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Kayak Launching and Landing (Definitive Guide)

Kayak Launch

Kayak Launch

Updated on 7/11/2024
Abigail ScottBy Abigail Scott
Hi, I'm Abigail 👋 Since embarking on my kayaking and boarding adventures in 2010, I've navigated rivers and lakes across North America and beyond. With over a decade of experience and countless waterways explored, I'm here to help enthusiasts like you embark on unforgettable water adventures!
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Before you begin kayaking, you must master the basics of launching and landing. There are two types of kayak launch/landing procedures, and we'll go over each of them here. It's a good idea to follow these fundamental guidelines regardless of which approach you to use:

  • Before you put your kayak in the water, be sure you have everything you need.
  • Before entering, double-check your kit to ensure you have all you need.
  • On land, practice getting in and out of your kayak. You'll become accustomed to the manner you must move your body and to the balancing required.
  • On or close to your kayak, keep your paddle within easy reach.

The following are the two types of launch/landing techniques:

  • Coastal launches
  • Dock starts up

Shoreline Launches

When you find a spot along a beach or shore where you can rest your kayak in shallow water, you've found a shoreline launch. The plan is to straddle the boat and then push off into the sea once inside. This is the simplest approach that takes the least amount of practice and competence. It isn't always possible, though, because many of the sites you wish to kayak don't have an accessible shore. To launch from the beach, take these steps:

Carry the boat to the put-in spot and place it in shallow water. The bow should be looking forward and away from the beach, while the stern should be near to it (but fully afloat).
Set your paddle parallel to the kayak and behind the cockpit. This will allow you to access your paddle while also helping to balance the kayak.
Straddle the cockpit and stand over the kayak.
Lift your legs and slide your feet into the cockpit after grabbing the cockpit and sitting on the cockpit seat.
Use your paddle to propel your kayak past approaching waves and boat wakes.
Check out this video from Pelican International that shows a shoreline launch for a better understanding.

How to launch a kayak

Dock Launches

Dock launches, as the name implies, are when you get into a kayak from a dock. This entails totally submerging the kayak in the water and entering it from a vantage point above it on a dock. This one is a little more difficult, but with repetition, it will become second nature. To launch from a dock, perform these steps:

Carry your kayak to the dock and place it parallel to the dock in the water.
Place the paddle next to you on the dock, within reach of the cockpit.
You can either tie your kayak to the dock with a rope or use one of your legs to hold it close to the dock.
Turn your body towards the kayak cockpit while sitting on the dock and place both legs in.
Move your butt into the cockpit while sliding your legs forward inside the kayak, keeping your hands on the dock for support.
Check out this video from on how to launch and land from a pier for a nice visual:

Launching a Kayak from a Dock