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Kayaking 101: How to Get In and Out of a Kayak

Kayaking is a physically and mentally engaging way to get outside and enjoy the nature around you. It’s also a low-impact activity, so it’s not overly taxing on your joints and body. It may seem intimidating getting started, but it’s not as difficult as it looks. Once you get a couple kayak paddling sessions under your belt, you’ll be set.

Getting in and out of a kayak can be cumbersome and awkward whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned paddler. There are many conditions under which you can lose your balance and feel foolish for a second, especially if the exit is unintentional. There are some tips and tricks of getting in and out of your kayak, in any circumstance.

How to Get In and Out of Kayaks Gracefully

As anyone who’s tried to get in and out of a pool float with style knows, it’s not always easy to balance on something floating in the water. You might not look stylish doing it, but the more you practice getting in and out in of your kayak in different conditions, the easier and more natural it will feel. In certain conditions, it’s most helpful to have a friend stabilize the boat while you’re getting in and out, so consider bringing someone along with you as you’re learning.

In and Out of Kayak from Shoreline

Entering and exiting a kayak from a shoreline, like a river or beach, is one of the more common scenarios you’ll encounter depending on where you are kayaking. To get in, position the kayak perpendicular to the shoreline so that the front half is floating in the water and the back half is on the ground. Then, straddle the boat just behind the cockpit and sit down.

Once you’re seated you can swing your legs in and use the paddle to move forward and push off once you’re situated. Make sure your kayak is far enough in the water for this type of entry, or you won’t be able to maneuver into the water after you’re seated.

Getting out of a kayak onto a beach or ramp is very similar. You’ll paddle close to the shoreline and basically beach yourself--paddle far enough inland that the front half of your boat is on the ground and you can’t paddle any more. From there, you’ll swing your legs out so that they’re straddling the kayak again, then pull yourself forward until you have the balance to stand up.

Exits like this can be challenging for those with less upper body strength. Ensuring that you’re solidly beached beforehand can make it a bit easier in these cases, as you’ll have a solid base on which to push yourself up. You can also push yourself out sideways onto the ground if that’s easier--it’s not as elegant, but until you get enough practice it is a viable exit option.

In and Out of Kayak from Docks

This is an entry and exit situation where it’s helpful to have someone stabilizing the boat for you as you’re learning. This way you don’t have to worry about the boat rocking while you’re trying to balance. Don’t worry if you’re out by yourself, though, it’s still manageable on a solo paddle.

To start, get as low as you can to the water--the closer you are to the boat in the water the easier. The kayak should be parallel to the dock, and you can lower yourself from the seated position on the dock into the cockpit feet first.

To exit, you’ll reverse this process by pulling up parallel to the dock where it’s closest to the water and pull yourself up while using the dock for balance. You should pull yourself into a standing position and maneuver out from there.

Don’t be afraid to lean on your paddle or other surroundings for support as you get more comfortable getting in and out of your kayak. You shouldn’t be deterred by looking silly or awkward, it’s all a part of the learning process. Happy paddling!

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