How to Get In and Out of a Kayak

Discover How to Get In and Out of a Kayak hassle-free techniques for entering and exiting a kayak with our comprehensive guide! Perfect your kayak maneuvers effortlessly. The kayak is a slender, graceful watercraft that allows a single person to explore rivers, lakes, and coastal waters with ease. Yet for the novice, embarking on their maiden voyage in a kayak can be daunting. How does one get into the cockpit and seat themselves securely without tipping over? 

How to Get In and Out of a Kayak

And once ashore, how can they exit the kayak without taking an embarrassing spill? Fortunately, with a few handy tips on technique, even beginners can master the basics of getting in and out of a kayak. The key is to stay centered, move slowly, and keep your weight low as you enter and exit the kayak.

Getting in and out of a kayak can be tricky, especially if you have limited mobility or strength. At our kayak company, Angle Oar, one of the most common questions is “What’s the best way to get in and out of a kayak if I have [physical limitation]?” To find solutions, we asked members of two large online kayaking communities – the Senior Kayakers Group 55+ and the Church of the Double-Bladed Paddle. 

These Facebook groups have thousands of members with a range of physical abilities. We heard back from hundreds of paddlers, who shared their tips and tricks for safely embarking and disembarking their kayaks despite age, injury, or disability. Their ideas can help make kayaking accessible for people of all physical conditions.

How to Get In and Out of a Kayak from Youtube

How to Get In and Out of a Kayak On a Beach

Getting How to Get In and Out of a Kayak at a sandy beach is usually easy. However, it’s important to be careful in tough spots like reefs or big waves.

Getting in and Launching From a Beach

  1. Carry your kayak to the water’s edge. You can drag plastic kayaks short distances on sandy beaches. Avoid pulling them long distances.
  2. Place the kayak in shallow water. Position it parallel or perpendicular to the shore based on conditions. Perpendicular works better in choppy surf.
  3. Secure your paddle by the seat, in bungees, or across the deck as an outrigger.
  4. Put one foot in the cockpit. Lower yourself into the seat, using your hands on the combing for balance.
  5. If using your paddle as an outrigger, keep one hand on it for stability. But don’t put too much weight on it.
  6. Once seated, swing your other leg into the cockpit. You may need to hover above the seat to get both legs in.
  7. Place feet on foot pegs, and retrieve the 
  8. paddle.
  9. Paddle away from shore before making adjustments.

Landing and Exiting on a Beach

  1. On sandy beaches, gently paddle the bow onto shore for a stable exit.
  2. On steeper beaches, first, turn the kayak parallel to the shore. Do this by forcing the bow to turn 90 degrees with your paddle.
  3. Once parallel, place the paddle blade in the sand and push it close to shore.
  4. Secure your paddle or use it as an outrigger.
  5. Prop yourself up and get one foot out of the cockpit.
  6. Slowly stand, transferring weight to the foot on shore.
  7. Once standing, step fully out, secure the paddle, and grab a handle.
  8. Pull the kayak completely clear of the water so waves can’t reach it.

From a Rocky Shoreline

Getting In and Out of a Kayak at rocky beaches can be tricky. Watch out for waves, slippery rocks, and bumpy ground. Take it slow and be careful, especially when carrying your kayak into the water.

Rocky Shoreline

Getting in and Launching From a Rocky Shoreline

  1. Position your kayak parallel to the water with a clear path out. Avoid getting trapped.
  2. Step carefully on a floating kayak. Larger rocks may ground it once you’re seated. Go out far enough.
  3. Check tides – don’t get stranded! Ebbing tides can drop quickly.
  4. Use your paddle as an outrigger for balance.
  5. Put one foot in, and use your hands to lower down. Bring the second foot in once centered.
  6. Leave shore promptly – waves can toss you! If using a spray skirt, wait to secure it until you’re clear.

Landing and Exiting on a Rocky Shoreline

  1. Approach shore carefully, checking for hidden rocks. Avoid areas with white, foamy waves – a sign of reefs.
  2. Once you find a good spot, turn your kayak parallel to the shore.
  3. Secure your paddle, prop yourself up, and get one foot out before standing.
  4. Watch your footing – legs can be stiff after paddling. Rocks and seaweed are slippery.
  5. Make sure to get the kayak fully clear of water. Note the tide – be extra cautious if it’s flooding.

At a Dock

When you start kayaking from a dock, there are good and bad things. You don’t need to care about the water level changing, and the water is usually calm. But getting into the kayak from the dock can be hard at first because it is higher than the water.

At a Dock

Getting in and Launching From a Dock

Put your kayak next to the dock. It can be hard to put your boat in the water. It is good to have someone help you and talk to you as you do it. Hold your kayak so it does not go away. Ask someone to hold the boat for you.

If you cannot tie your paddle to your kayak, put it on the dock near your kayak. You will need to get it when you sit in the kayak. Sit on the dock and put both feet in the kayak. Turn your feet to the front of the kayak and push yourself away from the dock. Try not to put too much weight on the kayak.

Keep your weight on the dock while you move your body into the kayak. Go slowly and sit down. When you feel balanced on the kayak, you can move your weight from the dock. You should feel like you are sitting nicely, not falling. Get your paddle, and hold on to the dock until you are ready to go.

Exiting at a Dock

Make your kayak face the same way as the dock. If there is someone near you, ask them to hold your kayak while you get out. This will make it simpler. Put your paddle on the dock or tie it to your kayak. Don’t let it go away. You might need it later.

Put both hands on the dock and lift yourself from your seat. Move your weight from your kayak to your hands. Keep your body close to the dock while you take your body, hips, and legs out of the kayak. Then, you can move onto the dock.

When you are out of the kayak, turn back and take your boat. Tie it to the dock well until you want to take it away.

A Focus on the Knees

We asked kayakers with bad knees how they get in and out of their boats. They had many different ways to do it, and some of them were not very elegant. But that’s okay, we don’t care about looking good. As one of them said

A Focus on the Knees

“A good friend told me when I first started kayaking eight years ago that there was no graceful way to get into or out of a kayak. Once I heard that, I stopped trying to look good, and it helped!

Seven Methods for Entering & Exiting a Kayak When You Have Knee Problems

1. Shallow Water Methods (including the “Dump Grandma” Method)

Shallow Water

Many people say the best way to get In and Out of a Kayak is to use the water to help you. They had different ways to do it, but most of them said you should go into the water until it is up to your knees or thighs and keep the kayak next to the shore.

“Stay in about a foot and a half of water from shore. When you get out, it’s easier on the knees than trying to bend them less than 90° and getting up from the shore.” – JP

“Stop parallel to shore in two feet of water. Swing your legs over the side on the deep side. As you lean forward, the boat will nearly let in water, but you will be easily standing, and no water (will get) in the boat. I call it the side saddle dismount, and my 73-year-old wife swears by it.” – GSL

Nancy, 64, and her mom, Jean, 92, go kayaking every year. Nancy’s kids say they have a funny way to help Jean get out of the boat. Nancy said, “To get in, my Mom sits down in the water up to her thighs and I hold her. I move her legs inside and help her wear dry shoes. We use a cushion that can turn to make it easier.”

“To get out, we have fun… In the same water level, I move her legs outside, then I go to the other side and slowly tip the boat as she stands up. It seems like I’m throwing her out, but it’s very safe. She grabs the side and I hold the boat, and she stands up. We do it well until we laugh, then we lose our balance and fall into the water!

I’m 70 and have had two knee replacements. I have a Tsunami 165. (To get out), I stop in water just below my knee swing one leg over the side and stand up on it. I can then bring the other leg out on the same side. If you are in shallower water, it is harder as the flexion on the knee is too much. To get in, I put one leg in and sit on the back of the cockpit and then bring my other leg in.” – Dianne Chellew


  • Goes easy on the knees since you don’t have to bend them as much
  • Doesn’t take a ton of coordination or upper-body strength


  • Some tricks need a helper to pull them off
  • Works best with a shallow, smooth shore (not steep or rocky)
  • Plan on getting your feet wet right off the bat

2. Paddle Bridge/Brace Techniques

The paddle bridge is an old-school way to get in and out of a kayak. You put your paddle behind your seat, using it like a bridge between your kayak and the shore. Then you lower yourself onto the seat or lift yourself out.

It works great if you’ve got enough upper body power. But some folks with sore knees or hips may not have the arm and shoulder strength to make it happen.

Kathleen Pszonka, 74, has two knee replacements. She uses regular kayaks, not extra-wide ones. “I get out by lining up my kayak parallel to the shore. I put my paddle behind me as a bridge to the ramp. Then I push up on the paddle with my hands while swinging my legs onto shore,” she said.

Steve Dooley has a prosthetic leg. “I sit on the back of the kayak with the paddle touching land. I slide both legs in and plop down,” he shared. Though sometimes the seat catches on his leg.

You can see it in action in this video. But the paddler’s in shallow water with the kayak at an angle. Kathleen described it best – kayak parallel, paddle straight back.


  • Works on shore or docks – flexible.
  • You can do it solo without help.


  • Needs a strong core and arms to pull it off.
  • Takes some nimble moving and bending.
  • Can be hard on your paddle, might break it.
  • Tricky in kayaks with high seat backs.

3. Straddle & “Butt First” Approaches

It Is the 3rd problem of How to Get In and Out of a Kayak.

“I’m 55 with knees that are shot. I prefer to straddle kayak in shallow water. Drop butt into 

seat, put one leg in at a time. Reverse to get back out.” – Bern Vander Meer

I have a Pungo and a Tempest Pro. After using a “butt first from the side and swinging the legs in” (approach), I have settled on putting in my worst leg first, my rear-end on the back deck, and then bringing the second leg up and sliding into the seat.” – JB

The shallow water and “butt first” methods go hand-in-hand. The key is keeping the kayak in knee-deep water, parallel to shore. This lets you avoid bending your knees too much.

Bern Vander Meer, 55, straddles her kayak in shallow water. She lowers her butt into the seat, then swings her legs in one at a time. Reverse to get out.

Jean Betts, 82, uses a kayak with a wide keyhole opening. She can’t bend her replaced knees enough to lower her butt first. Instead, she straddles the kayak while it’s in knee-deep water. She sits toward the back, keeping her knees straight.

To get out, Jean stands up in the shallow water, shoving the kayak forward. She grabs the back and brings her feet together. She uses her paddle as a brace, leaning on it for balance. “Always lean towards the paddle and you’ll stay upright,” she advises.

The beauty of this method is you can adapt it based on your needs and the water depth. The key is avoiding too much knee-bending

(An) open bow boat saves the day for me. Walking the boat out into water that is knee-to-thigh deep, with someone holding the boat in place, I back up to the boat and get my tush into it, grabbing onto sides as I get in. Exiting (is) not pretty, but I swing my feet out into the same depth of water, then my tush goes in for a swim, and I’m in shallow water. I wear some sort of water shoes that stay on and won’t take on pebbles.” – MLHL


  • Goes easy on the knees since you don’t bend them much
  • Doesn’t take a ton of coordination or upper-body power


  • Need some hip flexibility to straddle the kayak
  • Only works in shallow, smooth water – not for steep or rocky shores
  • Requires having a butt – but I’m guessing you’ve got that covered!

4. Partner-Assisted Methods

It is the Fourth problem of How to Get In and Out of a Kayak known as Getting A Helping Hand.

Having a paddling buddy makes getting In and Out of a Kayak. There are lots of ways to work together, but teamwork is key. Dave Tarnowski helps his wife by bracing his legs against her kayak. That keeps it steady as he pulls her up by the hands, using his legs, not his back.

One paddler who had hip surgery uses the shallow water method. She puts her weaker leg in first and braces her arms on the sides. Her partner straddles the front, holding it steady. Now that she’s recovered, she straddles her kayak solo again.

For paddlers with disabilities, there are adaptive options too – special launches, transfer benches, and lifts. With a little creativity and teamwork, kayaking can be made accessible for everyone. The main thing is having someone lend a stable hand when you need it.

To help my wife out, I brace my legs against the yak in front of her (stabilizing it so it doesn’t slide) and pull her up with both hands. (Using my legs, not my back). She can help a little bit, but not too much till she’s mostly upright.” – Dave Tarnowski 


  • Lots of different techniques to choose from
  • Very stable for getting in and out


  • Need a partner, no solo trips
  • Partners must be strong and coordinated

5. All Fours & Corkscrew Styles

Karen Hassett of Canada is new to kayaking but loves it. Though she has some knee arthritis, she found a way to make it work. She parks her kayak partly on shore so she can step in and sit down. To get out, she drives the kayak onto shore to stabilize it before standing up.

Lisa Petrowski LaLande has two knee replacements. As she describes it, “I look like I’m being birthed out of the kayak!” She needs help stabilizing the kayak to slide her legs in from the back. A sense of humor helps. “It’s worth it!” she says.

One paddler swivels onto her stomach facing backward. She uses her hands to push up and flip her lower body around to kneel on the seat. From there she can lever herself up and out, avoiding strain on her knees.

Rick Wayne perfected a “reverse corkscrew” technique. He twists to face backward, then flips his lower body to match while supporting himself with his hands. This lets him kneel on the seat before levering out. “It’s tricky at first, but once you’ve got it down it’s simple,” Rick says. Though newbies may end up in the drink at first!

The key is finding creative ways to enter and exit that avoid strain on knees or other joints. With practice, even unorthodox methods can become second nature.

I get my left leg out, swivel onto my stomach, and push up to stand. I always get out on the shallow side of the boat.” – BS


  • Doesn’t take as much flexibility or strength
  • Can be hilarious if you do it in a silly, awkward way


  • Still requires some coordination
  • Works better in big cockpits
  • Might need help steadying the kayak

6. Slide Out Methods

The “slide out” method is a catch-all for paddlers who crawl, scoot, or straight up flop out of their kayaks. There’s no “right” way – do what works for you!

Jennifer Dones doesn’t have bad knees but struggles with balance when standing up to get out. She paddles onto land as far as possible, then rolls the kayak on its side. She scoots out, crawls into the water, and swims around until she can stand up. A bit messy but it works!

To get in, she straddles the partly-beached kayak and throws herself backward into the cockpit. As she says, not convenient but it does the trick.

The key is finding an exit strategy that avoids straining your knees or back. Creativity counts! Slide, scoot, crawl, splash – embrace whatever goofy but effective method gets you In and Out of a Kayak safely. The mermaid approach is valid.

“I have two bad knees. I get near the bank (or on the edge of a boat ramp) in shallow water, swing my legs over, and slide out into the water. I get a little wet, but it’s so much easier.” – SWH


  • Doesn’t take much flexibility or strength
  • Goes easy on the knees
  • Not a lot of coordination needed


  • In and Out of a Kayak Might need an assistant
  • You’ll likely end up wet and sandyYou’ll likely end up wet and sandy

7. Using Assistive Devices

How to Get In and Out of a Kayak. Lots of paddlers use handy gadgets to help with entering and exiting their kayaks. Here are some creative ideas:

Rope – Tie a rope to the front of the kayak and back to yourself. In and Out of a Kayak Use it to pull yourself up.

U-brace – Make a U-shaped brace out of PVC pipe with elbow joints. Place it in the scupper holes or straddle the kayak. Grip it to lower yourself down.

Stakeout pole – Use an 8-10-foot pole meant for securing your kayak in shallow water. Stick it in the bottom and use it to pull yourself up and balance. Costs around $10.

Trekking poles – Place two poles on either side of the cockpit for stability. In and Out of a Kayak They give a forward push-up and out.

Sturdy plank – Place a wide board across the cockpit rim behind you. Push up onto it with arms and feet to elevate yourself before swinging your legs out.

Small cooler – Prop your knee on a compact cooler placed in the cockpit. It holds snacks plus helps you get in and out!

A little creativity plus the right gear can make kayak entry and exit smooth sailing, bad knees or not.


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