How to Get in and Out of a Kayak Safely on a Shoreline vs. at a Dock
Getting in and out of a kayak is something that some new kayakers won’t even think about – until they’re actually faced with the task of climbing on board – or returning to dry land.
The truth is, by learning the right way to get in and out of a kayak long before even your little pinky toes touch water, you will be safer, better-prepared, and ready to impress your friends and family with your pro ingress and egress skills.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic so when it comes time to adventure on the open water, you’re ready.
How to Get in a Kayak at a Dock
Let’s start with getting into a kayak at a dock, because this often presents the biggest challenge – especially to new kayakers. Here’s a helpful step-by-step guide:
- Line up your kayak parallel to the dock. It may be helpful to choose the lowest point of the dock — AKA the point at which the level between the water and the dock is closest together. This will make getting in much easier.
- If you have a helper with you, ask them to stabilize the kayak as you get in and out. If you don’t, what you’ll want to do is sit at the edge of the dock with your feet in the kayak’s opening.
- Next, place your paddle perpendicular to the boat jutting out to where it is still stable but you can grab it once you get into the boat.
- Put your feet into the cockpit while holding onto the dock, lying with your stomach so it’s facing to the dock, keeping your center of gravity as low as you can all the while. (If you’ve ever done a yoga twist, this will feel somewhat similar as your feet and shins should be facing the front of the kayak while in the cockpit but your stomach should be touching the dock so you can continue to keep yourself stable and hold onto the dock as you inch further into the kayak).
- Slide your feet into the cockpit further and slowly push yourself further from the dock while still holding on until you’re in the boat enough to be stable. If you’re using one, make sure to fasten your Spray Skirt. Don’t forget to grab your paddle before launching, though!
How to Get Out of a Kayak at a Dock
Getting out of a kayak at a dock is more or less the same process we’ve outlined above in reverse:
- Approach the dock and bring your boat up to it parallel.
- Grab hold of the dock and pull your boat towards it, leaning up to the dock with your weight, so that it, rather than the boat, is what stabilizes you.
- Grab hold of the dock and pull your knees up.
- Twist your body so that it is facing the dock and slide your legs out. You may need to twist and wriggle a bit left and right in order to fully slide your legs out. Just don’t forget to keep holding onto the dock for stability!
- When you’ve slid up enough, sit on the dock, making sure to keep your feet in the cockpit so your kayak doesn’t float away.
How to Get in a Kayak on a Shoreline
Not every kayaking adventure starts at a dock. In fact, many times, you’ll be launching your kayak right off the shoreline (and we’re using the term shoreline broadly here – depending on the area of the country you’re in, that can mean rocky shoreline, grassy or muddy lake encampment, sandy beach, or something else).
You’ll of course want to keep the terrain in mind when picking your kayaking outfit – we recommend wearing water shoes or rugged sandals like Tevas or Chacos. This will help you stay safe and comfortable as you enter and exit the kayak.
Next, do the following:
- Ask a partner or friend to help you bring the boat to the water’s edge where it’s floating but still stable at the shoreline. (Often, this will mean bringing the aft (that’s rear in boatspeak) end of the cockpit will be right at the water’s edge. If you have a partner with you, they can sit on the kayak for extra stabilization and push you away once you’re stable. The one exception to this rule is that if you have a composite kayak, you will want to start fully in the water instead of the water’s edge to protect the bottom of the vessel.
- If you’re kayaking solo, bring the boat to the water’s edge as we’ve just outlined above. Then, put your paddle behind your back. Rather than centering it against your body, push it so that the end closest to your boat is about 6-12 inches from your body and the other end juts away from the boat.
- Next, squat down near the boat and position the oar so that it is laying on top of the seat combing behind the seat (the lip of the cockpit). Grab hold of the combing and oar and push down.
- Center your weight and stay low, sitting on the paddle blade and inching forward.
- Put your feet into the boat and stabilize yourself.
- Grab your paddle with one hand and make a fist with the other. Push with your fist in the water and the paddle to launch yourself out to where you’re fully floating and can paddle normally.
How to Get Out of a Kayak on a Shoreline
Getting out of a kayak on a shoreline or beach is more or less the same process as we’ve just mentioned, but in reverse:
- Paddle yourself into shore, using the oar to push you far enough into where your boat is stabilized by the ground.
- Place your oar on the shoreline, or, if on a rocky shoreline, use it like a walking stick to help stabilize you as you also hold on to the edge boat, propping yourself up and out.
- The key to safely exiting a kayak on a shoreline is the make sure the boat is stable enough on land and make sure you’re stable enough within the boat to stand up safely and exit without tripping, getting off-balance, or doing a split with one foot in a drifting boat and one foot on land.
Launching & Docking Are Easier in a Kokopelli Kayak
If you’ve visited this page purely for advice on how to safely enter and exit a kayak, then we hope you’ve found what you were looking for!
Did you know that the kayak you use can not only have an impact on how easy it is to enter and exit, but also your overall paddling experience?
If you’re tired of getting accustomed to a new bargain-basement used kayak that changes every time you go paddling, maybe it’s time to upgrade your to a Kokopelli Lake Series kayak. Our Lake Series rafts and kayaks come with a lifetime warranty and are made with 1000d reinforced PVC for easy launches and exits every time.