At one point or another, many kayakers will wonder if there is a right or wrong way to get out of their kayak and what is the best way to launch.
When considering how to launch a kayak, you should ask yourself if you want to launch your kayak from land, from a dock, or if you would like to begin in the water.
Keep in mind if you are launching from areas of high surf, things can get dangerous and much more challenging. To ensure safety, it is always better to launch into calm waters when possible.
How to Launch a Kayak from Shore
Many paddlers consider the shore to be the easiest place to launch a kayak from. When launching from shore, you should always start with the kayak perpendicular to the shoreline. Once the kayak is in position, follow the steps below.
Step 1: If you are using a kayak made of composite materials, start a bit further into the water than the shoreline to avoid any scratches on the kayak. If you are using a plastic boat, position the cockpit right on the shoreline.
Step 2: Place and hold your paddle behind you, with the handle perpendicular to the boat. Make sure the paddle has the spoon side facing up.
Step 3: Tilt the paddle to rest one blade on the shore, or if in a composite boat, find a solid foundation in the shallow water, then place your weight against the paddle.
Step 4: Place your feet and legs into the boat, then slide in while using your paddle to stabilize yourself.
Step 5: If applicable, attach your kayak’s spray skirt and bring the paddle in front of you.
Once you are securely in the kayak, it is time to launch!
Step 6: With one hand, place your paddle’s blade down into the shoreline and push. With the other hand, ball up your fist and push into the shoreline to launch. If needed, you can use your hips and legs for additional thrust.
Step 7: Once you are clear of the shoreline, you are free to start paddling.
How to Launch a Kayak from a Dock or Boat Ramp
When planning to launch from a dock, it is important to start with a game plan so you can enter your boat confidently and easily. If you are kayaking with a partner, ask them to hold your kayak steady while you enter. If you are paddling solo, begin with your kayak perpendicular to the dock, preferably where the kayak is closest and lowest to the water.
Step 1: Take time to evaluate the dock. If the dock is equipped with tie-off points, it is recommended to use them as a handhold while entering your kayak.
Step 2: Place your paddle perpendicular to the kayak. Make sure to keep your paddle handy to snag the kayak should it start to drift away.
Step 3: Keep your body close to the boat and low to the water. Do not step into the boat from an upright position as it could cause serious injury.
Step 4: Sit on the side of the dock and place your feet into the cockpit of your kayak.
Step 5: With your body still low, slither into the kayak from the dock, keeping your head clear of the dock as not to cause injury.
Step 6: Secure your spray skirt, if applicable.
Step 7: Once clear of the dock, you are free to begin paddling.
To exit the kayak onto a dock, repeat the process of launching. When approaching the dock to exit, be sure to look out of tie-off points for easy exit.
How to Get into Your Kayak from the Water
If you do not have access to a shoreline or a dock, you will have to board and launch the kayak from the water. Although this may seem daunting, it is something that almost all kayakers have done at one point.
The important thing to remember when launching from the water is that balance is key. If you are having trouble, pay attention to the positioning of your body, the kayak, and the paddle as it is likely that your balance is off. To get into and launch your kayak from the water, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Find shallow water in a low-current area.
Step 2: Place your paddle in your kayak to keep it from floating away. Keep a firm grip on your paddle as you can use it for leverage while boarding the kayak.
Step 3: Put one leg inside the cockpit of your kayak, while keeping one leg on the ground to steady yourself.
Step 4: With a smooth, but firm motion, push off with your other leg and swing it into the cockpit of the kayak and sit down.
Step 5: Once in the kayak, bring your paddle in front of you. At this point, adjust for comfort and balance before pushing off.
Step 6: You may use your paddle to push off. If you find you are still “beached’ in the shallows, wiggle your hips and legs inside the kayak for an extra thrust forward while using your paddle to push off.
How to get out of Your Kayak
Exiting a kayak is not always the most graceful activity, but it can be done safely and efficiently. When exiting a kayak, it is good to have a strategy that answers a couple of questions. Do you have access to a dock or a shoreline? Is it important for you to have a dry exit?
These instructions are written for a shoreline or dock exit, but are also applicable to water exits.
Step 1: Park your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline or dock you will be exiting too. If parking and exiting at a dock, be on the lookout for tie-off points for an incredibly simple exit.
Step 2: Lean up against the dock or shoreline and pull your knees to your chest, up out of the cockpit.
Step 3: Keep your body low and slide your body out of your kayak.
Step 4: Pull yourself up and sit on the dock or shoreline.
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