Like most things in life, getting in and out of a kayak require some practice before you will be able to do it quickly and without feeling awkward. Today we will look at some tips and tactics that you can follow to make it a little bit easier to enter and exit your kayak.
First, remember to gather up all the things you need with you in your kayak. If you forget some of your gear or can’t reach your paddle, you will have to go through the pain of getting out and back in all over again.
From a Ramp or Dock
Getting into a kayak from higher dock or ramp can be intimidating to beginners, as they may be afraid of capsizing. If you know how, though, launching a kayak from a pier is incredibly easy. It can help to tie the closest kayak handle to the dock with a rope to keep it from capsizing as you are getting in.
If you are standing on a dock and your kayak is next to you in the water, the first step is to position your kayak parallel to the dock and as close as possible to the edge of it. Then, sit on the dock with your front facing the bow of the kayak and your feet in the cockpit.
Next lower yourself quickly into the cockpit while supporting your weight with your arms on the dock. Once you are sure that you are sitting comfortably in the kayak and that you are balanced, you can take your paddle and start moving away from the dock.
From the Water
Getting into a kayak from the water will, in most cases, be necessary if you capsized and are too far away from the shore to swim. It’s actually easy if you follow a three-step process. The first step is to hoist yourself up so that your belly button is in the middle of the width of the kayak. Make sure that you are stable.
Once you are stable, the turn your body to the side so that your buttocks are in the center of the kayak. Again, wait until you are stable before moving to step three, which is to put your feet back into place.
If you fall out of your kayak, remember to stay calm and flip your kayak over as soon as possible to prevent water from flowing into the cockpit. Also, make sure that your paddle is secure and out of your way. It may be worth your while to practice this process close to the shore until you are comfortable getting into your kayak from in the water.
The most critical kayak safety consideration is your personal floatation device (PFD) or life jacket. Wearing a PFD will give you buoyancy, and you will find it easier to get into your kayak after capsizing. Some PFDs will also keep you warm if you are in cold water. Coast Guard regulations may require that all kayaks have a PFD on board. Make sure that yours fits and that you can swim comfortably while wearing it.
As a beginning kayaker, even if you intend to go out alone, you should have someone present when you get in and out of a kayak. If you are more experienced, tell someone about your paddle plan, where you are paddling, and how long you intend to be away.
First, practice self-rescue techniques in calm and shallow water. If there are people around you, you can then go on to practice these techniques in more severe conditions.
Never take alcohol or drugs before getting into a kayak as it can impair your balance and coordination. If you drink before getting into your kayak, you might also become seasick.
Getting Out Again
Alas, no matter how much fun you’re having in your kayak, you’ll eventually have to get back out.
To a Ramp or Dock
Getting out of your kayak at the dock is the same procedure as launching in reverse. Paddle to the lowest point of the dock above the water and secure your paddle between the kayak and the dock by putting the one end behind your seat.
Next, hold on to the dock with the palms of your hands, and lift yourself out of the kayak and onto the dock. While you raise yourself from your kayak, keep your knees close to your body so that your kayak doesn’t float away. Then move onto the dock and away from the kayak in a rolling motion.
In the Water
Since there won’t always be a dock that you can use to get out of your kayak, it is worth learning how to get out of it in the water. Fortunately, getting out in shallow water is much easier than at a dock.
To get out of your kayak at the beach or close to the shoreline, move to shallow water – preferably ankle depth. Next, place your paddle in a secure position to prevent it from floating away. Then, put the palms of your hands behind you so that you can use them to lift yourself out of the kayak cockpit.
Swing one leg out of the kayak and onto the ground or shallow lake bed. When you are stable, take your other foot out of the kayak, place it on the ground, and stand up.
Expect a decent amount of flailing and splashing when you first start kayaking, but don’t give up. With some practice, muscle memory will take over and you’ll be popping in and out like a pro in no time.