging.


Congratulations! You’ve now mastered the art of getting in and out of a kayak and have gained essential paddling techniques. Remember, safety should always be your top priority when kayaking. Only attempt what you feel comfortable with and ensure the conditions are suitable for your skill level.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. And don’t forget to share this article with your fellow kayaking enthusiasts. Happy paddling!

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