The Ultimate Guide: How To Get In And Out Your Kayak Safely

by Jason | Last Updated:   October 9th, 2021
The Ultimate Guide: How To Get In And Out Your Kayak Safely


Have you ever wondered how you get into a kayak without falling in the water? It might seem like an easy task for many people, but for others, getting your butt into the seat without falling in the water is a real challenge.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a graceful way of getting into a kayak, and exiting is even worse. And to add to further add to the problems, some kayaks are a lot easier to get in and out of.

But here’s the thing:

By using the correct techniques, you can make your life a lot easier. In today’s article, we will be talking about how you should get into a kayak. But more importantly, how to stay dry while you’re doing it.

Sounds pretty good, right?

The Complete Guide To getting In Your Kayak Without Ending Up In The Water

Adult senior man about to enter his Sea kayak in a river in Norway


Okay, so you want to know how to successfully get into your kayak without falling into the water. Luckily there are three techniques beginners can use to get in the boat without it tipping over.

If this sounds like what you’ve been looking for, don’t go anywhere!

How To Get In The Kayak From The Shore

Illustration of a kayak entry from shore

Source: Boat-ed.com

If you’re looking for one of the easiest methods of entering a kayak, doing it from the shore may be the option for you.

The hardest part of this method is navigating your way through the rocks and uneven surfaces. Lunching the kayak from rocky shores isn’t always advised; it can wreck the bottom of your boat if you don’t do it correctly.

And that’s why I want to break this method down, so you know exactly what you’re doing:

  1. To start things off, you need to find an even surface on the shore ready to launch your kayak. When you’ve found the even surface, you need to make sure there’s nothing sharp or any rocks that could damage your ‘yak.
  2. Place your kayak at 90° to the body of water, and make sure you place your paddle next to the boat.
  3. Once you have the kayak lined up and the paddle to the side of the boat, it’s time to get ready to step into the boat.
  4. Place your feet into the kayak and slowly lower yourself into the cockpit until you’re sitting in the seat.
  5. Once you’re in the seat, you’ll have to rearrange your knees, so they are firmly pressing against the side of the kayak.
  6. Now you’re in the kayak and feeling comfortable; it’s time to use your hands to lift yourself while you scooch your butt forward until you’re in the water.
  7. If you get stuck in the shallow water, you can use the blade of your paddle to push yourself away.
  8. Now you’re in; it’s time to have some fun paddling.

It’s not a super-challenging technique to master and doesn’t require a lot of balance, making it great for people who don’t trust themselves.

The only time things get tricky is if the shore has a drop. If you do launch from a drop, you need great paddling skills so you can save yourself from tipping. You’ll need to learn how to low/high brace to stop yourself from tipping onto one side.

How To Get Into A Kayak From The Dock

kayak entry from dock

Source: Boat-ed.com

If you haven’t got a lot of balance, this method of entering your kayak is probably going to be the trickiest for you.

If you get into your kayak from the dock incorrectly, there’s an excellent chance it’s going to end up floating away from under your feet.

If you want to make your life as easy as possible, you should get someone to hold one side of your kayak… it’s by far the best technique.

The problem is:

This isn’t always an option if you’re the first one getting into the water.

So, if you’re the unfortunate one that has to get into the kayak first, make sure you follow these steps closely!

  1. Your first step is to place your kayak parallel to the edge of the dock and place your paddle next to it.
  2. When you’re ready, place the kayak into the water, making sure it remains parallel to the dock. To stop the ‘yak from floating away, you can use the blade of your paddle while you prepare yourself.
  3. From here, you need to sit down on the dock and place both feet into the kayak. Once your feet are in, you need to swing your hips around while using one hand to steady yourself on the dock.
  4. When you’ve got your balance, slowly lower yourself into position, make sure you take things steady you don’t want to fall in.
  5. Once you’ve got yourself sorted, you can push away with one hand and start paddling away. If you’re with friends, make sure you hold their cockpit while you’re parallel to their kayak so they can get in easily.

The trick with this technique is to take things steady; just a slight weight shift can have in you in the lake and swimming for dry land.

For me, this is the best way of getting in the kayak from the dock. But for some people, it’s slightly different.

They like to place one blade on the dock and the other blade touching behind the cockpit, so the kayak doesn’t float away. For me, this makes things more challenging… but each to their own.

Getting In Your Kayak From the Beach

kayak entry from the beach


If you have to launch your kayak from the beach, it will present new challenges to the equation.

Waves can make things very difficult if you don’t tackle them correctly; just the smallest waves can flip you over.

Most people like to walk past the break, so the wave doesn’t affect them, but it can make things hard if the water is too deep.

So, what’s the technique for getting into the kayak from the beach safely?

  1. Place your kayak facing forward on the shoreline at a 90° angle to the sea. You should also make sure your paddle is attached to the side or behind the cockpit.
  2. Once everything is in position, push the kayak into the shallow water. If it’s not too deep, you can step both feet onto the kayak and lower yourself onto the seat. You might have to give yourself a push with the blade to launch yourself off the beach.
  3. If the water is deep, you’ll have to jump up and straddle the kayak making sure you don’t place too much weight on the back once you’re in position, slide your leg towards the cockpit until you’re sitting in the seat.
  4. The trick is to start paddling quickly before the next set of waves start coming for you and push you back to shore.

The key to launching your kayak from the beach is to make sure all your gear is in position before you move out to the water.

You’ll also need to act quickly and safely if you want to make it out to sea without any troubles.

How To Get In Your Kayak From The Water If You’ve Capsized

Aerial view view of strong young active men capsizing with their kayak on the clear blue turquoise water of the ocean


Okay, so you know how to get inside a kayak from the shore, beach, or dock. But what happens if you accidentally flip the ‘yak in the middle of a lake or the ocean?

It can be a common problem for novice kayaks, and not knowing how to fix it can lead to bigger problems.

If you don’t know how to right your kayak and get back inside correctly, the kayak could end up at the bottom of the ocean.

To make things worse:

You’ll either have to swim back or get someone to rescue you.

Now, if you’re in a sit-in ‘yak, you could use your paddle to roll the kayak… if you know how to. But if you don’t, keep reading because I’m going to explain the steps you need to take for each style of kayak.

So. let’s take a look at how you get in a kayak from the water:

Recovering Your Sit-In Kayak

Man sitting in kayak using paddle on lake


Recovering a sit-in kayak after you’ve capsized is probably the most tricky out of the two styles. If you do it wrong, your ‘yak will end up at the bottom of the ocean/lake, so you must follow these instructions to a tee.

Once you’ve made your wet exit, it’s time to right your kayak:

How To Right Your Sit-In Kayak

Righting your sit-in kayak can be considered the trickiest part of the whole operation. If it fills with water, it’s game over.

So, once you’ve exited the kayak, grab your paddle and swim to the edge of the boat.

And this is where things get interesting:

From here, you need to grasp the edge of the cockpit and kick with your legs. While you’re kicking your legs, you need to push up with your arms and away from you. 

The idea is to lift the cockpit high enough out of the water, so it doesn’t scoop in water as it flips over. 

If you’ve done it correctly, you should only end up with a little bit of water in the cockpit, but not enough to sink the kayak.

Getting Back In Your Sit-In Kayak


You’ve got the kayak back the right way… great job! But know it’s time to get back inside so you can enjoy the paddling. So how do you do this?

To start the maneuver, you need to reach over the kayak and grab the edge of the hull on the far side of the cockpit. Once you’ve grabbed the far edge, you need to let your feet float up behind you, so your body is level. 

From there, you need to pull yourself onto the kayak, so you’re laying across it.

Now, this is where things get tricky!

Once you’re lying across the kayak, you flip your body around, straddle the kayak, so you’re facing forward, and try to slide your legs into the cockpit. When your legs are in, you can sit your butt in the seat.

When you’re making this maneuver, it’s best to do it slowly so you can focus on your balance; you don’t want to flip it back over.

Chances are your seat will be in a puddle of water; you have three options to get the water out:

  1. Bail the water out
  2. Use a bilge pump
  3. Head to the shoreline to empty it out

Well done, you’ve now successfully righted your sit-in kayak, got back in, and emptied the water. But what about sit-on-top kayaks?

Recovering Your Sit-On Top Kayak

Woman sitting on kayak using paddle on open water


Recovering your sit-on kayak is a lot easier than a sit-in. Once you’ve flipped, the first thing to do is stay calm; if you panic, you can put yourself in danger.

If you’ve totally inverted, try and swim out without banging your head. Once you’re at the surface, go and grab your paddle so it doesn’t float away, and get ready to right your boat:

How To Right Your Sit-On Kayak

Now you’ve got your paddle; you need to swim over to your inverted ‘yak. You have two options when it comes to flipping it over. You can either try a similar fashion to a sit-in kayak, which is a bit tricky. 

But there’s an easier method:

Kick your legs to provide a bit of thrust and flip your torso on top of the kayak, resembling a beached whale. With both hands, grab the edge of the hull on the far side of the kayak.

While keeping hold of the hull, bring your knees up and lean back. Your body weight will flip the kayak over, so it’s the right way up. 

Getting Back On Your Sit-On Kayak


For this, you should use a similar motion as you did for righting the kayak. The first thing you need to do is get your body onto the kayak.

But this time, you need to let your legs float up to the surface instead of bringing your knees up and leaning back. Having your body level will stop the sit-on kayak from inverting again.

When your body is leveled, you can pull yourself onto the kayak, so you’re lying flat in the middle of the boat. If you feel like you’re stable, you can then swing around and straddle until you can get your backside on the seat.

When you straddle the kayak, be careful not to tip too far, you’ll end up flipping the boat again.

Pretty easy, right? 

How Do You Prepare For A Capsize?

A person performing a sea kayak roll in the water


You know how to get back in the kayak if you capsize, and preventing a capsize is pretty much impossible; a small wave is all it takes to capsize… unless you know the right techniques.

The best way to prepare for a capsize is by:

  1. Learning the correct braces (high/low brace)
  2. Having the right safety gear
  3. Practice exiting and entering the kayak

Using braces helps counteract any potential miss balances and can right you before you tip. They take a little bit of practice, but they can be a complete game-changer once you get them.

As for having the right safety gear, you should always snake sure you’re wearing a personal flotation device. This will keep you safe if you enter the water and makes it easier to exit a sit-in kayak.

The final thing is to practice capsizing, so you feel comfortable with it. The first time is pretty scary, but once you get used to it, it won’t feel like a big deal anymore.

You can take part in several courses, or you can go and train with a friend. Just make sure you never do it alone; you don’t want to get yourself in a sticky situation.

Getting Back Out Of The Kayak Once You’ve Finished

Young man pulls boat ashore


It’s all well and good knowing how to get in the kayak, but if you don’t know how to get out correctly, you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle.

You see, it’s not always just a case of jumping out the boat, and you’re done. You have to follow a little procedure to stand up if you don’t want to end up in the sink.

So, in this section, I want to explain the fundamentals of how to get out of your kayak from a shore/dock or the water.

Let’s take a look:

From The Shore Or A Dock

Women rowing kayak near dock


Getting out of the kayak from the shore or a dock can be challenging if you don’t do it correctly. You see, it’s straightforward to lose your balance as you stand up and end up taking a swim.

If taking a swim is something you want to avoid, then follow these simple steps:

Step One: Paddle To The Dock Or Shore

As you’re paddling up to the shore/dock, you need to use your paddle to turn yourself, so it pulls up alongside the dock. 

The only time this will change is if you’re heading for a beach, most people find it easier to paddle straight up to the sound. 

Step Two: Balance Yourself 

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not balancing themselves before they stay moving in the kayak. It’s important to use your paddle to steady the boat before getting out of your seat.

For many people resting the paddle behind the cockpit is the easiest way to do this, but it really comes down to what you’re more comfortable with.

Another option is to get someone to hold the kayak for you as you get out; this is a preferred technique as it offers more stability.

If you’re riding a tandem, you can have one person steady the kayak while the other gets out and vice versa.

Step Three: Getting Out Of The Kayak

Once you’ve got yourself stable in the boat using your paddle, it’s time to get out of the kayak and on to dry land. To do this, you need to turn your body towards the dock/shore and put both your hands on the ground.

As you lift yourself and turn your body toward the dock, you need to remember to keep your feet together so the kayak doesn’t float away.

Another thing to remember is to lift with your arms and move one leg at a time. People’s biggest mistake is to use their legs, which ends up pushing the kayak away from the dock. 

This is probably the number one cause of people falling in the water.   

The following video briefly highlights how to get in and out of a kayak from a dock: 

Exiting From The Water

If you don’t mind getting wet, you can get out the kayak from the water or the beach. To do this, lift yourself out of the kayak and swing your legs other the side.

As you lift yourself, make sure you use your arms to steady the boat as you push yourself out of the kayak.

Exiting from the beach or the water is probably the easiest way to get out because it doesn’t require as much skill. 

Key Insights & Takeaways

Friends paddling with kayak on forest river


Getting into your kayak can be tricky for beginners if you haven’t got a lot of balance, especially from a dock. But If you follow the steps I’ve laid out for you in this article you shouldn’t have any problems.

The trick is to take things slowly and remain calm if you slightly lose balance. Trying to make a sudden correction can make things so much worse.

Things are a little trickier if getting back into the kayak from deep water, but as long as you use the right techniques, you should be fine.

Just take some time to prepare in shallow water to not feel out of your depth when you capsize in deep water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Okay, we’ve covered all the basics of getting in and out of your kayak without falling into the water. And we even covered how to get back into a kayak if you do fall in, but you might still have a few more questions.

So let’s take a look at a few commonly asked questions:

Is It Hard To Get In And Out Of A Kayak?

Getting into a kayak can be tricky if you haven’t done it before, but it will become as easy as riding a bike with a little practice. Just make sure you follow our steps above, and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting into a kayak.

Do Kayaks Flip Over Easily?

It can depend on the kayak; some are more prone to tipping than others. But if you keep your balance and don’t try to overcompensate, you should be fine. If you’re nervous about tipping the kayak, you should probably stick to sit-on kayaks; they tend to be more stable.

Should You Kayak If You Can’t Swim?

If you don’t know how to swim, you should be fine going kayaking. Ideally, you shouldn’t be swimming too much anyway.

But here’s the thing:

You should definitely be a bit more cautious and be aware of the proper paddling techniques. You should also make sure you wear the correct safety equipment and never go alone.

Hey, my name's Jason, and before I was a writer, I worked as an outdoor activity instructor where I took groups kayaking and camping. Now I use my personal experiences to share tips and tricks I've learned over the years. For as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the outdoors, and now I want to share that passion with my readers.