How to Safely Exit a Whitewater Kayak

Photo Credit: John Cogan

It doesn’t have to be an ordeal to get out of your kayak, but learning to exit one’s whitewater kayak can be a tricky and humbling experience. With kayakers literally stuffing themselves into boats nowadays, getting out of those kayaks can often provide amusement for one’s friends as well as any onlookers at the take-out.

That being said, it doesn’t have to be you at the center of the jokes. Simply practice these steps to learn to exit your kayak with grace and you’ll be the one laughing as you watch your friends end up in the drink.

Here are a few tips on how to get out of your kayak with a minimum of embarrassment.

Step #1: Position Your Kayak for Exit

First, you should find a safe place to get out of your kayak. Look for a spot with a relatively flat and level shoreline. Back your kayak up as close to the side of the river as you can. If you can reach the bottom of the river, use your hands to push your kayak even further back. Be sure to hold onto your paddle when doing this.

Step #2: Prepare to Exit the Kayak

If your kayak has a ratchet system, loosen up each ratchet so as to relax your legs. Remove your legs from the thigh braces and keep them as straight as possible. If you are safely on shore place your paddle on shore, otherwise keep your paddle in one of your hands or across your lap.

Position your hands just behind your hips and place one hand on the deck of the kayak and the other one on the ground if possible, if not then place both hands on the back of the kayak. Push down with your hands thereby lifting yourself off of the seat of the kayak.

Step #3: Begin to Exit the Kayak

Sit on the back deck of the kayak and lean your body to one side of the kayak. If you were able to place one hand on the shore or in the water then lean to that side. Begin to slide the leg on the other side of the kayak out of the kayak. Adjust your hand position as you need to during this transition.

Step 4: Get Out of the Kayak

Still leaning to the side and with hands maintaining balance, place one leg outside of the boat and feel for the ground. Lean forward, adjust your hand on the kayak, and move the leg which remains in the cockpit to the center of the kayak. At this point, you may be able to stand up on one leg and remove the other from the kayak. If not, then remove the second leg while still sitting on the back deck.

Now that you know how to exit your kayak, practice these steps until they become second nature. That way, if you ever do find yourself in the water, you can exit your kayak quickly and without incident.