Updated on February 9, 2020

So, you want to go on a kayaking excursion? Great idea, there’s nothing quite like exploring an area from the perspective of a small boat, propelled forward by your own muscles (and the current). If you don’t have much kayaking experience, you might wonder how to get in a kayak.

This is where we here at The Adventure Junkies come into play. As experts in all things outdoors, we have a thing or two to share about kayaking. From the parts of a kayak to how to get in a kayak, we’re here to help you. In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps involved in getting safely in a kayak.




First of all, it’s important to realize that there’s a huge difference between getting in a canoe and getting in a kayak. You pretty much step into a canoe and that’s about it. When it comes to kayaks, though, it’s a bit trickier.

Many kayaking enthusiasts say that a kayak is an extension of one’s body. So, as Paddling.com rightly states, you don’t so much step into a kayak than actually put it on. Kayaks are much more wobbly than canoes, making it quite a challenge to make it into one without going swimming. Especially beginning kayakers may struggle to properly get in a kayak.

Rule number one is to get your butt into the kayak as quickly as possible. Once that’s done, your center of gravity will be low and you will be much less likely to tip over. The real challenge lies between standing up and sitting down (or vice versa when getting out of your kayak). Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to do it.



When entering a kayak from a dock, the first step is to put your paddle across the boat, perpendicular to it and leaning on the dock. By doing so, you can use it to pull your kayak back if it drifts away.

Then, once you control the kayak’s position with your paddle, you approach it, keeping your body as low to the dock as possible. Try to keep your center of gravity low and your body balanced. Never try to get in a kayak from an upright position, as that will certainly result in a splash.

Keeping most of your body on the dock, put your feet into the kayak’s cockpit first. Once your feet are in and you’ve found balance, slowly lower the rest of your body into the boat. You can keep your hands on the dock and put your body weight on them when you do this.

While this might seem easy, it does require some practice before you get the hang of it. Getting out of a kayak onto a dock is also a process you have to practice a few times. REI.com offers some tips on that as well.



Another likely place from which you’ll start your epic kayaking trip is a beach. If you have a partner—friend, colleague or spouse —with you, this process will be fairly easy.

Before you enter your kayak, however, it’s important to consider the position of your kayak. This depends on what kind of material it’s made of. Plastic kayaks are sturdier and can handle rougher treatment. This means that you can let part of it—the stern—rest on the beach when you’re getting in. The cockpit will be at the edge of the water while the bow is floating.

Kayaks made of composite materials such as carbon fiber or fiberglass, however, are more delicate. It’s best to enter those when they’re floating entirely to avoid scraping the hull.

Your partner can make it much easier for you to enter the kayak, simply by holding the stern and using his or her hands to stabilize the boat. You then step into the cockpit, lowering your butt and body until you’re in the seating position.

Once you’re in, a simple push from your partner will send you on your way.



Getting in a kayak from a beach without a partner is a bit trickier. Not being able to rely on another pair of hands, you’re responsible for staying balanced yourself. In this case, the same applies to your kayak’s position in the water as it did with a partner. Plastic kayaks can rest partly on the beach while composite kayaks should be floating when you’re getting in.

To help you stay balanced, you can use your paddle. Place it on the back of the kayak, just behind the cockpit, at a 90-degree angle with the kayak. Make sure one blade rests on the beach or, if using a composite kayak, on a firm place just below the surface of the water.

Then, standing next to your kayak, squat down and, with one hand, grab both the paddle shaft and the cockpit coaming. Squat down deeply to keep your center of gravity as low as possible. Not bending your knees decreases your stability greatly.

Now, leaning on your hand that holds the paddle and the cockpit coaming, place both your feet in the kayak. Make sure to keep your weight above the paddle. When your feet are in, simply continue by sliding your legs into the boat.

Bring the paddle in front of you. Use your paddle or hands to push your kayak away from the beach. Off you go!





Now that you’ve learned how to get in a kayak, let’s continue with a lesson in attaching a spray skirt. These things are great to keep you dry when kayaking, effectively sealing off the inside of your kayak.

Once you’re comfortably settled in the cockpit of your kayak, lean backward and attach your spray skirt to the back of the cockpit coaming. Then, leaning forward, you run your fingers along the edge of your spray skirt and wrap its front over the coaming’s front. Continue with wrapping the rest of the spray skirt’s edges over the cockpit coaming.

Ensure that the grab loop of your spray skirt is outside of your cockpit and in front of you. This way, you can easily get to it if necessary.

About The Author

Hiking, Kayaking & MTB Expert

Born in Belgium, Bram Reusen is a travel writer, photographer, craft beer lover and hiking expert based in Charlottesville, Virginia. From morning hiking trips to multi-month cycling adventures, he has plenty of experience venturing into the wilds of the world. He’s explored 28 national parks and visited 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

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