How To Launch A Kayak

How to launch a kayak

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Did you know that kayaking can be quite a healthy sport if you do it the right way?

As a matter of fact, the grace of your kayaking adventures depends on how you launch your vessel. Therefore, most kayaking experts describe launching skills as the key to success in this sport.

Undoubtedly, learning to launch your kayak into the open water comes with a steep learning curve. As a result, even after years of experience and practice, kayakers find it challenging to launch their kayak flawlessly.

However, before you get disheartened, let us assure you that you can conquer the learning curve with the proper guidance and practice.

To help you become a pro in a short time, we have created this handy guide on how you should launch your kayak for the perfect experience. From different locations, water conditions, and common mistakes, we have covered it all. So, without taking more of your time, let’s launch into the guide!

Dock Or Shore? The Standard Kayaking Spots

Whether you’re launching into an ocean or a lake, you have to launch from somewhere, right?

In most cases, the place you launch from is either a shore or a dock. Therefore, you’ll need to follow different methods for launching from either of these entry points.

1.   Launching Alone From A Shore – Moving With Your Body’s Motion

If you want to launch a kayak from the shore all alone, here is one of the most common ways of doing so. This process works well regardless of the water body you’re going to launch the kayak in.

  • Entering Water: Enter your kayak into the water while avoiding any rocks. Your kayak’s cockpit should be floating at the top of the water, with the end sloping on the shore.
  • Take Position: Hold your paddles at an equal distance behind you and stand by your kayak in the correct position.
  • Get Ready: Keep clutching onto your paddle as you lean down, but let the other end of the paddle rest on the back seat. Now, hold the seat and press one side of the paddle against the ground to stay steady. This way, you can remain balanced and centered while getting in your kayak.
  • Step In: Center your weight over the paddle to maintain balance as you enter the seat. However, while doing so, make sure no waves or boats are approaching since the kayak might wobble as you step in.
  • Get Comfortable: Now that you’re inside your kayak, lean against the seat and get comfortable before attaching your spray skirt.
  • Start Moving: Grip your paddle with one hand, and make a fist with the other. You can now begin paddling to move forward. However, you will also have to use your fist on the side of the boat to propel the boat ahead.
  • Extra Push: If your fist and a single paddle are not enough, push your upper body in a forward gesture. That should be enough to get the kayak moving.

Although this method might take some time to master, it will give you enough hold to balance and center your body weight in a kayak. Moreover, this is the safest method to avoid tipping your kayak while boarding it.

2.   Launching Alone From The Shore – Hard Paddling

Other than maintaining an even balance to enter the kayak, you can try an alternative method as well. For this one, all you have to do is make some quick and forceful paddling motions, and you’re good to go!

  • Entering the water: Place your kayak at a shallow water level to stay perpendicular to the shore.
  • Straddle the kayak: Secure your paddle before getting into a straddling position to stand over the cockpit.
  • Grip both ends: Grab both ends of the kayak firmly before you lift your body weight over the cockpit and lower yourself in slowly.
  • Get comfortable: Once you are in the cockpit, adjust your body and legs and get comfortable inside the boat. Once you’re satisfied, you can attach your spray skirt.
  • Paddle hard: Take your paddle from the deck and use a hard and fast motion to propel your kayak into the water. Once the kayak is moving ahead, give it that one extra push to get forward movement in the water.

This is a straightforward method in which you need to distribute your weight evenly over the kayak. However, it does require a considerable amount of arm strength.

3.   Launching From A Dock

Launching from a dock is far easier compared to launching from the shore. That is because you get to grab onto something to start your motion. So, when you are only beginning to learn how to kayak, we recommend starting from a dock.

Here is a guide on how you can launch your kayak from a dock:

  • Prepare: Before you even start thinking of getting in your kayak, you need to take care of your safety. Therefore, wear your life jacket and prepare your spray skirt before entering the cockpit.
  • Free the kayak: Whether you’ve anchored your kayak or tied it to the deck, you’ll need to untie and loosen it before you get inside the cockpit. This is necessary because if you own a long kayak, you might not be able to undo it from the cockpit.
  • Keep the paddle away, but at hand: Make sure your paddles do not come in the way of you entering the kayak. However, at the same time, keep them nearby so that you can grab them quickly.
  • Lower into the cockpit: Sit on the dock with your legs towards the cockpit. Slowly lower yourself into the kayak one leg at a time while grabbing the opposite edge to maintain balance. Make sure your body weight is towards the backside of the kayak to avoid toppling.
  • Adjust yourself: Once you’ve entered the cockpit, adjust your body and legs inside before attaching the spray skirt.
  • Ride away: Now that you’re inside, grab your paddle and lightly push your body and the kayak away from the dock. Again, make sure you don’t move towards a wave if any.

As mentioned earlier, launching your kayak from a dock is relatively easy, especially once you know how to get into the cockpit. However, since docks attract many beginner kayakers, make sure you don’t launch into another kayak or an approaching wave.

4.   Launching With A Partner

Even while kayaking with a friend, you will have to launch on your own anyway. However, having a friend alongside is excellent for safety purposes. Moreover, if you get stuck in the process, they can help you get into your kayak before launching it.

For example, you can ask your friend to hold your kayak while getting in the correct position. Once you’re sitting inside, they can even give your kayak a push to get you started.

Furthermore, if you and your partner are launching together from a dock, they can keep an eye on other kayakers as well. Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always launch in sets to avoid accidents and crashes.

Ocean, Or Lake? The Location Matters

Launching from a dock is different compared to launching from a shore. Similarly, venturing into an ocean is not the same as launching into a lake or river.

The location matters because of the water conditions and expected kayak traffic.

This section will explain how you can launch your kayak into an ocean, lake, or sea. You will also learn the precautionary measures you should take while launching in any water body.

1.   Surfing In An Ocean – A Word Of Caution

Before we explain the process of launching a kayak into the ocean, we must give a word of caution.

If you’re new to kayaking, we suggest that you do not launch into an ocean right away. This is because the waves and water pressure require expert skills and practice. Moreover, the high waves can fill the cockpit, washing away all of your safety equipment. Therefore, always make sure that you’re confident enough to handle big waves before going into the ocean. Plus, never forget to wear a life jacket and spray skirt.

When planning to go kayaking in an ocean, consider using a sit-on kayak instead of a sit-in one.

You should also make an effort to bring along a kayaking buddy. Since the ocean water conditions change rapidly, having someone with you, regardless of your expertise level, is recommended.

Launching Your Kayak Into The Ocean

Now that you know the risks and safety measures to take while kayaking into an ocean, let’s see how you can launch your kayak.

  • Find the right spot: Every ocean’s shore has a surf zone, which is the place you’re going to launch your kayak from. The launching spot should gradually slope into the water so that you and your kayak have enough space and time instead of being afloat from the get-go. On top of that, the right spot will help you maintain a safe balance.
  • Get in position: Ensure that you are at least knee-deep in the ocean water before considering getting into the
  • Look out for waves: Before you get into the cockpit, take a look at the water and see if there are any waves. Overall, the aim while launching the kayak is to not do it directly into a wave. However, if you see a wave approaching, the next one will likely emerge within 0.2 to 30 seconds, depending on its size and type.
  • Be prepared: When you’ve decided that you want to launch the kayak, make sure you’re always facing the surf and observing the water condition. Then, as soon as you see a wave break, jump into your kayak’s cockpit before the next one comes in.
  • Paddle on: Now that you’re safely inside the kayak, the ocean’s water will give your kayak a natural motion. However, you will need to paddle quite hard, in the beginning, to launch right into a wave. Keep paddling so that you can get through the waves without toppling or flipping over.

Make sure you know how to quickly jump into your kayak before you consider surfing in an ocean.

As you can already see, while launching into an ocean, you will hardly have any time to adjust in the cockpit. That is why we suggest you practice well in less tricky places such as a lake or a river where you will face few to no waves.

2.   Surfing In Rivers And Lakes – A Beginner’s Practice Ground

If you are learning how to kayak, your best option is to launch from a river or lake.

These water bodies are the safest for beginners. That is because they do not have a lot of movement and, as a result, aren’t as tricky to handle.

The movement in lakes and rivers is regulated compared to other water bodies. Therefore, even if you’re kayaking for the first time, you will know how to deal with it.

While surfing in a river or a lake, the challenges you face are more manageable. You can focus on improving your technique instead of worrying about strong waves crashing and washing you away.

While surfing on a river or lake, you can follow any of the methods described in the previous section about launching from a dock or shore.

Remember, it is always advisable to have your safety equipment at hand. Moreover, you should also try to have a friend who can help you if you face any trouble in the water.

Apart from that, you should prefer a sit-in kayak while practicing your kayaking skills in a river or lake. A sit-in kayak with a comfortable seat will keep you stable in the kayak, even if it gets wobbly in the water.

Common Mistakes To Avoid While Launching Your Kayak

Whether you are a beginner or a skilled and experienced kayaker, you are prone to making human errors.

Some of these mistakes might not be too difficult to recover from or might not even have any consequences. However, some of them are high-risk and can be quite dangerous.

Therefore, we have listed a few of the most common kayak launching errors people make. Make sure that you read these carefully so that you can avoid them at all costs.

1.   Ignoring The Weather

As an outdoor sport, kayaking is highly dependent on weather conditions. Therefore, you should take the wind, tides, and heat into consideration before launching your kayak.

2.   Carrying Non-essentials

The more gear you have on your kayak, the more difficult it will be to handle and carry it. Therefore, you should only bring your kayaking essentials along and keep them as minimal as possible.

3.   Ignoring Safety Regulations

Safety is not a joke in the extreme sport of kayaking. Therefore, you should always keep all security measures and regulations in mind. Make sure you’re dressed for the sport and have secured your gear safely.

4.   Panicking

Getting in and out of a kayak and launching it can be challenging, especially for beginners. However, panicking will do you more harm than good when you’re already in the water. It will hinder your reflexes and cloud your reasoning. Therefore, try to stay calm and have a friend around so that you can get out of tricky situations.

Summing Up

As long as you have the right amount of practice, confidence, and equipment, launching your kayak is not difficult.

There are plenty of methods to do this, so you certainly won’t be short on options! Therefore, you should approach your situation with a calm and clear mind. Then, once done, get into the water to enjoy a fun and adventurous experience!

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