Knowledge Center Menu

How to Launch a Kayak from Any Surface

While launching a kayak may look simple, it can actually be quite tricky if you're not used to it or haven't read up on proper form. This is why knowing how to get in and out of your kayak (without tipping it over) is one of the first things you should learn when starting out. We're sharing how to launch a kayak from a shoreline, a traditional dock and a Jet Dock floating dock — so you can get out on the water quickly and easily.

First, Some Basic Safety Rules

When launching a kayak, you'll typically be faced with two scenarios: shoreline launches and dock launches. But before we go any further, there are five basic safety rules you'll need to follow when kayaking on open water.

  • Never kayak alone.
  • Refrain from kayaking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Always wear a helmet and lifejacket.
  • Avoid kayaking in rough water.
  • Know your own abilities and only kayak in waters you feel comfortable navigating.

Kayaking from a Shoreline

When kayaking, there aren't always going to be convenient docks to launch from. Shoreline launches are typical for kayakers, and the process is pretty straightforward. Just keep in mind that the farther up the shore you start, the greater the distance you'll have to go before getting your kayak into the water. And the closer you are to the water, the greater the chance you'll have at being floated out by surge water. You will need to find the sweet spot. This is usually the location where you only need one push off to get to where the surge water can begin to float your kayak into the surf zone.

How to Launch a Kayak from the Shore

If you'll be launching from the shore, you'll always want to straddle the kayak prior to sitting in it.

  • First off, carry your kayak to your shallow put-in point and set it down perpendicular to the shoreline. The bow of your kayak should be facing away from the shore while the stern remains close to the shore but still fully afloat. If you are launching from the banks of a river or have a very long kayak, you'll instead want to position your kayak parallel to the shoreline.
  • Next, put one of your paddle blades under the deck line in front of the cockpit. Then, you'll want to straddle the cockpit.
  • Once you're in position standing over the kayak, grab the cockpit and gently sit down in the seat, sliding your feet into the cockpit. You'll want to scoot back firmly into the seat so your feet can rest comfortably in the foot pegs. Then, pick up your paddle and use it to move past any incoming waves or wakes.

How to Exit to the Shore

Once you've learned the basics of launching a kayak from the shore, you'll need to learn how to exit, which is just as important.

  • When you're ready to exit your kayak, paddle straight to shore, stopping before the bow is beached. You'll want to stop when the water is shallow enough to easily stand in.
  • Then, put one of the paddle blades' deck lines in front of the cockpit. At this point, you'll want to grab each side of the cockpit next to your hips.
  • Slowly lift your knees and pull your feet toward you, close to your behind. Then, careful to keep your balance, lift one foot out of the boat and place it into the shallow water nearest the cockpit. Now, you can slowly stand and step out of the boat with the other foot.

Kayaking from a Traditional Dock

When kayaking from a traditional dock, more people tend to tip over when getting in and out than at any other time. It's important to note that docks aren't always situated at the same height from the water. Depending on where the deck is sitting, you may need to adjust your hand and body placement in order to keep your balance while entering and exiting the kayak. With practice, you'll find a method that works best for you. Most importantly: Don't be overconfident.

How to Launch a Kayak from a Traditional Dock

You'll want to place your kayak in the water, parallel to the dock. This will be your starting point.

  • First, set the paddle onto the dock next to you, ensuring it's within arm's reach of the cockpit. While sitting on the dock, slip a leg down into the cockpit and hold it close.
  • Now, with both hands on the dock, slowly lower your behind onto the kayak seat. You'll want to rotate your torso as you slide your feet into the cockpit. An alternative method is to keep one hand on the dock and the other centered just behind the coaming of the boat. Do what is most comfortable for you.
  • Next, you'll want to slide your behind fully into the seat, slipping your feet comfortably in the foot pegs.

How to Exit from a Traditional Dock

There are typically two ways to exit a kayak at a dock. Your method will depend on whether the dock you're exiting onto is low or high.

When exiting onto a low dock, situate your kayak parallel to the dock.

  • First, place your paddle's shaft so the throat is resting directly behind the cockpit while the other paddle blade is resting on the dock.
  • Next, use your hand that is farthest from the dock to grasp the paddle's throat while simultaneously holding the rear edge of the cockpit.
  • Then, place the other hand on the shaft of the paddle that is leaning on the dock. You'll then want to use both arms to press up from the shaft of the paddle to lift your behind out of the kayak and onto the dock.
  • And then, simply slide both feet out of the cockpit and onto the dock.

When exiting onto a high dock, you'll once again want to situate your kayak parallel to the dock.

  • Begin by placing your paddle onto the dock. Then, rotate your torso to face the dock and carefully place both hands onto it.
  • Slowly pull your knees in toward you. You'll then want to use your legs and arms to pull yourself up. Once one leg is even with the dock, set your knee on the edge of the dock.
  • Keep your weight low and carefully lift your other leg out of the boat, pivoting your body so you can sit on the dock. Make sure to keep an eye on your kayak to make sure it doesn't drift away.

Kayaking from a Floating Dock

A Jet Dock kayak launch ramp is a safe and convenient drive-on floating dock system. Constructed of high-density polyethylene modules, our floating kayak docks are modular, changeable and expandable. They can even be configured to match any dock configuration you already have in place. Plus, the systems work in all types of aquatic conditions, from shallow shores to deep waters.

How to Launch from a Floating Dock

The process of using a floating kayak launching dock is quite similar to that of a shoreline launch.

  • Start by moving your kayak toward the end of the floating dock. Keep the back third overhanging the rear of the deck.
  • Then, simply get into your kayak, and with a backward rocking motion, scoot it into the water.

How to Exit to a Floating Dock

Docking your kayak onto a floating dock is extremely easy once you have a bit of practice under your belt. But to get you started, here are the basics.

  • From the water, you'll want to approach the dock at normal speed, allowing your momentum to help you in the ride-up process. At this point, your floating dock should be "cradling" the kayak.
  • Then, firmly paddle your way up the rest of the dock. After a few tries, you'll soon get a feel for how much thrust you'll need to get the kayak up on top of the dock.

Launching A Kayak is Easy with the Help of Jet Dock

At Jet Dock, we want to help make the experience of kayaking even more enjoyable. Knowing how to launch a kayak is important no matter what, but our floating docks provide a safe and stable platform for getting in and out. Thanks to the innovative slide-on and slide-off design, launching and recovering your kayak has never been easier. Reach out to one of our Jet Dock boat lift dealers today for more information.

Find Your Dock Now! ▶
Create Your Own!

By answering a few quick questions we will be able to tell you which dock or boat lift is the perfect fit for you.

Start Now! ▶
Talk to a knowledgeable JetDock representative today! call 800-538-3625
Not sure which boat lift is right for you? Use our online tool. find Your Boat Lift
Not sure if a Jet Dock will work in your location? Check out our capabilites! view Lifts by Location
Knowledge is power! Read all about JetDock and make an informed decision. knowledge center
Before you hit the water check the forcast in your area! view Forecast