|Before you are all the way in or out of a kayak, there is that time when most of you is well up above the kayak. In this position, kayaks have very little stability. Use your paddle to stabilize your kayak while you perform this maneuver. You will encounter many different situations where you need to get in and out of your kayak. We will cover some of them here.
The most common condition is a launch or exit at a beach or ramp where the water shoals slowly and you can stand easily on the bottom with the kayak floating in about one foot or less of water. Some of the kayak may even be resting on the bottom, either the bow or stern. The key to a stable boat is to use the paddle as a support to prevent the kayak from capsizing while you get into the kayak. However, paddles are not iron bars and can not take the full weight of a body pressed down on them while bridging across the boat to the shore. The lighter the paddle the more careful you must be in using the paddle as a brace when entering and exiting.
Start by placing one end of the paddle across the deck of the kayak just aft of the cockpit. Stand in the right angle formed by the boat and the paddle. Rotate the paddle so that the extended blade can lay flat on the shore or the bottom. This may require extending the other blade just past the deck on the opposite side of the kayak if your paddle is feathered. Now, face forward, bend at the knees and grab the paddle with the thumbs facing backward and the fingers of the hand curling around the back of the cockpit. This will hold the paddle firmly to the kayak as you get in and provide support for the kayak from rolling over. If you must sit on something, make sure you put at least part of your butt onto the deck of the kayak. Never just sit on the paddle shaft. That is a sure invitation to disaster some day, either for you or for your paddle.
With the paddle bracing between the kayak and the bottom or shore, lift the leg closest to the kayak and place it into the kayak. Keep the majority of your weight on the extended paddle side of the kayak. The tighter a grip you keep on the paddle and cockpit, the more sure the brace will be. Lower yourself into the cockpit by straightening the leg already in the cockpit. Slide your butt off the back deck and into the cockpit. If you have a large cockpit and can get your legs in and out when you are seated, let you butt drop into the bottom of the cockpit. The stability of the kayak will be much better if you can. Lift your other leg over the cockpit edge and place it into the cockpit. Get your paddle out from behind you and you are ready to seal the cockpit with your spray skirt.
If you can not get your legs in one at a time while seated in the cockpit, you must place the second leg into the cockpit before the butt drops down into the seat. This will place more reliance on the support of your paddle while you make this final move. Start with the inside leg in the cockpit. Sit on the back edge of the cockpit Swing the other leg into the cockpit, leaning some of your weight onto the hand holding the paddle on the extended side. Straighten both legs and get your butt into the bottom of the cockpit as quickly as possible. Bring the paddle around to the front and fasten your skirt.
If the water is deeper, say knee depth and above, things get a little harded because you can not rest your paddle on anything solid. Once again place your paddle in the back of the cockpit and hold onto it with your fingers curled aroung the paddle shaft and the cockpit. Your fingers should face aft on the underside of the cockpit. Turn the in-water blade parallel to the surface. Hold it several inches under the water. This will allow you to brace in either direction using the paddle. Tilt the boat toward you and place one foot into the cockpit and quickly slide your torso into the cockpit. The blade will support you a little as you perform this motion. But you won't have much time or much support from the blade as it is not moving through the water. It will drift lower if as you use it for support. You must gain a balanced position in the cockpit before it sinks too low in the water.
If you overbalance getting into the cokpit, the paddle will provide some counterbalance until it clears the surface. After that you are headed for a capsize of the other side of the kayak. For deep water exits just reverse this scenario. Be sure to measure the depth of the water with your paddle before exiting to avoid an embarrasing step into water too deep to be able to retrieve the leg left in the cockpit. While amusing to your fellow kayakers, the one legged hopping and big splash into the drink that results from a too deep exit will be hard to live down.
When exiting a kayak in surf after runng up on the beach, speed is often important. If your kayak cockpit is large enough and your are supple enough to get your legs out while still seated in the cockpit do so. Place one leg on either side of the kayak and stand up. Quickly step to the seaward side of the kayak and walk to the bow or stern.
If beaching with large surf, especially dumping surf, speed is even of more importance. Abandon all style, fall over in the kayak to lay on the sand and get your feet out of the kayak. Stand up as soon as you can. Fall to the side of the kayak facing the sea so that any powerful wash up the beach from the next wave will force the kayak away from you not on top of you.
How to make your kayak go...............