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dock entry and exit

Dock Entry & Exit With A Sit-on-top Kayak
By Tom Holtey, author of "Tandem Sit-on-top Kayaking" and "Sit-on-top Kayaking, A Beginner's Guide"

Getting into a kayak from a dock, and getting back onto a dock from a kayak, can be tricky. Some docks will be easy, others seemingly impossible.

An easy to use dock is the floating type, only inches above the water's surface. Harder docks to board from will be on piers or much higher above the water's surface.

Unfortunately most docks are made for power boaters and sit rather high above the water line. In contrast, docks found at paddle sport destinations will be custom made for kayakers and easy to use but even they require proper technique.

Getting In Getting Out Slide Show Resources

The process for getting into a kayak from a dock:

The biggest mistake you can make is to step into the kayak, feet first, or to stand up when getting back to shore.

dock entry and exit

If the level of the kayak (while in water) and the dock surface is close (about a foot or so) you can use your paddle to stabilize the boat while you get in. The more equal the dock surface is to the kayak deck the better. This process can work for other surfaces, floating and not, like other boats and floats or some shoreline features like small sea walls.

With the kayak along side the dock, untied, place the paddle on the dock surface, 90 degrees to the kayak's centerline, and on the back deck of the kayak. (Or across the gunwales of an inflatable.)

Sit on the dock surface with legs in the kayak cockpit close to where they will lie when seated in the cockpit.
dock entry and exit

Place one hand on the paddle shaft, over the dock. The other hand on the on the paddle shaft over the kayak's deck.

No need to wrap fingers around shaft. If you can, grip a bit onto a backrest strap or deck rigging with the kayak side hand.


dock entry and exit

Put your weight firmly on you hands, this presses the paddle shaft to the dock surface and kayak deck, almost making a bridge or gangway from the dock to the boat.

Shift your butt directly from the dock surface to the kayak seat in one smooth motion. Do not loosen your grip or paddle position until you are in the seat.

dock entry and exit


Once in the seat bring your paddle around and push gently from the dock.

Example of these principles applied to Tandem dock entry.


Getting out:

dock entry and exit

Landing is the same, but in reverse.


Approach dock alongside.

dock entry and exit Place paddle behind the seat, on the back deck, and on the dock surface.
dock entry and exit Put your weight on the paddle shaft with your hands, as described above.
dock entry and exit Push up with your arms while shifting your butt out of the seat and onto the dock surface, leaving your feet in cockpit.

Lift your feet out when ready. Recover your paddle and grab for the bowline to secure your kayak.

Slide Show of Dock Entry & Exit:


Related articles:

FROM TOM'S SIT-ON-TOP SHOP: Please visit our book section

© 2002-2014 Tom Holtey

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