by Brad

November 13, 2021

How to Launch a Kayak

Moving in a kayak is a marvelous thing. But the marvels are hard to come by. How to launch a kayak and how to exit it are the usual deal-breakers. You will be faced with two settings when launching a kayak. This is the shoreline launching and dock launching. 

With the latter, it’s all about balancing yourself while moving in on the kayak, while the other one requires you to straddle the kayak before hopping on. It sounds like a walk in the park, right?

But that’s not the case until you have mastered kayak launching skills. They are a bit challenging for beginners to master, but with a few tries, you can nail them.

The guide below looks at how locations impact a successful launch, the common mistakes you should avoid, and the preparation needed.

Find a Launching Spot

Getting the perfect spot for a launch is essential. On some occasions, you can get artificial sites. You may have to slide your kayak down a sloped bank heading towards the river at certain times. 

Also, you can launch your kayak from a dock. And if none of these are accessible, you will have to push the kayak into the water using any means necessary to get it on.

Find a Launching Spot

Carry out a Pre-launch Safety Check 

Inspect your kayak to see if it’s damaged in any way. Kayak damages can result in a capsize, so ensure that you fix them if there are any. 

Put the Footrests in Place and Latch Them

Footrests provide leverage when paddling. But if you adjust them in water, then it will capsize your kayak. So, remember to adjust them on land and ensure your feet press against them comfortably.

Secure the Paddle

For lone launchers, stowing the paddle will save you a lot of time and frustration. Locking your paddle within the kayak or fastening it on the exterior side will suffice. 

But in any case, it should be accessible when you are out on the water. Trying to grab the paddle from the show will tip you off. Again, you may get pulled from the coast when there are tides, and you don’t have the paddle, thus, you should learn how to paddle a kayak.

Put on a Personal Flotation Device 

Sea accidents happen every day. Should any occur to you, a floatation device will prevent you from sinking.

If Possible, Launch Your Kayak with Friends

It is easy to enter the kayak from the shore, sit down, and get pushed by your friend into the water. Again, it’s a win for each other as you can provide aid by securing their kayaks against yours. 

Launch Your Kayak with Friends

What is the Best Way to Launch a Kayak from Shallow Water?

After placing the kayak in the water, you have to saunter in till the water is a foot deep. Hold the edge of the kayak’s nook with one hand and step in with one foot, followed by the other. Then sit down slowly and avoid leaning on one side.

Alternatively, you can sit down and grasp the other side of the kayak. Once you’ve sat down, move your legs inside. Beginners are usually advised to start with the bum first. So, find out what’s best for you from our kayaking 101 guide.

How to Launch a Kayak from Land 

Should you launch from land, you will have to find a sloping bank. Consider it as an easy entry point. Once you are in place, the kayak’s nose is inside the water. Get in, sit down, and carefully wriggle your way ahead. You might want to utilize the paddle to propel yourself into the sea.

How to Launch from the Dock 

If you practice enough, launching a kayak from the dock may be considerably more straightforward than starting from land. It’s all about balancing yourself. You’ll need to make minor changes hinging on the kayak’s level with the dock. To launch here, you have to launch simultaneously. 

Place the kayak on the dock. Get into it with your hands-on, touching both sides. This necessitates equilibrium, so you have to lower yourself. If needed, you may cling to the pier for stability. 

The paddle may also come in handy when you want to secure the kayak to the dock. You should be able to hop in but do it gently. Hand positioning allows for minor changes. Maintain both hands on the pier while lowering yourself onto the seat. 

Then gently move your legs forwards inside the cabin. Alternatively, you can hold the pier by one hand and place the other one behind the kayak’s coaming. Proceed by sliding your feet forward and lowering yourself.

How to Launch from the DockĀ 

How Do You Launch a Kayak from the Shore?

Choose a starting point at the shore and pace the kayak perpendicular to the coastline. If it’s a river or you happen to be using a long kayak, a parallel launch will be best. When going for a perpendicular launch, the bow should face away from the land while the stern should be near the shore and entirely afloat.

Place one paddle blade beneath the deck edge directly in front of the cockpit. Stand on the kayak and straddle the cockpit. Now, you should hold on to the cockpit, lower yourself into the seat, and then move your feet, this time placing them on the pegs. You can maneuver your kayak around approaching waves, and the kayak wakes using your paddle. 

What are the Common Mistakes when Launching a Kayak?

Ignoring weather patterns

Whenever it’s stormy, or the water is choppy, you should restrain from kayaking. Remember, moving gently and cautiously is the best approach for a newbie to become used to launching. However, it is inconceivable when the waves are unfriendly.

What is the Best Way to Launch a Kayak from Shallow Water

Carrying around non-essential stuff

Don’t overburden your kayak with unnecessary stuff. Any extra, unneeded weight will make it more challenging to launch.

Not carrying the required gear

When it comes to gear, don’t neglect to safeguard yours! Even though you may not tip during a launch, you’ll need a strategy for dealing with water that enters the cockpit as a result of rolling waves.

Place all things in safe, waterproof storage space and carry a kayaking safety gear kit.


Starting to panic when in the water is not ideal. It may appear scary initially, but the secret to launching effectively is to keep it cool, stable, and alert.

Final Thoughts on How to Launch a Kayak

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, launching a kayak is an easy task, provided that you have mastered the skill of launching it from any point, be it the shallow water, the shore, docks, or from land.

All you have to do is practice repeatedly, and with time you will have it within your repertoire. Also, try as you may not to succumb to the common hindrances. 

That means, kayak with the right weather and the sea condition, take with you the necessary gear, and above all, stay calm in the launching period.

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About the author 


Brad is a professional climber in the discipline of traditional climbing. He often jokes that he can get a book to read during the long climbs. Of course, it always goes well with a good cup of coffee. Drinking coffee is his safer hobby.

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