How to Get In and Out of a Kayak Safely

How to Get In and Out of a Kayak

Getting in and out of a kayak can be tricky, especially if you’re a beginner. But even if you do have experience, getting in and out of your kayak isn’t the easiest task. And it’s definitely not graceful. Some people fall into their kayak, some flop, and others squirm and wiggle their way in.

Yes, there are several different ways to enter and exit a kayak, so let’s make sure you do it right. Mastering your balance and timing will make kayak access easier.

Here’s how to get in and out of a kayak? Getting in a kayak, launch from a sandy beach, have a friend hold your hand as you sit down or use your paddle for balance. Getting out of a kayak, put your feet out of the cockpit first—straddle the kayak or put both feet on one side, then use your paddle to stabilize yourself and help push you up.

Read on to get the details of successfully getting in and out of your kayak … without looking silly doing it.

Amazon and Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) on the products or services you purchase using the links.

How Do You Get into a Kayak Without Tipping Over?

Kayak safety should always be your primary goal as a paddler. So let’s talk about getting into a kayak without tipping over and hurting yourself.

It’s quite simple to get in a kayak without tipping over, however it’ll take some practice. Tipping over on the shore can be harmless, however tipping over or falling from a dock can get you injured. That’s why we definitely recommend brushing up on your kayak entry skills beforehand trying it at the dock.

Most kayaks are stable, but you can learn to safely get into any kayak, regardless of its inherent stability.

A few key tips to keep in mind that will always assist you when entering a kayak:

  • If possible, launch from a sloping, sandy beach
  • Always have a buddy and use them for assistance
  • If you don’t have a friend, search for a rock or a log to lean on
  • Use the paddle for balance and stability
  • Get your butt into the seat as quickly as possible
  • Try to go on a sunny and windless day (in case you get wet)
  • Wear a life jacket at all times!

How Do You Get in a Kayak From the Shore?

Entering your kayak from a rocky or uneven shoreline can be quite difficult. Whether you plan to launch from a beach, lake, or river, keep in mind that some shores are more friendly than others.

Regardless of the terrain, the process is similar:

  • Line the kayak up parallel to the shore. First and most important, proper placement of the boat is key.
  • Use your kayak paddle to stabilize by setting it perpendicular (90 degrees) to kayak across the back, behind the seat. Half of the paddle should be lying across the boat and the other half should be on the shore. The paddle then becomes similar to an outrigger.
  • Sit on the side of the paddle that’s over the shore and transfer your feet into the boat. Your feet should be the first part that enters the kayak, the rest should follow fairly quickly.
  • Grabbing a hold of the paddle underneath and next to you, scooch your butt along the paddle over to the kayak. You should be able to put most of your weight on the paddle and the boat, however we recommend you move swiftly. 
  • Shift your butt into the seat. Keep your weight low and make sure to enter gracefully if possible. Remaining calm and balanced will lower your chances of tipping over.
  • Push out with your hands. When ready and situated, put your paddle horizontal over your lap and use your hands to push you off of shore. If needed, use your paddle to push into the shoreline to give you an extra boost.

Accessing a kayak from a rocky shoreline will be a little trickier and more challenging due to the unstable surface. Our biggest recommendation is to always remember to use your paddle as a stabilizer. The more balance assistance, the easier it will be.

How Do You Get in a Kayak from the Beach?

Entering a kayak from an ocean beach is like getting in from the lakeshore. The main difference is after you get into the kayak you will have to get past the surf. We do recommend that if you are inexperienced, walk the kayak out past the surf and enter once out there. However, if you can enter from the shore then try your best to follow these easy steps.

  • Place the kayak perpendicular to the shoreline. This will angle the boat for the front half to be in the water and the back half to be on the beach still.
  • Place the paddle under a bungee. This will let you make sure you paddle is secure and out of the way.
  • Straddle the kayak. With a hold on each side, place one foot in at a time and sit down as quickly and calmly as possible.
  • Get moving! The beach is guaranteed to have waves coming in and out so make sure once you are in your kayak you are ready to start paddling. The sooner you paddle the less likely of a chance to wash back up on shore.

For beach access, we recommend having a friend there to help stabilize you when entering the kayak. It may be easier to enter in a few inches of water and start paddling immediately following entry. The biggest tip for a beach launch is to always have someone watching if you are going out alone.

Do your best to stay in sight of others, just in case of emergency.

How Do You Get into a Kayak from a Dock?

Getting into a kayak from a dock is one of the more challenging launches, simply because it requires a little more balance. The easiest way to have a successful entry is by asking for assistance from a friend! Have them hold the kayak either from the dock, or from their kayak. This will give you more stability and confidence to be able to get into the boat without getting wet.

However, if you don’t have any friends available to help, that’s okay, just be ready to move slowly and steadily.

  • Place the kayak in the water where the water level is closest to the dock level. Pick the lowest point for the easiest access to your kayak. 
  • Put the kayak parallel to the dock. Use your paddle to hold the kayak so it doesn’t drift away.
  • Sit down on the dock next to the boat. Be careful and look out for nails sticking up from the dock deck.
  • Put your feet in the kayak. Turn your hips to face the dock once you’re standing in the kayak. Hold onto the dock for more balance. 
  • Slowly lower yourself into the seat. Keep your weight low and use the dock for stability. 
  • Make sure you have your paddle! Grab your paddle from the dock, give yourself a push, and help a friend with their launch if needed.

Always be sure you’re confident and prepared prior to entering your kayak from a new location. Scope out the area you intend to launch from and always communicate with friends when you’re entering and exiting your kayak. To exit, repeat the same directions in the opposite order.

How Do You Get in and Out of an Inflatable Kayak?

Entering an inflatable kayak is a bit more forgiving. However, there’s less stability with an inflatable kayak, so though it takes a few less steps to get in, inflatables tend to be a bit “squirrely” on entry. 

To get into an inflatable kayak:

  • Simply pull the kayak into a few inches deep of water, parallel to shore.
  • Hover your butt over the seat.
  • Place one hand on the front and another hand on the back, just to make sure the kayak doesn’t float away.
  • Sit your bum into the seat.
  • Transfer feet into a kayak, get comfortable, and start paddling!

To get out of an inflatable kayak:

  • Paddle the kayak into the shore, facing perpendicular. 
  • Place the paddle directly behind the seat, perpendicular to the kayak.
  • Remove your feet from the kayak, turn to face the back of the kayak and place your hands on the paddle shoulder width apart. 
  • With your hands on the paddle, push to stand up. 
  • Twist so that your shoulders end up over your hands, which are on the paddle. 
  • Grab your paddle and pull your kayak out of the water!

If you intend to get into an inflatable kayak from any surface other than the shore, always make sure you’re stable and confident with your transfer in and out of the vessel. Even if you’re entering or exiting a kayak from a boat or a dock, you should still use the same technique.

Either way, always double check that the inflatable kayak’s PSI is pumped up properly as this will create more stability and firmness for you to hang onto when getting in and out of the kayak.

How Do You Get in a Kayak Without Getting Wet?

Getting in and out of a kayak without getting wet is a skill in and of itself. It’s a little more challenging to stay dry, especially if you’re on the shore or a beach, but if you’re entering from a pier or grass that will minimize your chances of getting wet.

  • Place the kayak parallel to land. While standing on the surface, face the front of the kayak.
  • Using the foot closest to the kayak, step into the middle of the seat and slowly lower into the kayak. Use your same side hand to grab a hold of the kayak. One foot should be in the boat and the other on land, stabilizing.
  • Sit down and transfer the other leg into the boat. Easy! Remember to stay low when moving.
  • Use your paddle or hands to push you off the land and enjoy! Well done, however just because you didn’t get wet while entering your kayak doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a dry ride. We recommend bringing the right gear and clothes just in case to ensure you stay dry for the entire kayak session. 

Another option is to purchase a kayak launcher that will allow you to place your kayak in a slip, sit down, secure all your belongings, and then push yourself into water without getting a drop on you.

How to Get into a Kayak From the Water

Getting into the kayak once you’re already in the water is a fair bit more challenging than entering from land. It’s possible you’re in the water because you capsized, but either way you’ll have to learn to reenter your kayak without continuously flipping it back over.

How Do You Get Back in a Kayak After Falling Out?

The main thing to remember after falling out of a kayak is to remain as calm as possible. Whether you are in still water or moving rapids, your internal self will know how to protect yourself in that moment. Try not to fight the water and get to shore as soon as possible if you cannot get a hold of your kayak. If you are able to get to your kayak after falling out, then getting back in will be fairly simple.

  • Secure your paddle to keep it out of way. Either keep the paddle floating nearby or secure it in your kayak’s bungees.
  • Move toward the back of the kayak. You’ll have more balance and a lesser chance of rocking the kayak if you access from behind the seat.
  • Facing the kayak, reach both hands to the other side of the boat. Prepare to lunge yourself up to the top of the kayak. 
  • Kick hard and burst your belly to the top of the kayak. You should now be lying on the boat with your face and feet hovering over the water, with your belly on the kayak.
  • Maneuver yourself to face the front of the boat. This is the time to relax, catch your breath, and take your time moving around. You should be lying on top of the kayak with the seat in front of you. 
  • Sit up and straddle the kayak. The lower you keep your weight and body, the more stability and balance you will have. 
  • Scooch your way up to the seat. Your feet should still be in the water, therefore you can use them to help kick you forward inch by inch. Slow and steady wins the race!
  • Once your butt’s in the seat, place one foot in the kayak at a time. And you’re back in secure! Don’t forget your paddle!

How Do You Get Back into a Kayak After Capsizing?

If you have flipped your kayak, the first, and one of the most important, things to do is grab hold of all your gear. Find your paddle and put it close by if possible. Once you have an eye on everything, it’s time to work to get back into your kayak. 

  • Lined up horizontally, lunge on top of the kayak, grabbing a hold of the opposite side of the boat. Pull towards you. The bottom of the boat will be facing the sky. Flip it back over using your body weight. Try to flip the boat over as soon as possible in order for it to take on the least amount of water.
  • Grab hold of the kayak for some assistance and put the paddle in. Once the kayak is back to its normal position it won’t sink, so you can relax a little. Find your paddle and tuck it under the bungee cords making sure it’ll be out of the way for reentry. 
  • Line up next to the seat. Place one hand on the side of the kayak that’s closest to you and one hand directly on the other side if you can reach. If you can’t reach, grab hold of the seat or a handle. 
  • Lunge yourself into the boat. Remember to bring your feet to the surface and to kick hard to help push yourself up out of the water. With one hand on each side of the kayak you should be able to pull yourself up onto the boat fairly easily. You will now be lying perpendicular across your kayak with your belly button over the seat. 
  • Once you’re stable, switch from your belly to your butt. Use your hands to stabilize as you transfer and sit in your seat properly. 
  • Put feet back in the boat, grab your paddle, and you’re off! Don’t forget to grab the rest of your gear.

TIP: if you have gear that floats you can use it as a step ladder to help push you up on the kayak to reenter. Remember that safety always comes first before saving your gear.

How Do You Get into a Kayak From Deep Water?

Getting into a kayak from deep water is relatively the same process as getting in after capsizing. If you’re in the water and your kayak isn’t upside down, then you’ll have to kick swiftly to launch yourself up onto the kayak. Once lying on the boat you will be able to shift yourself to be seated properly again. 

The main factor when entering a kayak in deep water is making sure you get a good power kick to really boost you up onto the kayak. Sometimes having a little extra weight on your kayak, whether that be gear or a two person seater, can allow it to be more stable and make the reentry less of a hassle. But make no mistake, it’s not easy to get into a kayak from deep water.

Always remember, the lower your center of gravity, once you get on top of the kayak.

How to Get Out of a Kayak

Getting out of a kayak can be almost as challenging as getting into it, especially for us large “big-guy” kayakers. After a day on the water you might be a little tired and not paying enough attention to what you’re doing. So making sure you get out of your kayak without tipping over or losing your gear is key.

How Do You Get Out of a Kayak with Bad Knees?

I’ve had an ACL replacement and other football-related injuriess, so I know about knee soreness. If your knees aren’t in the best shape, like mine, there are a couple of options for the best way to get out of your kayak.

Those two options rank from easy to challenging. 

If you’re looking for the easiest way to get out of a kayak without too much bend in the knees, simply following this quick procedure:

  • Paddle into about a foot or two deep of water. You can typically measure this with your paddle. 
  • Swing feet over to one side of the kayak. You will most likely not be touching the ground yet and your butt will still be seated. 
  • Use your hands and strength to push up, allowing your feet to reach the ground. Tada, you’re now standing! 

As this method is one of the simplest ones, because the feet are not touching the ground it can cause the kayak to possibly wobble a little bit. If you have a buddy nearby, having them hold onto your kayak while you exit will make it much easier. 

If you’re in a sit-on-top vs a sit inside kayak and are looking for a mildly challenging way to get out of your kayak, while at the same time minimizing knee pain, try this quick but not-so-graceful method:

  • Paddle yourself into a shallow and sandy part of water. Definitely want to make sure it is a sandy or grassy bottom, rocks or shells might be a little uncomfortable. 
  • Simply, roll out of the kayak into the water. Make sure all of your gear is secure beforehand.
  • Stand up as quickly and comfortably as you can. Keep an eye on incoming waves and remember to grab a hold of your kayak so it doesn’t drift back out to sea.

Another option is to boost yourself to land by paddling extra hard prior to reaching the surface. If you’re able to get onto shore, the more leverage and stability you will have to help you get out. If this is too much bend in the knees, ask a friend for a hand or simply push your bum out of the seat so that you’re sitting on the shore or bank. Then get to two feet the same way you would from being on the floor.

Either way you choose, protect your knees at all costs. At a certain point you don’t have to be graceful in doing this. And in fact, you probably won’t be.

How Do You Get Out of a Kayak if it Flips?

If you are in a typical kayak that does not have anything covering your waist, you will simply fall right out if the kayak flips. However, if you’re white water kayaking and/or are in a touring kayak that has a spray skirt, you’ll have to know what to do to get out in a safe and timely manner.

  • Bend and lean forward as much as possible. Try your hardest to bring your forehead to touch the kayak. This will help you become more compact and smaller which will limit your chance of being injured while flipped underwater.
  • Locate the spray skirt grab handle. This is typically on the right side of the kayak. Pull the handle away from the rim of the boat allowing the spray skirt to be released. This will free up your lower body and allow you to exit the kayak.
  • Place your hands on the kayak next to your hips and push yourself out. Since you are still in a compact, fetal position, your legs should naturally follow the rest of your body and remove themselves from the kayak. 
  • Once surfaced, grab a hold of your kayak. Stay attached to your kayak but in a safe manner. 

This can be a dangerous and frightening way of exiting the kayak, however you should always be wearing a life jacket and should always have a buddy. Your life jacket will keep you afloat and able to catch your breath and your buddy will help you coral up your gear. Once you are above water and capable, swim to shore as safely and quickly as you can.

How Do You Get Out of a Kayak from the Shore?

The best way to exit the kayak from the shore is by catching the waves and power paddling your way in. Prepare to surf your way into shore with this skillful technique of landing your kayak:

  • Pick up your paddle pace prior to landing. The more speed you have, the better chance you have of making it as far onto land as possible. The goal is to get your kayak on land without getting out. 
  • The more land under your kayak, the more stable your kayak will be. This will let you get out much easier. 
  • Transfer feet to ground and push up on the kayak with your hands. Stand up!

Exiting the kayak from land can be one of the more challenging tasks simply because there are many factors that go into beaching the vessel.

If you’re at a beach with decent waves, catching the surf at the right time is important. If you don’t have your kayak lined up properly or don’t paddle fast enough you might end up flipping or tipping over before you reach land.

However, if you are exiting in still water, like a lake, simply put some extra power into your last few paddles to boost yourself onto shore. 

The Best Way to Get in and Out of a Kayak

As we touched on multiple ways to get in and out of a kayak, there is one way that is the simplest for both getting into and out of your kayak. But one thing we forgot to mention, it’s a lot easier to get in and out of your kayak if you have the right kayak shoes to protect your feet from rocks, glass, and the elements.

That being said…

The best way to get into a kayak:

  • Straddle your kayak while standing.
  • Place one hand on each side of the kayak.
  • Lower your bum into the seat.
  • Put your feet in the kayak.
  • Start paddling!

The best way to get out of a kayak:

  • Grab a hold of something solid or stabilize the kayak on land.
  • Place your feet outside of the kayak, one foot on each side.
  • Stand up to straddle the kayak.
  • Quickly move to one side of the kayak and grab a hold so it doesn’t float away.
  • Drag fully out of water!

Get In and Out of Your Kayak Conclusions

Having a good time on the water starts with being able to get into your kayak both easily and safely. Make sure you practice several different methods of getting into and out of your kayak before you head out to deeper water.

As with everything in kayaking, practice is key. Because the more you kayak the better you get at it and the more fun you’ll have.


I'm Steve, the research and technology workhorse behind Paddle Camp. I do tons of research on all our family's paddling gear before I buy or recommend anything. I grew up canoeing with my dad and brother. A few years ago I bought paddle boards for my daughters, myself, and my wife. Ever since then, we plan most of our vacations around kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding.

Related Articles