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How To Get Into A Kayak From The Water

As a new kayaker, I think there is one fear that most beginners have in common – ending up in the water instead of in your kayak and having to get back in the vessel.

While this is something that is much more likely to happen in fast moving water, such as when white water kayaking, it can happen when kayaking in calm waters, as well.

With that in mind, it is essential that you learn how to get into your kayak from the water.

We’ve got some tips to prepare you for such a scenario when you’ve taken your kayak out in the water.

Remain Calm

Ending up outside of your kayak and in the water is a very stressful situation.

And if you’re not close to a dock or the shore, then it becomes even more stressful.

But, you’ve got to release that stress and try to stay calm so that you can focus on getting your body out of the water and back in your kayak.

This is especially important if you are in cold water temperatures because we don’t want you to experience hypothermia.

So, tread some water and take a moment to calm your mind and focus on the task at hand.

And remember, if there are other people nearby, you can certainly call to them for help, if needed.

getting back in kayak

Keep A Grip On Your Paddle

Since panic is likely to initially set in, it is important to remember to keep a firm hold on your paddle.

Even if you have a paddle that floats, you should keep a good grip on your own paddle to avoid ending up back in your kayak without a paddle.

If someone else is nearby in the water, then you may consider passing your paddle to them while you prepare to re-enter the kayak.

Or, you may want to attach the paddle to your kayak, if you’ve got a proper storage setup for the paddle.

Just don’t let that paddle sink or float away from you.

Flip Back Over The Kayak, If Needed

If you find yourself in the water because your kayak flipped over, then you need to first right it in the water.

It is important that you flip the kayak up the right way as soon as possible so that you don’t lose any gear or get your vessel waterlogged.

When you’re in a situation where you need to get your kayak upright, you have two different ways that you can accomplish this –

  • Push it over
  • Pull it over

To push the kayak over to flip it upright, you just put your hands under the nearest edge of the kayak and give it a heaving push up to flip it over. 

Keep in mind that kayak weights vary, so you may discover that the kayak is too heavy for you to push over.

That means you’ll have to attempt the pull-it-over method.

To pull over the kayak to flip it upright, you’ll want to pull yourself up on the hull of the vessel while kicking your legs if the water is deep, or pushing off from the bottom (if you can reach it). That momentum helps you get up there.

Then you’ll want to reach and grab the edge of the kayak and hold onto that edge while you let your body slide back down into the water.

As you slide back into the water while holding onto the edge of the vessel, the weight of your body works to flip over the kayak and get it upright.

Once the kayak is upright, you’ll have to see if it has taken on too much water.

If there’s too much water in the kayak, then you’ll have to pull it back to shore to empty out the water – or use a bilge pump, if you’ve taken one out with you.

Pull Yourself Into The Kayak

Once your kayak is upright, then you’re ready to get yourself back inside the vessel.

So, get on the side of the kayak where you are facing the seat.

You’ll want to grab onto the edge of the kayak and start kicking your feet so that you can propel yourself upwards and into the kayak.

Or, if you can touch the bottom, then just use your legs to push off the bottom and propel your body upwards.

Focus on pulling yourself towards the opposite side of the kayak’s cockpit.

As you pull your body up and into the kayak, pay attention to when your abdomen reaches the area over the cockpit.

When you’re in that position, your have to swing around your legs so that your rear ends up hitting the seat of the vessel.

And then all you have to do is pull in your legs and you’re back in the kayak.

Make no mistake, this is a challenging maneuver and you may not get it right the first time.

If you’ve never done this before, then it can be hard to visualize. So, check out the video below from Salt Strong –

Final Word

As you can see, getting back into a kayak from the water after you’ve fallen out can be a bit of a challenge.

But with a little work and perseverance, you can get yourself back in that kayak seat.

Just remember to not let that paddle get away from you, otherwise you’ll get back in the kayak and have no way to move through the water.