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How To Put A Kayak In The Water – The Ultimate Guide For New Kayakers

How to put a kayak in the water by Jeremy Shantz of Boating.Guide.

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Kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the outdoors and enjoy the water, but putting a kayak in the water can seem daunting for first-timers. 

Do you lift it over your head? Drag it across the sand? And what if you tip over and end up soaked before you even start? 

Fear not, fellow adventurers! This article will guide you to confidently and efficiently put your kayak in the water. So grab your paddle, and let’s dive in!

Introduction To Kayaking 101

Kayaking is a popular water sport that involves paddling through rivers, lakes, and even oceans using a small, narrow boat known as a kayak. With its origins dating back to ancient cultures, kayaking has evolved into a diverse sport with various activities for enthusiasts to explore. Whether seeking a peaceful paddle across calm waters or an adrenaline-fueled rush through rapids, kayaking has something to offer everyone.

Why Putting A Kayak In The Water Is Important

Before you start paddling, the first step is to get your kayak into the water. While it may seem simple, putting a kayak in the water before getting in is a crucial step that should never go overlooked. Here are a few reasons why:


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Prevents damage to the kayak: The design of kayaks is such that they are buoyant and maneuverable on the water. However, it doesn’t mean they are tough enough to withstand the stresses of being dragged across hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt. 

If you drag your kayak across the ground instead of carrying it, you risk causing damage to the hull or other parts of the boat. By putting your kayak in the water before getting in, you avoid this risk and ensure your kayak remains in good condition for many future paddling adventures.

Reduces the risk of injury: Kayaks can be heavy and awkward to carry, primarily if you’re not used to the weight and size of the boat. Taking a kayak over long distances or up and down steep embankments can be a physical challenge that can strain your muscles and joints. If you’re not careful, you could have a strain, sprain, or other types of injury. 

Ensures a smoother launch: Putting your kayak in the water before getting in can help ensure a smoother, safer launch. Suppose you try to climb into a kayak that’s still on land. In that case, you risk tipping the boat over or losing your balance, which could result in a potentially dangerous situation. By placing the kayak in the water first, you can enter the boat more quickly and avoid mishaps that could ruin your paddling trip.

In summary, putting a kayak in the water before getting in is a crucial step that can help protect your kayak, reduce your risk of injury, and ensure a smoother launch. Always take the time to carefully and safely get your kayak into the water before you start paddling, and you’ll be able to enjoy a safe and comfortable trip on the water.

A Brief Overview Of The 7 Steps Involved In Putting A Kayak In The Water

  1. Unload the kayak: If your kayak is on a car roof rack or trailer, carefully unload it onto the ground or a nearby dock. When doing so, avoiding any damage to the boat is wise, so try to avoid setting it on gravel or jagged stone.
  2. Gather equipment: Before moving the kayak, gather any necessary equipment, such as paddles, life jackets, and any other gear you’ll need for your trip.
  3. Position the kayak: Once you have all your equipment ready, position the kayak so that it’s pointed in the direction of the water, with the bow (front) of the kayak facing the water.
  4. Lift the kayak: Stand at the side of the kayak and carefully lift it off the ground or dock using a proper lifting technique, such as a side carry or an overhead carry.
  5. Move the kayak to the water: Once you have the kayak lifted, carefully walk towards the water, being mindful of any obstacles in your path.
  6. Place the kayak in the water: Once you’ve reached the water’s edge, gently place it in the water, keeping it stable and balanced.
  7. Secure the kayak: If necessary, use a rope or other device to secure it to the dock or shore to prevent it from drifting away while you prepare to launch.

These are the basic steps for putting a kayak in the water. Depending on your specific situation, additional actions or precautions may be needed. For example, checking the weather conditions or ensuring you have the necessary permits or licenses to kayak in a specific area.

Key Points

  • Checking the weather and choosing a launch site are essential steps before putting your kayak in the water.
  • Gathering the necessary equipment, including a personal floatation device, is essential for a safe kayaking trip.
  • Lifting and carrying the kayak properly, either by hand or with a dolly, can help prevent injury and make launching easier.
  • Pushing off from shore or dock requires proper positioning of the paddle and maintaining balance.
  • Avoiding hazards in the water, such as rocks and other obstructions, other boaters, weather conditions, and strong currents and tides, is crucial for safety.
  • Knowing when to decide to return to shore is also critical for a safe kayaking trip.

Don’t worry; we’ll go into more detail so you’ll be a master kayaker in no time! Let’s look at launch preparations next.


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Preparing To Launch

Preparing To Launch with Jeremy Shantz of Boating.Guide.

Before you can start paddling, you should take a few minutes to prepare for your launch. In this section, we’ll look at what you must do before you get your kayak in the water, from choosing a launch site to checking the weather and tides. By preparing correctly, you’ll set yourself up for a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience.

Choosing A Launch Site

When it comes to kayaking, choosing the right launch site is a vital factor that can affect the safety and enjoyment of your paddling trip. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a launch site:


You want to choose a launch site that is easy to access, both for you and for any equipment you’re bringing. If you’re driving to the site, look for parking areas or drop-off zones close to the water. If you’re carrying your kayak, choose a launch site with a clear path to the water that lacks obstructions by any obstacles, such as rocks, fallen trees, or thick vegetation.

Water Conditions

The water conditions at your launch site are also essential to consider. Look for a launch site with calm, flat water if you’re a beginner or paddling with children. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you may want to choose a launch site with more challenging water conditions, such as waves, rapids, or strong currents.


Be aware of potential hazards at the launch site, such as underwater rocks, strong currents or tides, or dangerous wildlife. Avoid launch sites with many dangers, especially if you are new to kayaking.

Local Regulations

Check the local regulations to see if the launch site allows kayaking and if any restrictions or requirements exist. You should also check if permits or licenses you might need for kayaking in the area.


Finally, choose a launch site with scenic views and exciting surroundings. Paddling in a beautiful natural setting can be a great way to relax and unwind.


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In summary, choosing the right launch site is essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable kayaking experience. Consider accessibility, water conditions, hazards, local regulations, and scenery when selecting your launch site. You’ll be well on your way to a successful paddling trip.

Checking The Weather And Tides

Check the weather at The Weather Channel.

Before you hit the water, don’t forget to check the weather forecast to ensure safe and comfortable paddling conditions. Here are a few things to consider when reviewing the weather:

  • Wind: Wind is crucial when paddling, as it can make your trip much more complex and even dangerous if it’s too strong. Check the wind speed and direction forecast, and adjust your paddling route and plans accordingly.
  • Temperature: The air and water temperature can also impact your paddling experience. Make sure to dress appropriately for the weather, and be aware that colder water can be hazardous if you capsize or fall in.
  • Precipitation: Rain, snow, and other forms of precipitation can make your paddling experience uncomfortable and potentially hazardous. Check the forecast for any precipitation, and be prepared with appropriate rain gear if necessary.
  • Tides: If you’re kayaking in an area with tidal waters, check the tide tables to determine the height and timing of the tides. Paddling during an incoming or outgoing tide can impact your speed and direction, so plan your trip accordingly.
  • Thunderstorms: Finally, be aware of the potential for thunderstorms in the area. Thunderstorms can bring lightning, strong winds, and heavy rain, which can be dangerous on the water. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, consider postponing your trip until conditions improve.

In summary, checking the weather is a much-needed step in preparing for your paddling trip. Be aware of wind, temperature, precipitation, tides, and thunderstorms. Adjust your plans as necessary to ensure a safe and comfortable paddling experience.

Gathering Necessary Equipment

Gathering the equipment for your kayaking trip is essential to preparing for the launch. Having the right gear can help keep you safe, comfortable, and ready for any situation on the water. Here are a few reasons why gathering the necessary equipment is so critical:

Safety: Kayaking can be a safe and enjoyable activity if you play by the rules. Wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) is a necessary safety measure. It can help keep you afloat if you fall into the water. Other safety gear, such as a whistle or signaling device, can also help you get help if needed.


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Comfort: Kayaking can be physically demanding, and having the right equipment can help make your trip more comfortable. Appropriate clothing and footwear can help protect you from the elements and prevent chafing or discomfort. Additionally, bringing snacks and water can help keep you energized and hydrated throughout your trip.

Preparedness: Finally, having the necessary equipment on hand can help you mitigate any situation you might encounter on the water. For example, carrying a repair kit can help you fix any minor issues that may arise with your kayak or gear. A map or GPS device can help you navigate and stay on course during your trip. i

In summary, gathering the necessary equipment for your kayaking trip aids in ensuring your safety, comfort, and preparedness. Bring the appropriate safety gear, clothing, food and water, and other necessary equipment, and you’ll be on your way to a successful paddling adventure.

Moving The Kayak To The Water

Moving The Kayak To The Water is explained at Boating.Guide.

Once you’ve gathered all your equipment and selected the perfect launch site, it’s time to move your kayak to the water’s edge. But before you start lifting and carrying, remember this crucial advice: lift with your legs, not your back. In this section, we’ll explore the best techniques for moving your kayak by hand so that you can get it safely and quickly to the water. From using proper lifting techniques to navigating tricky terrain, we’ve got you covered.

There are two methods of transport for your kayak: you can carry it, or you can set it on a wheeled dolly and move it that way. Let’s take a look at each, shall we?

Lifting The Kayak Onto Your Shoulder

Here’s a brief description of the best techniques I’ve learned and use for one person to lift a kayak off a roof rack of a car and into a stable carrying position:

  1. Stand at the side of the kayak: When you’re ready to lift the kayak, stand at the side of the boat closest to you, ensuring that the kayak is stable and not wobbling on the roof rack.
  2. Use proper lifting technique: Bending at the knees rather than the waist, squat down, and grab the kayak firmly with both hands. Keep your back straight, and lift the kayak onto your thighs.
  3. Move the kayak to a stable carrying position: With the kayak on your thighs, take a step backward and position the kayak to rest evenly on your shoulder blades. Use both hands to stabilize the kayak and maintain your balance.
  4. Adjust the kayak as needed: If it is not positioned evenly on your shoulder blades, adjust it to distribute the weight evenly. If the kayak is too heavy, take a break and reposition the boat before continuing.
  5. Walk carefully to the water: Use a steady and deliberate gait to walk to the water with the kayak securely in place. Be careful not to trip or stumble on any obstacles in your path.

Walking The Kayak To The Water

Two Feet and a Heartbeat

That’s right, folks, the most common method of walking your kayak from the car or trailer to the water’s edge is good old-fashioned lifting and carrying by hand.


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Kayak Dollies

A kayak dolly, also known as a kayak cart, is a small wheeled device designed to make it easier to move your kayak from one place to another. It typically consists of a frame with two or more wheels, which attaches to the bottom of your kayak to support the boat’s weight.

Using a kayak dolly is a good idea if you have a heavy kayak. It can help you avoid strain and potential injury from lifting and carrying a heavy boat. Here are a few reasons why a kayak dolly can be a valuable addition to your kayaking gear:

  • Saves your back: Moving a heavy kayak can be physically demanding, and lifting or carrying a kayak incorrectly can lead to back strain, muscle pulls, or other injuries. A kayak dolly helps distribute the boat’s weight and allows you to move it with less physical stress.
  • Increases mobility: With a kayak dolly, you can easily move your kayak over various surfaces, including sand, grass, and rocky terrain. It can increase your mobility and allow you to explore new areas quickly.
  • Convenient storage: A kayak dolly is often compact and easy to store, so it can be a convenient addition to your kayaking gear. You can usually fold the doll when not in use and store it in your kayak or car trunk.

In summary, a kayak dolly is a small but valuable piece of equipment that makes moving a heavy kayak much more effortless. By reducing physical strain, increasing mobility, and providing convenient storage, a kayak dolly can be an excellent investment for any kayaker who wants to make their paddling trips more comfortable and enjoyable.

I’ve always carried my kayaks from the roof rack to the dock or shoreline. However, I’ve got a buddy who used and loved the Railblaza kayak dolly (purchased on Amazon). I made fun of him for it until we had a long portage, and I had to carry my kayak, paddle, and gear while he merely walked along on his dolly. You can bet I didn’t make fun of him after that.

Setting The Kayak Down Near The Water

Here’s a brief description of the best technique I use for setting the kayak down on the ground or onto the water from the carrying position:

  • To set the kayak down on the ground, carefully lower it from your shoulder blades to the ground using the same lifting technique as when you lifted it onto your shoulder.
  • To set the kayak down onto the water, slowly lower the boat into the water while still standing on the shore or dock, maintaining control and balance.

Getting Into The Kayak

Your kayak is in the water, and you’re almost ready for your paddling adventure. But first, you need to get into the kayak. In this section, we’ll cover the best techniques for getting into your kayak, from positioning yourself correctly to maintaining balance as you enter the boat. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be paddling away quickly.

Placing The Paddle Across The Kayak

The primary reason for placing the paddle across the kayak when attempting to board is to provide stability and support for the kayak. You must maintain balance when getting into the kayak and prevent the boat from tipping over. Setting the paddle across the kayak creates a stable platform that helps support your weight and prevent the kayak from tipping.

In addition, setting the paddle across the kayak also makes it easier to get into the boat. It’s easier because you can use it to steady and maintain your balance as you move your body into the cockpit. Keeping your balance and preventing the boat from moving around as you climb in

 can be challenging without the paddle.


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Placing the paddle across the kayak is a simple but effective way to ensure a safe and stable entry into the boat. This small but significant step can make your kayaking experience safer, more enjoyable, and more successful.

Sitting On The Kayak Seat

Getting into your kayak is when you usually have the highest chance of falling into the water. So, you’ll want to ensure that you are doing it carefully. It helps to have another person around to help stabilize the kayak so you can get in more straightforwardly, but it’s not the end of the trip if you are alone. 

If you’re using a dock, position the kayak parallel to the port and sit on the pier, lowering your legs into the kayak’s cockpit. Slowly transfer your weight over the kayak, staying low and centering yourself over the kayak seat while leaning on the dock with your arms to maintain stability. Gradually shift the rest of your body over the kayak, so you are sitting up. 

Reverse this procedure for exiting the kayak.

If you’re using a sand or dirt launch, you do the same thing, except you’ll want to be a little on the land to secure the kayak. Then, you’ll have to push yourself and the kayak off, but we’ll get to that next.

Launching The Kayak

Launching The Kayak explained at Boating.Guide.

With the paddle in hand and the boat beneath you, it’s time to launch your kayak and set off on your paddling adventure. In this section, we’ll cover the best techniques for launching your kayak, from pushing off the dock or shore to finding your balance as you start to paddle. Get ready to launch like a pro!

Pushing Off From Shore

Pushing off from shore or dock is a key skill for any kayaker, as it allows you to get the boat moving and start your paddling adventure. Here are two tips for pushing off safely and effectively:

Position your paddle: Before pushing off, make sure you position your paddle correctly. Hold the paddle with both hands, and place the paddle’s blade in the water behind the cockpit or seat. Use the paddle to steady the boat and keep it from moving around as you prepare to push off.

Keep your balance: As you push off, keep your weight centered over the cockpit. Use your hands and the paddle to steady the boat as needed, and make sure you don’t lean too far in any direction.

Paddling Away From Shore

Here are two tips for paddling away from shore for the first time:

Take your time: When paddling away from shore for the first time, it’s essential to take your time and move slowly and deliberately. It can help you get a feel for the boat and adjust to the movement of the water. Focus on maintaining your balance and keeping the watercraft moving forward comfortably.


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Look ahead: As you paddle away from shore, focus on the horizon and be aware of your surroundings. Look for other boats or obstacles in the water, and be mindful of the wind and current. By staying alert and aware of your surroundings, you can stay safe and enjoy your paddling adventure to the fullest.

Following these tips and taking time as you paddle away from shore for the first time, you can build confidence and enjoy a successful and rewarding kayaking experience. Remember to prioritize safety and stay focused on your surroundings as you paddle.

Safety Tips

Kayaking is a fun and rewarding activity, but it can quickly turn into a nightmare without prioritizing safety and being prepared for any challenges that may arise on the water. 

In this section, we’ll share our top safety tips for kayaking, from wearing the right gear to staying aware of your surroundings. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or just starting, these tips will help ensure you stay safe and have a great time on the water.

Wearing A Personal Flotation Device

A personal floatation device (PFD), also known as a life jacket, is a piece of essential safety equipment for anyone participating in water activities such as kayaking. The purpose of a PFD is to keep the wearer afloat and prevent drowning in the event of an accidental immersion or fall into the water. Here are some of the benefits of using a PFD while kayaking:

Increased Buoyancy

A PFD provides increased buoyancy, which can help keep the wearer afloat and reduce the risk of drowning. In an accident or unexpected immersion in the water, a PFD can make all the difference in keeping the wearer alive.

Reduced Fatigue

Wearing a PFD can reduce the energy needed to stay afloat, which can reduce fatigue and help the wearer conserve energy while in the water.

Improved Visibility

Many PFDs are brightly colored or have reflective elements, improving visibility and making it easier for other boaters or rescue personnel to locate the wearer in the water.

Comfort and Convenience

Modern PFDs are designed to be comfortable and easy to wear, with adjustable straps and lightweight materials that won’t weigh the wearer down or cause discomfort while paddling.


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A PFD is a safety measure that can save lives and prevent drowning. By wearing a PFD while kayaking, you can enjoy your paddling adventure with greater peace of mind, knowing you’re prepared for any unexpected situations that may arise.

Avoiding Hazards In The Water

While kayaking can be a fun and rewarding activity, you need to be aware of potential hazards in the water and take steps to avoid them. Here are some common hazards you may encounter while kayaking and tips for avoiding them:

  • Rocks and obstructions: Rocks, logs, and other obstacles can pose a danger to kayakers, especially in fast-moving water. To avoid these hazards, always look ahead and plan your route carefully. If you see rocks or other obstacles in the water, try to paddle around them or portage your boat around them on land.
  • Other boaters: Other boaters, including motorboats and larger vessels, can pose a danger to kayakers. To avoid collisions, always be aware of your surroundings and ensure you’re visible to other boaters. Stay to the right side of the waterway, and use hand signals or other communication methods to let other boaters know your intentions.
  • Weather conditions: Weather conditions can change rapidly on the water, so you must stay aware of the forecast and be prepared for any conditions. If you see storm clouds or lightning in the distance, head for shore and wait for the weather to pass before continuing your journey.
  • Strong currents and tides: Strong currents and tides can be dangerous for kayakers, especially those inexperienced or unfamiliar with the area. To avoid getting caught in a current or tide, check the local tide tables and current charts, and plan your route accordingly. If you get caught in a current, paddle at an angle to avoid being pulled downstream.

By being aware of and avoiding these hazards, you can stay safe and enjoy your kayaking experience to the fullest. Always prioritize safety, and remember that some preparation and caution can go a long way toward preventing accidents and ensuring a successful journey on the water.

Returning To Shore Safely

Returning to shore safely is probably, when you consider it, the most crucial part of any kayaking trip. Furthermore, knowing the time to decide to head back to shore is of equal importance. Here are four tips for returning to shore safely:

  1. Know your limits: Keep your limitations in mind. Knowing your limits as a kayaker and being realistic about your abilities is wise. If you start feeling tired, cold, or uncomfortable, it may be time to return to shore.
  2. Watch the weather: Weather conditions can change rapidly on the water, and it’s essential to stay aware of any changes that may affect your trip. If you see storm clouds or lightning in the distance, it’s always best to head back to shore and wait for the weather to pass.
  3. Plan your route: Before you set out on your trip, plan your route carefully and note any landmarks or points of interest. It can help you navigate back to shore if you need to exit quickly.
  4. Stay aware of your surroundings: Always be mindful and watch for hazards or obstacles that may affect your trip. Suppose you encounter any obstacles that you’re not comfortable navigating. In that case, it’s best to head back to shore and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

When deciding whether to return to shore, there are a few key factors to consider. First and foremost, you should always prioritize your safety and the safety of your fellow kayakers. If you or anyone in your group feels uncomfortable or tired, it may be time to return to shore.

You should also pay attention to any weather or water conditions changes. If the wind picks up, the water becomes choppy, or you see lightning in the distance, it’s always best to err on caution and head back to shore.

Finally, you should consider your own experience and ability as a kayaker. If you’re feeling tired, uncomfortable, or out of your depth, it’s always best to head back to shore and regroup. Remember, enjoying your kayaking trip safely and responsibly is the most important thing.


As your kayaking adventure draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the lessons learned, and the memories made. In this final section, we’ll recap the key takeaways from our guide and offer some parting thoughts for your next trip on the water.

Quick Recap Of The Key Points Covered In The Article

This article covered everything you need to know about putting a kayak in the water, from preparing to launch to getting into the kayak, paddling, and returning to shore safely. We discussed the importance of checking the weather, choosing the right launch site, gathering the necessary equipment, and the best techniques for lifting and carrying the kayak by hand or with a dolly. We also offered tips for pushing off from shore and avoiding hazards in the water and stressed the importance of wearing a personal floatation device and knowing when to head back to shore. By following these tips and techniques, you can enjoy a safe and rewarding kayaking adventure on the water.


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Get Out On The Water And Try Kayaking For Yourself

Ready to get out on the water? Yeah? Perfect! We hope you have a safe and fun boating experience. Hey, while you’re here, why not subscribe to the latest tips and tricks to help you get the most out of boating?

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Final Thoughts And Recommendations

I thought I’d recommend a simple beginner kayak, paddle, and PFD to get you started.

Here are a Driftsun Rover 120 and 220 from Amazon. The price is reasonable, and the reviews boast about the quality of this inflatable kayak. For a first-time kayaker, right to a seasoned kayaker, the 120 and 220 models are pretty fun. I haven’t ridden one personally, but I rode in one that was precisely the same, just a different brand, and I can say it was a blast. 

I spent a lot of time reviewing videos and written reviews to find the legit ones. I can tell you I found a few that weren’t, but most were from genuine buyers who all had pretty good experiences. The biggest complaints came from the effort of blowing the kayak up to the appropriate pressure, but that’s what we always see when it’s an inflatable. I recommend using a powered air compressor found on Amazon.

Last, we must look at the Onyx Paddle Sports Life Vest (also purchased off Amazon). This life vest has ridiculously high ratings and is the top seller on Amazon for a good reason. My buddy has one and loves it. It’s compact and doesn’t get in the way or make you overheat. It will be my next PFD, for sure.



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