How to launch and land your kayak
As a beginner kayaker, one of the first things you need to learn is how to launch and land a kayak. As straightforward as it may seem, many find that this is more difficult than paddling the itself. In fact, the likelihood of you falling into the water is higher here than when you’re out paddling. So we have put some tips together to help you get in and out of a kayak properly and safely so you can avoid an unexpected swim.
Entering a kayak is easy when you're practicing on land, while the boat lies still and the ground provides a stable surface to stand on. Getting into a kayak at the shoreline when you are ready to paddle out onto the water can be a bit more stressful, with the water pulling at the front of your kayak. But with a few simple techniques, it will become an easy motion, especially in a sit-on-top kayak.
#1 Choose Your Launching and Landing Spots
Choosing the perfect site to launch and land your kayak is essential to a successful kayaking experience. The right spot will also play a role in how easy or difficult it will be for you to get in and out of the kayak.
Alternatively, the wrong place might leave you wet. There are three common places where you can launch and land your kayak: the beach, a dock or an uneven shoreline.
#2 Before Getting Into Your Kayak
Before you plop yourself (or try to) into your kayak, set your kayak down in a safe place first and do a pre-launch check. Make sure that your life vest is snug and comfortable, and attachments like fishing rods or other devices are leashed.
Also, check that you have all kayak accessories you’ll need for the trip stowed properly in the kayak or within your reach. It can be really frustrating to realize that you forgot your water bottle back in the car just when you’re getting ready to launch. This is especially true for your paddle. You’ll want it as close as possible to reach when you’re seated comfortably in your kayak.
Now that’s done, it’s time to get your feet wet.
#3 Launching from the shore
- Put your kayak just a few inches on the water. About ankle- or knee-deep should do.
- You will have both your legs to one side of the kayak with the kayak touching the back of your knees or legs
- From this straddling position, grab the cockpit firmly and quickly but carefully lower your bum down behind the cockpit.
- Bring one foot at a time into the kayak
- Get comfortable and use foot or brace supports for stability and comfort
#4 Landing from the beach to the shore
Bring your kayak perpendicular to the shoreline, paddling up to the sand so that the kayak beaches when it is floating a just a few inches above the water.
- Get one foot out of the kayak and planting it firmly onto the sand.
- Work on getting your second foot out onto the same side of the kayak as your other foot
- Grab onto your kayak to support and secure it
- Pull on the front handle and drag it to safety
One of the basic skills you need to master in order to kayak successfully is how to get in and out of the kayak. Most of the time it depends on where you’re kayaking and the launching and landing spot. But aside from that, it really is more of getting used to it.
Learning this skill won’t be easy at first. Even seasoned veterans will have epic fails. So in the meantime, be gentle with yourself when you don’t get it right the first time.
Smile and laugh at yourself to keep it light, and know that it will get easier and will look more effortless with more practice and as you gain more experience.
Always remember to practice in a safe environment. If the launching or landing spot feels dangerous then don’t risk it.