Kayak Entry — Do It Right, Or You Might Take A Swim
One of the techniques that many beginning paddlers struggle with is the simple act of getting into their kayaks on the water. Unlike a canoe, you can’t simply jump into a sea or whitewater kayak; if you try that maneuver, you’ll more than likely take a swim. One veteran paddler likened act of entering a kayak to “trying to mount a greased Saint Barnard.”
Well it’s not quite that bad (or messy), and with a little patience and a lot of practice, entering your boat will become second nature.
You might want to begin your practice on dry land.
Park your kayak on a stretch of grass (your back yard, if you don’t want the neighbors watching). First step into your spray skirt and pull it up over your body until it’s about chest level, then put on your PFD. Now practice putting one leg, then the other, into the cockpit and then slide down into the seat.
Once you’re comfortable with this maneuver, it’s time to try it on the water. If you can find a stretch of shallow, calm water, you’re in luck. You can use what’s known as the “paddle bridge” approach to kayak entry. The idea here is to float your boat out into ankle-deep water, then use your paddle as a “bridge” between your boat and the shore, thus giving you a stable platform on which to enter.
This is accomplished by resting one blade of your paddle on the shore, while placing the other end of the paddle shaft across your boat, just behind the cockpit (and not on the coaming). By reaching back and grabbing the shaft with both hands behind you, you can squat down and swing your legs one at a time into the cockpit. Try to stay low, but avoid putting too much weight on the paddle shaft; it’s meant to provide balance, not support your entire weight.
Once inside the cockpit, you can settle into the seat and attach the spray skirt. The easiest way to accomplish this is by working the hem of the skirt around the rear curve of the coaming, then hook the front of the skirt over the forward curve and attach the sides. You can balance the paddle across the front deck while you’re doing this.
This will all seem a little awkward at first. But practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes, and soon you’ll be boarding your kayak without a second thought.