how to get in a kayak from a dock, How to Launch a Kayak from Your Dock Safely

How to Launch a Kayak from Your Dock Safely

Your gear is ready: you’ve got your kayak, paddle, and life jacket. Time for an adventure on the water! But there’s just one hitch—you’re standing on a dock with no idea how to get in your kayak without going for an unexpected swim. With the right know-how and a little practice, you’ll paddle off into the sunset in no time! Here are a few pointers.

Essential Safety Considerations When Launching From a Dock

You may be excited to get out there and start paddling, but there’s a little bit of a learning curve before you do. There are a few key safety considerations you need to keep in mind.

Prepare Your Kayak and Gear

Before you try getting in your kayak, make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row. That means checking your kayak for any damage, making sure your life jacket is in good shape, and double-checking that you’ve got all the essentials like a whistle, bilge pump, and spare paddle.

A bit of preparation can save you from leaving something crucial behind.

Wear a Life Jacket

Always wear a life jacket when you’re out on the water. No matter how good you are at swimming or how calm the conditions seem, a life jacket can literally be a lifesaver.

Make sure you’ve got a properly fitting, Coast Guard-approved life jacket that’s in good condition. And this may sound obvious, but be sure to wear it, not just carry it in the kayak with you.

Check Weather and Water Conditions

Before launching, check the weather forecast and examine the water conditions. If there are high winds, strong currents, or choppy water, it’s best to wait for a calmer day.

Remember, conditions can change quickly on open water. So, even if things look good when you start, always prepare for the worst, just in case.

Have a Float Plan

You’ll want to let someone know your plans and when you’ll return. This is called a “float plan,” and it’s super important for staying safe. Leave your float plan with a reliable friend, family member, or even the staff at the dock or marina. That way, someone will know where to start looking for you if something goes wrong.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Enjoying the calm while you’re on the water is great, but don’t forget to stay vigilant and notice what’s happening around you. Watch out for other boats, kayakers, and hazards like low branches or shallow spots. Follow the waterway rules just as you would obey traffic laws on the road.

Proper Techniques for How to Get in a Kayak From a Dock

Getting in and out of the kayak is the point where most people run into trouble. Let’s break it down into simple steps so you can feel confident in the water.

Entering a Sit-In Kayak

If you’ve got a sit-in kayak, the key is to keep your weight low and centered as you enter. Here’s how:

  1. Place your paddle across the kayak behind the cockpit.
  2. Sit on the dock next to the cockpit, facing the kayak.
  3. Put your feet inside the kayak first, keeping your body low.
  4. Quickly turn your body to face forward and lower yourself into the kayak seat.
  5. Use your hands on either side of the cockpit to stabilize yourself.

Once you’re in, you can adjust your foot pegs and get your spray skirt (if you’re using one) situated. Keep your weight balanced and move smoothly. Avoid any sudden jerks or shifts. Take your time and make sure you’re comfortable before you start paddling.

Entering a Sit-On-Top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are a bit easier to get into since you don’t have to worry about a cockpit. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place your boat parallel to the dock, with the seating area next to the dock.
  2. Sit on the dock beside the seat with your feet on the kayak.
  3. Carefully transfer your weight onto the kayak, straddling the seat.
  4. Once stable, swing your legs onto the kayak and sit down.
  5. Keep your body low and centered as you adjust your position.

The key with a sit-on-top is to take it slow and keep your balance. Wait to stand up, begin paddling, or make any sudden movements until you’re fully settled in the kayak.

Getting Out of Your Kayak Safely

Getting out of your kayak is basically the reverse of getting in. But there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Always paddle up to the dock or shore before trying to exit. Don’t try to reach for the dock from a distance — that’s a recipe for tipping over.
  • Secure your paddle so it doesn’t float away while you’re getting out.
  • Place your hands on the dock for support, then carefully swing your legs out of the kayak and onto the dock.
  • Push yourself up to a sitting position on the dock, then stand up slowly.
  • If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask someone on the dock to stabilize your kayak at the water’s edge while you exit.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Take your time, keep your balance, and you’ll be back on dry land before you know it.

AccuDock® Kayak and Paddle Sport Dock Systems

Decks & Docks is proud to offer AccuDock®’s kayak dock systems that enable a smooth transition on and off the water for all skill levels with a safe, stable platform close to the water’s surface. They’re low profile and ADA-compliant, and they offer a full line of configurations and paddle sport-specific packages and accessories. They make launching a kayak a piece of cake!

Options include:

  • Kayak Drive-Thru Dock that uses two 30” x 8’ float sections with an open 3’ x 8’ slip for safe entry and exit from your kayak from the slip.
  • Kayak Slip Dock, which is an 8’ x 12’ slip dock with an additional 4’ x8’ section for added surface space and stability plus an overhead assist bar.
  • Boomer Kayak Slip Dock with the same 3’ x 8’ slip opening plus almost 100 additional square feet of surface space for storage, extra launching areas – you name it!
  • The ultra-affordable Willy Dock is available in both 4’ x 8’ and 5’ x 8’ sizes.
  • Paddleboard Dock for all ability levels.
  • Kayak Slip Dock Safe Launch feature, which offers the highest degree of safety for launching and recovering a kayak, and can be added to any kayak slip dock package.
  • Paddle Sport Storage Racks, ranging from two to five tiers and single- or double-sided.

Tips for Maintaining Stability and Control During Launch

Okay, you’ve got the basics down. How about some little tips and tricks that can make your launch even smoother and safer? Read on to maneuver your kayak like a pro!

Keep Your Kayak Parallel to the Dock

This one might seem obvious, but it’s worth repeating: always keep your kayak parallel to the dock when you get in or out. This gives you the most stability and control.

If your kayak starts to drift away from the dock, use your paddle or a dock line to gently guide it back into position. Don’t try to force it — work with the movement of the water.

Use a Paddle for Support

Think of your paddle as more than just a way to move through water — it’s also great for stability. To get into your kayak without tipping over, place the front paddle blade behind the cockpit so its blades rest on the dock. It acts like an outrigger and keeps everything steady while you settle in.

Once you’re in and settled, you can easily grab one paddle blade and start paddling. (Remember to keep it close by and within easy reach!)

Push Off Gently

When you’re ready to launch, resist the urge to shove off hard from the edge of the dock. Instead, use your paddle to gently push yourself away, keeping your strokes short and controlled.

To stay safe and prevent tipping over, move slowly and avoid sudden jerks. Take your time to find your balance, and let the kayak support you.

If this is your first go, take it easy, and don’t hurry. With a bit of patience and regular practice, getting your kayak into the water from a dock will become second nature, and before long, you’ll be skimming across the water like an expert.

Kayak Accessories

You may want to consider some kayak accessories and gear to enhance your experience on the water, such as:

  • Kayak launch assist system (which is like having a personal kayak valet)
  • Dock or deck line (to keep your boat from drifting away while you get in)
  • Kayak carts or dollies (for rolling your kayak to your launch spot and helping with storage)

Choosing the Right Dock and Launch Location

Picking the perfect dock, sandy beach, or launch spot is key for a fun and safe kayaking trip. Look for a place that’s steady, has good water depth, manageable currents, and no dangerous obstacles.

Assess Water Depth and Currents

Take a moment to assess how deep the water is. You want it to be sufficient for kayaking; otherwise, you might find yourself grounded or struggling in any shallow water areas.

Be mindful of the water’s flow. Launching at spots where currents are strong or tides are unpredictable can make paddling arduous and potentially hazardous, so choose your paddling location wisely.

Avoiding Obstacles and Hazards

Before you set off, take a moment to check for any potential obstacles or hazards in the water. Look out for things like rocks, logs, and low-hanging branches that could cause trouble.

You’ll also want to steer clear of busy boating areas and tricky spots like rocky shorelines. Opt for a clear, open space to make your launch as smooth as possible.

Benefits of a Floating Dock for Your Kayaking Adventures

You need a dock that’s not going to wobble or tip when you’re trying to get in your kayak. Look for a sturdy structure, preferably one designed for kayak launching—like a floating dock! Floating docks have all the fun and functionality of a traditional fixed dock but are easier to install, remove, and customize.

Floating docks provide a stable, easy-access launch system for your kayak. They’re made with buoyant materials that move with the water, allowing them to rise and fall with the tide so your launch height stays steady. They also provide ample room for getting your gear ready and storing your kayak when you’re done.

Decks & Docks has top-of-the-line hardware for building a robust, long-lasting floating dock, plus the accessories you need to outfit it with a selection of convenient and practical tools. Modular options even enable homeowners to add and remove sections at any time.

Our stock of floating dock accessories includes:

A stable, sturdy floating dock is a great way to enjoy the water without the hassle of installing a fixed dock.

Build a Floating Dock for Your Kayak with Decks & Docks

Decks & Docks has all the supplies you need to create a floating dock that will serve you for years to come, as well as a DIY guide if you want to tackle building your floating dock yourself! Visit one of our convenient locations, send us an email, or use our chat button to text or call us so we can assist you with all the supplies and hardware you’ll need.

Grab your paddle, and put your new skills to the test. Once you experience the freedom and excitement of gliding across the water in your kayak, you’ll be hooked. Happy paddling!