Choice of shore
Make it easy on yourself by choosing the best place you can to launch. Look for a spot where the waves seem smallest; find a gentle slope rather than a steep drop-off, with sand rather than rocks. Alternatively, look for a place where you can get into your kayak directly from a dock or a rock.
Float your kayak in shallow water
Floating your kayak before getting in will help save the hull from damage. Stand astride, hold the deck with both hands behind you at the back of the cockpit to center yourself and to stop the kayak from floating away, and then lower yourself carefully into your seat. Bring your feet into the kayak last. You may need to do this one leg at a time.
Watch the waves
Always keep an eye on what the water is doing while you get in. If you point your kayak directly into the oncoming waves, and if you wait a few moments for the calmest time between groups of waves, you’ll make it easier for yourself.
From a dock or rock
Float your kayak beside a low dock or a large secure rock. Crouch or sit beside the kayak on the dock or rock facing the bow and place one foot in the cockpit in front of the seat. Hold the back of the cockpit at the midpoint with one hand and squeeze the kayak tight against the dock using that hand and foot. Now move your second foot into the kayak in front of or beside the other. Push down on the dock with your other hand to lift your butt from the dock across to your seat. For best balance, position your weight above your seat before you sit. To keep your kayak tight against the dock, edge your kayak slightly away from the dock and pull with the hand that is holding the dock so your hip lifts toward your hand.
Why not use the paddle?
One of the easiest ways to damage a paddle is to use it to help you get into the kayak. You’ll risk scraping the blade against the rocks, snapping the shaft by putting too much of your weight in the wrong place, and compressing the shaft by sitting on it. Once you have learned to get in and out of your kayak smoothly and in balance without using your paddle, you’ll be less likely to misplace your weight if you do need to use it.
Choose your landing spot carefully, and watch for waves that could complicate your exit. In shallows, pop your sprayskirt open. Lift your feet out onto the deck. Grip the cockpit or deck behind you with both hands and push down to lift your butt. As your butt lifts, push your feet down into the water until they touch bottom and launch yourself carefully upright by rolling your weight forward. This will help prevent the kayak from scooting backward and setting you back in your seat again. Keep hold of the kayak while you bring your feet together to one side of the kayak; this will help you balance and prevent it from floating away. If the beach is steep, turn your kayak alongside the shore into shallow water.
There are many ways to launch and land, but they all depend on balance and timing. Experiment. You can mimic a lot of the moves at home or in your yard, shifting your weight from a box into and out of your kayak. Practice the same moves several times and each time you paddle until launching and landing become the easiest part of your day. You have to get it right if you want to stay dry.
The article was originally published on Canoe & Kayak
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