PaddleRoundThePier is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Mastering the Art: How to Get In and Out of a Kayak

By: Dave Samuel
Updated On: February 9, 2024

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner just trying to catch some waves, ‘How to Get In and Out of a Kayak’ is one compelling topic every kayak enthusiast stumbles upon.

Believe it or not, your kayaking expedition’s success relies significantly on how efficiently you can get in and out of this streamlined vessel. This article aims to guide all those who have ever tipped over while attempting the seemingly simple task of entering or exiting their kayak.

For anyone wondering how to smoothly maneuver the entry and exit procedures, choosing an appropriate spot for kayak entry is crucial. Once positioned correctly, you need to maintain your weight balance while using your paddle as support during both processes.

Keep in mind – good boating skills begin right from launching your vessel to docking back safely after an adventurous ride.

Here’s What You Can Look Forward To:

  • Learning about the basics of kayaking
  • Understanding “Why proper entry & exit techniques matter.”
  • Gaining insights into the proper selection of spots for entering a kayak
  • Step-by-step guidance on ‘How to get into a Kayak’
  • Detailed procedure about ‘How to get out from a Kayak.’
  • Common mistakes made during entry & exit & how to avoid them
  • Safety precautions while entering/exiting from the kayak

Understanding Kayaking Basics

Before we dive into the exact techniques on how to get in and out of a kayak, let’s delve into some fundamental kayaking basics. You see, understanding these basics is not just important – it’s key to ensuring your safety and enjoyment on the water.

Understanding Kayaking Basics

The Fundamentals of Kayaking

Kayaking might seem as simple as grabbing a paddle and hopping in a boat, but there is much more to it. Let’s go over the key points:

  • Safety Equipment: Always, I mean always, have personal floatation devices (PFDs) that fit correctly. No matter how strong of a swimmer you are, PFDs are crucial in emergency situations. Other essential safety gear includes a whistle, first-aid kit, headlamp, or flashlight for low-light conditions.
  • Understanding Water Conditions: Whether it’s a calm lake or a flowing river with rapids, understanding your aquatic location is vital for proper navigation.
  • Know Your Kayak: Familiarize yourself with kayak controls such as foot pegs for controlling rudder or skeg. Understanding where docking lines and carry handles are located can make your entry and exit easier.

From this selection above, you can see that not only are boating skills important, but also having knowledge about water conditions elevates your whole kayaking experience.

Importance of Proper Entry & Exit Technique

Learning ‘How to get in and out of a kayak’ might seem like Day 1 stuff—and indeed—it is! It serves as the bridge between dry land and open waters—between worrying about getting wet clothes or gracefully embarking on an adventure.

Imagine you’re all geared up for an adventurous day on the water—sunscreen applied, life jacket buckled up—but suddenly realize you don’t know how to get into your kayak without taking an unexpected swim! Not quite the way anyone wants their expedition started!

Or think of an experienced kayaker who has just spent a long day paddling; their hands and legs are tired. The sun is setting; they see the shore, but an improper technique results in losing balance and capsizing near the landing point. Sudden injuries or damages can occur.

These examples illustrate why understanding proper kayak entry techniques and kayak exit tips are fundamental pillars for every paddler’s toolbox—whether greenhorn or old hand!

Also Read: River Hazards 101: Avoiding Deadly Strainers with Ease

How To Get In A Kayak?

Kayaking is a sport that requires both physical strength and mental cunning, but before I even start paddling, there’s a critical step to master – getting in the kayak! Whether it’s your first time or the tenth, it’s important to understand “how to get in a kayak” properly.

Choosing the Right Spot

Finding the perfect spot to enter your kayak plays a pivotal role in an easy and safe start. Picking an improper location can lead not just to discomfort but to potential dangers as well.

  • Look for calm water: Always aim for calm and still water because it’s easier to balance on stable waters than choppy waves. Avoiding strong currents during entry helps ensure control over your movements.
  • Opt for shallow areas: Try finding an area where the water is just deep enough so that your kayak doesn’t bottom out but shallow enough so you can easily stand if you need to.
  • Find level ground: A flat and stable shoreline allows for more balance when getting into your kayak. My advice would be to avoid any slippery or rocky surfaces which may cause unnecessary hazards.

Steps To Get Into a Kayak

Once you’ve located the right spot, a methodical approach can aid you in entering without making a splash (literally!). Here are some general steps:

From Shore:

  • Start by placing your kayak perpendicular to the shore with its bow facing towards the water.
  • Position yourself near the cockpit(both hands on either side) while one foot is firmly anchored on the ground, the other inside the boat.
  • Gradually move the rest of the body inside, keeping the weight center balanced. Avoid hasty movements since these could cause overturning.

From Dock:

  • Make sure the dock is low-level. It’s much trickier getting from higher docks than closer ones.
  • Start sitting on the dock edge, letting your legs hang over into the cockpit space.
  • Once steadily seated, swing legs inside and stabilize weight.

From Deep Water:

Deep water kayaking demands advanced “how to get in and out of a kayak” skills as it requires more strength & balance:

  • Flip the inverted kayak right side up by grabbing the cockpit edges.
  • Next, get the torso onto the kayak, holding the sides firmly and letting the legs float.
  • Swiftly twist the body around into a sitting position using upper arm strength whilst gradually pulling the legs inside.

These steps may vary slightly based on the type of kayak you have and your personal comfort level. The key is with practice comes raising efficiency in executing these techniques, improving over time, and enhancing your boating skills.

I always remember to ensure my safety gear is properly equipped prior to launching into any body of water. Hence, proceed only once confident about stability & balance before setting off on an adventure. It’s not just getting from point A to B but how much fun I’ve had along the way!

Note: Stay diligent because water conditions can rapidly shift, so keep preparedness a priority, ensuring an enjoyable ride!

Also Read: Discover the Fun with An Inflatable Boat on Water Adventure

How To Get Out Of A Kayak?

Exiting a kayak may seem like a trivial task, but trust me, it’s an art in itself. No matter if you’re landing ashore, docking at a pier, or debarking amidst deep waters, the technique varies slightly. In this section, I will share with you the step-by-step guides to safely exit your kayak under different conditions.

Steps To Exit From a Kayak

1. Exiting to a Dock:

  • Step 1: As you approach the dock, position yourself parallel to it.
  • Step 2: Secure your paddle across both the kayak and dock by placing one end on the dock and securing the shaft behind your cockpit coaming (the border around it).
  • Step 3: Using your hands as support on the dock and paddle shaft, carefully swing yourself onto the dock while keeping your weight centered over the kayak.
  • Step 4: Once out of your seat and safely onto the dock, ensure not to tug on your vessel as it might cause it to flip over.

2. Exiting Onto Shore:

Following somewhat similar principles when exiting onto shore:

  • Step 1: Gently glide towards shore until you’ve grounded comfortably without scraping against any sharp objects or rocks.
  • Step 2: Upon a smooth grounding, prop one of your paddle blades onto shore for additional support.
  • Step 3: Lean forward and place your hands in front of you, pushing off from the cockpit rim while simultaneously swinging your legs out from each side of the cockpit
  • Step 4: Stabilize using a paddle blade on shore as you stand up slowly whilst using your feet for balance

3. Exiting Into Deep Water:

The underlying principle remains almost the same but with an added buoyancy factor.

Here’s how I manage:

  • Step 1: Position your kayak to face waves (if any).
  • Step 2: Hold the cockpit coaming with one hand while using the other to brace with the paddle on the water surface.
  • Step 3: Push your body up, making way for your legs to swing over each side of the cockpit.
  • Step 4: Lower oneself into water.

Remember, a core aspect when getting in and out of a kayak is maintaining your balance by keeping your weight centered and moving deliberately. In the early days, you may want to practice these techniques under supervision until you’re confident enough.

Next time, as you prepare for your boating escapade, keep these tips on ‘how to get in and out of a kayak’ handy, and I promise it will lead to a safer and more enjoyable voyage!

Also Read: Caloric Burn During Paddle Boarding: An Ultimate Guide

Common Mistakes While Entry & Exit

Kayaking can be a thrilling yet relaxing watersport, but mastering the nuances of entry and exit can take time. You don’t want to end up in the water before even starting your journey or end up capsizing, trying to make a graceful exit.

How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak: Common Mistakes

Here are common mistakes that I’ve noticed beginners make while trying to master the art of ‘How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak.’

List Common Mistakes/Tips For Avoiding Them

Mastering the technique of ‘How To Get In And Out Of A Kayak’ is essential for a fulfilling kayaking experience. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure smoother transitions, making your boating skills all the more impressive with time.

  • Rushing The Process: It’s understandable to be excited when you’re about to hit the water, but rushing without gauging your surroundings might lead to a sloppy entry or exit. Take it slow at first until you feel comfortable with your kayak entry techniques.
  • Avoidance Tip: Start off slow. Remember, patience is key!
  • Neglecting Safety Precautions: Often, newcomers tend to believe they have good control over their balance and underestimate slipping hazards.
  • Avoidance Tip: Always prioritize safety. Keep in mind that wet surfaces can be extremely slippery.
  • Attempting To Stand Up Immediately: This is one common mistake made by novices when exiting their vessel. Remember, your center of gravity changes completely when you attempt to stand from a sitting position in an unstable environment such as a kayak.
  • Avoidance Tip: Stay low and close to the ground as much as possible while exiting.
  • Using Upper Body Strength Exclusively: Relying heavily on arm strength instead of using your core leads to inefficient movements during entrance or exit.
  • Avoidance Tip: Shift emphasis on using your core muscles since they are more powerful than arms and offer better stability.
  • Not Leaning Forward While Exiting: If you sit back while trying to get out onto the dock or shoreline, there will be a higher chance of losing balance or tipping over.
  • Avoidance Tip: Remember to lean forward during exit. This shifts your weight in a more stable manner.
  • Not Using A Buddy System: Especially as a beginner, not having someone there to help you might lead to unnecessary complications.
  • Avoidance Tip: Always try to bring along a friend or family member who can assist you while entering or exiting the kayak.

Also Read: Low Head Dam Safety: Key Actions When One is Approaching

Safety Measures

Safety precautions aren’t just for the faint-hearted; everyone venturing into the diverse domain of kayaking should be thoroughly acquainted with these guidelines.

One complex, yet crucial aspect to master in this process is learning how to get in and out of a kayak safely. If misjudged, this simple act can result in some hilarious capsizes or worse, alarming injuries.

Precautions While Entering And Exiting A Kayak

Let’s roll our sleeves up and plunge into the detailed tidbits of maneuvering a kayak entry and exit:

  • Awareness Matters: Always be aware of your surroundings. Is the water calm or rapid? Can you see slippery moss underfoot? These factors could potentially jeopardize your smooth entry or exit.
  • Show Some Sole Respect: Be mindful about what’s under your feet- be it dock, soil, rock or sand. Each surface requires a different approach. For instance, sand would need you to put more pressure on one side, whereas a dock might need equal weight distribution so you don’t tip over.
  • Hands-on Approach: Your paddle isn’t just for steering; it has an essential role in balancing during entry and exit, too. Position it at right angles across the kayak cockpit and push against it while sinking into or rising from your seat.
  • Go Low: The lower your center of gravity is when getting in/out of the boat, the less likely you are to capsize.
  • Slow And Steady Wins The Race: Rushing usually ends with an unexpected baptism! Take patient steps when entering or exiting for a safe experience.

Remember that practicing these precautions will eventually make them second nature; apart from equipping you with necessary boating skills, it also instills confidence during your kayaking adventures.

The first few times you try to get in and out of a kayak might feel awkward, but don’t be disheartened. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, mastering the art of kayak entry techniques and exit tips keeps evolving with every experience.


What are the key steps for how to get in and out of a kayak?

Firstly, locate a stable spot like a calm shoreline or dock for entry. Move towards the center of the deck, stabilize yourself with the paddle and slip into your seat gently. For exiting, brace your paddle against the dock or shore, swing one leg out at a time, and use your hands as balance points to stand up.

What are safety measures one should follow while entering or exiting a kayak?

Always wear your personal flotation device (PFD) before entering or exiting your kayak. Make sure you select an optimal spot that’s stable for entry/exit and check weather conditions beforehand. Lastly, ensure that you’re not leaning too much as this could tip the boat.

Can I enter or exit a kayak if I’m in deep water?

Yes, it’s possible but requires more skill and practice. In deep water entry/exit known as self-rescue techniques involve leaning onto paddle floats for stability while climbing back into your seat from over the side of kayak.


Navigating your way with finesse in and out of a kayak may seem daunting at first, but like any craft, it gets better with practice. And the ‘how to get in and out of a kayak’ guidelines I’ve shared should set you on the right path. Never underestimate the power of understanding kayaking basics and mastering entry techniques and exit tips.

A smooth entry or exit not only prevents unwanted spills but also saves energy for your actual paddling adventure. Safety precautions must be the top priority no matter how comfortable you become because remember, a secure paddler is a happy paddler.

PaddleRoundThePier is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, &