how to get in and out of an inflatable kayak

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You got your inflatable kayak and now you can magically paddle into the distance right? Ohh yeah… You still have to learn how to get in an inflatable kayak as well as out of it. 

Don’t worry my friend, we got you! In this article we will be going over the most common launching and landing obstacles you will face. Of course all of this advice is useless without showing you exactly how to do it. 

So I have hand picked the best inflatable kayak landing and launching videos to help you get inside a wide variety of different makes and models. This will also help you take notes visually. 

Ready to start your kayaking journey? Let’s dive in (or in this case diving in is what we are trying to avoid) !

Things to Keep in Mind Beforehand

Below are a few things to keep in mind before getting in and hitting the water!

It’s Easier When You Have Someone With You

This goes for both getting in and out of the kayak. Having someone with you not only decreases your risk of capsizing but it is also significantly safer to be paddling with someone. People can help in a variety of different ways such as:

  • Having a person with you on the dock holding the kayak in place as you get in
  • Having the person in the kayak with you will be able to counter balance your movements to insure you don’t tip
  • Having a person on the shoreline hold your boat while you get in
  • Having a person push you in from the boat launch ramp as you are inside (I don’t recommend this technique with vinyl/ budget kayaks)

If you are just starting out it’s just a good idea in general to have someone with you!

Have Your Essentials Ready

So it’s pretty obvious that you should have all the things you need in the inflatable kayak. Yet you wouldn’t believe how many times I launch and say “S%&$” and have to paddle back to shore to get something I forgot. In this case it’s usually my phone!

kayaking equipment

Put a ready made checklist on your phone and look at it before going out! Some things on my checklist include:

  • PFD (This is super important)
  • Whistle (many governing bodies require you to have one handy)
  • Paddle (Keep it in the kayak and get it when you are fully in the kayak)
  • Repair Kit
  • Phone with phone case
  • Dry Bags for valuables (wallets, house/ car keys, dry clothing) 
  • Sunglasses
  • Water (Very underrated item to have but I can’t go anywhere without it!)

Of course if you are paddling in colder seasons it is best to dress for the weather with wet-suits (dry suit in the winter), surf booties, cap, as well as any clothing that isn’t cotton. 

We have an article coming up on this!

The Step By Step Guide of How to Get Into An Inflatable Kayak

How does getting into an inflatable kayak differ from a hardshell kayak? The main difference is that the hardshell feels more planted in the water because they are usually heavier than inflatable kayaks. This means you can put more weight on the side of a hardshell without having to worry about the initial capsizing.

But with these techniques that I’m about to show you how to board an inflatable kayak making launching a breeze!

How to Get into a Kayak from Shore

Below is a step by step guide on how to launch your inflatable kayak without getting wet from the shore. I’m a visual learner so rather than me just describing this to you I’ve included video for each circumstance!

  1. Take your inflatable kayak and place it on the shore line, make sure the bow is partially on the land while the stern of the kayak is in the water. We do this so that the skeg does not hit any underwater obstacles.
  2. Step into the water and place your paddle across the deck of your kayak
  3. With your left hand press down on the paddle to stabilise the boat
  4. Place your right foot inside the kayak
  5. At the same time place your right arm on the opposite side of the kayak
  6. Do this in one fluid motion
  7. Swivel your right leg into the kayak
  8. Back paddle and you are off!

Getting in an Inflatable Kayak on a Rocky/ Awkward Shoreline

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and launch from a relatively awkward shoreline that has a lot of big rocks and obstacles.  Below is how you do it.

  1. Look for an area that will not Have giant rocks in the way of you are  paddling, you want a clear path when initially paddling
  2. Find a stable rock that is right on the shoreline that is not too steep or slippery. Test your foot on it to make sure it’s so before getting in your kayak
  3. Place your kayak parallel to the shoreline
  4. Use your paddle as a lever. Have the blade resting on the opposite side of the cockpit behind your seat and the rest of the paddle resting on the shoreline on a secure surface.
  5. Grasp the paddle shaft with your right hand and briefly sit on it as you place your left foot into the kayak.
  6. While still holding the paddle shaft squat into the kayak and push off from shore

How to Get into an Inflatable Kayak from a Dock

This can be perhaps the most harrowing and intimidating technique because if you do it wrong, you’re probably going to go for a little swim! Not to worry though the below video will show you 3 techniques with 3 different types of inflatable kayaks, including the Challenger! Thanks Karl!

  1. Be seated on the edge of the dock/ bank 
  2. Have Your kayak parallel to the bank or dock with your feet placed inside
  3. You are going to scoot your bum from the bank to the inside of the inflatable kayak
  4. To do this you will have your right hand on the back/dock while the left hand is on the opposite side of the cockpit
  5. Scoot your bum inside
  6. Shuffle until you are comfortable
  7. Grab your paddle form the bank or dock if it’s not in the boat already

Getting Into a Capsized Inflatable Kayak

We actually have a full detailed post on how to get into Your Inflatable Kayak That Capsized. But here are the Cliff Notes!

  1. Keep Calm
  2. Locate your Kayak first (if the paddle is out of reach you can grab it once inside the boat)
  3. Flip yoru inflatable kayak over
  4. Swim to the middle of the kayak
  5. Use your arms and grab the most graspable places on/ in the cockpit of the kayak
  6. Move them to the inside of the boar
  7. Haul your torso onto the boat like a seal
  8. Once your body is inside stay low and kicks until your legs are in

Getting Out of Your Inflatable Kayak Step by Step Guide

You had some good old quality paddling time and now it’s time to exit your kayak and call it a day. A very sad time I know. So you are hovering around your launching point thinking “ How do I get back without eating it”. Below is how you do it. 

Landing Your Kayak Onto Shore

Below is how you land your kayak onto the shore with no scratches or worries on your part.

  1. When you are paddling your kayak make sure that you come in Bow first to insure that you do not scrape the fin in shallow shoreline.
  2. Get into shallow water and place your kayak paddle across the deck
  3. Have your left foot out of the kayak and slightly lean on your paddle for leverage to get out of the kayak
  4. Once your full weight is on your left foot (on sturdy footing) take your other leg out of the kayak and disembark

Landing on Rocky/ Awkward Shoreline

Landing on soft and sandy shoreline is all good but what about more awkward/ rocky shoreline conditions?

  1. Stop your inflatable boat in knee deep water
  2. Make sure that you spot a place with firm footing
  3. Find a spot that has flat footing for you to properly disembark
  4. Loosen back rest for you can swivel easily
  5. Swivel both of your legs off the same side of the boat and stand up

Getting Out from a Dock or Bank

This method is perhaps the most overwhelming of the methods because the risk of missing the mark and going for a swim is very real. But this technique is actually very easy to master.

  1. Similar to how you got into the boat, place your inflatable kayak parallel from the dock or bank
  2. Place both hands on the dock or bank
  3. BEFORE getting out place your foot on the far side of the kayaks floor for stability
  4. Use both your arm and leg strength and in the same fluid motion scootch your butt onto the banking/ dock.
  5. That’s it! You’re out!

Getting in and Out of an Inflatable Kayak FAQ’s

Below are common questions I come across for people who have more specialised requests. 

How Can an Older Person Get In and Out of a Kayak?

You can still follow the above methods. But before you do that, it’s a good idea to stretch and have a partner present with you when you paddle. Having someone assist in your launch. The docking method will be much the same but when it comes to shore launching I recommend the straddle method.

The Straddle method is putting the kayak between your legs in ankle deep water. 

  1. If the shoreline consists of sand, have your kayak partially hauled onto the shoreline. 
  2. Squat down until your butt is in the seat
  3. Use your paddle (or partner) to push off the shoreline
  4. And that’s that!

Upon Exiting the Kayak

  1. Partially park your kayak on the shoreline or in knee deep water
  2. Have a partner there to support you if its wavey out
  3. Place both of your legs out of the same side of the kayak 
  4. Make sure your landing spot has firm footing
  5. In one fluid motion use the momentum of your body to slightly tip the kayak and land on your legs on the shoreline
  6. See the Video of How to Land Your Kayak on the Shoreline on how to do this. 

Can You Roll an Inflatable Kayak?

kayak capsize

You cannot roll an inflatable kayak the same way that you can with a hardshell sea kayak. The good news is getting back into a capsized inflatable kayak is significantly easier than a hardshell because they do not submerge. See above for capsized inflatable kayak recovery.

Where Should the Heavier Person Sit in an Inflatable Kayak?

Before getting into an inflatable kayak the general rule of thumb is that the heaviest person usually sits in the back. If You are paddling in heavy wind then have the heavier person sit on the front of the kayak. The makes the kayak track better in the wind. 

Can I Kayak with Bad Knees?

The art of kayaking itself is low impact on your knees. What may be the most impact however, is getting in and out of your kayak. For people with bad knees it’s best to ask for help when getting in and out. 

For this one use the technique from the Landing on Rocky/ Awkward Shoreline. The only modification will be that there will be someone there to grab your forearm, helping you up as you get out of the boat. 

What Are the Easiest Inflatable Kayaks to Get In and Out of? 

sea eagle 380x

The more solid the kayak, the easier it will be to put your weight on it and use it as leverage to get in and out of the vessel. In this case PVC kayaks are easier to get in and out because they are heavier and are more solid due to the higher pressure.. 

PVC Kayaks like the AquaGlide Chelan (In one of the videos) or the Sea Eagle 380X are sturdy boats to get in and out of. 

When you get into cheaper inflatable kayaks with vinyl material you get less leverage because the air pressure in the kayak is lower. 

What Have We Learned?

One of the good things with inflatable kayaks is that they are relatively easy to get in and out of. It just needs a couple of practice rounds and you will be an expert!

Some parting thoughts are when you commit to sitting your butt into the kayak, do it in one fluid motion! This is the part where many newbies go wrong which can lead to wet unhappy bums.

Much like when you are about to park your bum on the couch, sit in an inflatable kayak with purpose!

Feel free to use this article and the related videos as a useful guide before going out to paddle! Thank You to all of those who shot those helpful videos as well!

Photo of author
Hey, there! My name is Derek and I have been around kayaks and canoes all my life. The last 5 years I recently turned my attention to inflatable kayaks and my world has been a lot more portable since! When I'm not kayaking I like to watch motorsports, play hockey and work on this site!

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