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Difficult entry & exit of kayak

I am an elderly lady and have had to put my recreational kayaking on hold for a couple of years. Now I want to get back to it, but I find I have balance problems getting in and out of a kayak - I can only enter and exit by "falling in" and "falling out" - embarrassing and messy, at best. Does anyone make, or have suggestions for making, a bar or hand-hold, to put across the cockpit for easing this process? I have loved kayaking, and really miss it. Will appreciate any suggestions.


  • Try a canoe?
    Seriously, I'm not trying to be cute.
  • Have you
    tried straddling your kayak in shallow water, hold onto each side then sit down & then put your legs in? Yes your feet get wet, but balance isn't a big deal with this technique as long as you're only in a few inches of water.
  • Are you using the paddle to help?
    Or are you trying to step into the boat? Balance should not be an issue if you know how to use the paddle as a brace from the boat to the shore behind you (though strength sometimes is). But it is hard to figure out a way to help without knowing how you are trying to get in and out to start with.
  • Have had same problem
    Got tired of supplying the folks at the take-out with a comedy routine.
    I've switched to SOT's for this very reason.

    I've done the straddle which helped getting in. It was lifting myself out that was hard.

    Using the paddle helped some, but you're still sitting on the paddle, which is very low. Rising up from that is difficult.

    I had thought of designing a walker-type contraption that would straddle the boat and give me a handhold to pull myself up. My arm strength is pretty good, it's my legs that don't work so well anymore.

    Instead of that, I went to SOT's but canoes would work also.

    Getting older ain't for sissy's!!
  • I second...
    ...the sit-on-top solution. There are some very nice SOTs' out there. Some even have cup holders... gotta love that.
  • Canoes can be tricky also.......
    for people having difficulty entering and exiting recreational kayaks with large cockpits - especially the pack canoes with seats near the bottom of the boat.
  • What is your launch site like?
    Shallow water that you can stand in while entering & exiting the boat?

    From shore or dock where you can't step in the water first?

    Something else?
  • Where do you hold on to?
    If you press with your hand and feet down the center of the kayak (not on the sides), even the most unstable kayak is rock solid. If you can't bend around to do that, then you should see if you can use the paddle for support. You can put it behind the cockpit extended to one side and resting on shore, then hold on to the paddle as you enter. You weight will keep it in place, especially if the rear of the kayak has some sort of channel made specifically for this kind of situation so the paddle fits in it nicely.

    Practice in warm shallow water -;)

    Straddling is an option too, if the kayak is not of the 4-foot wide variety...

    If you don't mind getting your bottom wet, you might consider a sit on top. All sorts out there, with makers like Epic Kayaks having high-end lightweight versions like the V6 touring that would also be easy to carry yet fast on the water.
  • Options
    SOTs vary
    Some SOTs are very dry rides. I have a Manta Ray 14 that a 200 lb person could stay completely dry with in calm conditions. And I have put several folks on it in mild whitewater who have physical limitations without a problem. They might need a hand to get out easily, but it's like getting up from sitting on the ground or a low seat. In warm water, you might simple exit in a couple of feet of water and walk up from there. In that scenario, it's much easier than a sit-in or canoe.

  • Options
    Some ideas:

    –a longer cockpit will assist entry and egress ergonomics greatly, so as mentioned, you can sit down into the ckpt and then lift your legs inside. Upon exiting you may then be able to reverse this procedure. Gently sloped & shallow landings will assist as well as low sided ckpt coamings.

    - if your yak is stable on entry and exit, a 2ndary assist is use a bridle or line from the ckpt forward. The simplest is just a bow line that you can grab onto to pull on as you try and levitate, while another could be an actual loop of thicker bungee that is a cross deckline that can double as your bungee bridle (taughtness should be adjusted so that stretch stops at required length). As this attaches at 2 points (say near each perimeter line) it will give some triangular stability as you balance to get up (ie even 2 hands can be used).

    - Maybe take an opposite position to that of the primary ‘pretty & delicate’ paddle and have your main paddle be a cheap & strong beater. (and have your ‘good’ paddle carefully premounted on your deck for the serious use.) Then sit on it, scrape it on shore, fall on it – all to your heart’s content and to the limit of its ability to assist you to get in and beat around the shore. And who knows – if there is limited benefit to removing plastic kayak hair, it just may be a better drag engine to have a scratched up hairy paddle as the drag characteristics are increased. A non-wing paddle’s main propulsive function is as a drag device n’est-ce pas?

    - But yaks usually aren’t stable on exit, so a paddlefloat lock system helps so that you can rigidly attach the paddle to the kayak hands free to prevent tipping at least to one side on entry/exit. Try, in most cases, to sidle up to the shore so that the locked paddle blade engages the beach with minimal tipping. Along this line –espec with a low rockered boat – do not beach the boat either bow or stern prior to entry or do not drive the bow or stern onto the beach prior to exit. In either case the axis of rotation of the yak is so lowered that any 2ndary stabilization from bouyancy is eliminated – best default is side entry/exit. However if there is a localized, yak sized, depression in the beach/shore this could be a great stabilized location.

    - scorned but possibly useful for this purpose may be a set of sponsons that get inflated on entry/exit – and that can be slightly shifted to echo the slope of the beach to stabilize on side approached entry exit. The same idea could be extended to any paddlefloat with a short beam width line that is clipped to one perimeter line but located on the open water side of the yak. Combined with a rigidly fixed paddle blade on shore side may also make a fairly decent stable setup.

    Anyway some ideas,
  • Options
    This might be what you need?
    Swedish manufacturer Vitudden Kajakvarv (VKV) have a simple product that adresses your problem. However it’s made to fit their kayaks and might not fit your.
    This is a really nice video that could serve as inspiration for your own solution.

    OT: Here is an article about VKV and its long history
  • SOT, yes
    I have a pack canoe, a SINK, and a SOT. Just recovering from total hip replacement, I find the SOT to be the easiest to enter and exit, although I have paddled all three boats post-op.
  • Options
    A modification to my last post based upon what siriushf showed us would be the whole variety of uses of the previously mentioned deck and other lines combined with the spare paddle or half paddle.

    Firstly the kayak needs to be stabilized in some manner (let’s assume weight, flexibility, and/or balance are likely issues) especially as a highly located lever arm will readily tip any kayak over if any weight is applied up high in any manner off centre. So assuming the kayak is stabilized:

    -Some sort of simple keel fitting looks to be very useful - but if not fitted, the easiest alternative would be placing the paddle vertically at the coaming front, a few wraps of the bow line up high on the paddle shaft – and then any weight applied rearwards (only) will be restrained by the line and the coaming front.

    -a next alternative would be the heavy bungee cross deck line that the half paddle was inserted thru, shaft placed vertically on keel-inside at coaming front, shaft held with one hand highish above deck with loop over and bungee length to allow shaft to be vertical at bottomed out stretch. That would give the same rearward only stability as the bow line. If one had the strength to wrap a finger or two around the loop centre on while holding the shaft, some side stabilization all of a sudden becomes possible.And If however there was a small loop in the cross line that could restrain the shaft, then there would be better triangulated side stability as well. In either of the cases above, it’d be best if there was some indication/assist on the shaft to locate where it was best to be held as it would not work well if setup and held low. It would certainly have to be mocked up to see what the limitations/possibilities were.

    -If it was my boat, I’d just modify the water bottle receptacle (or hull stiffener or pillar) between my legs with a slot or hole (glued to if a structural member) to accept blade or shaft and maybe drill a tiny loop/clip of line/webbing right at the coaming front. Then the setup is triangulated, concealed, and continually present. Heck it just might become a new standard setup as it costs nothing to provide, heh heh.

    -It also might make sense to roughen up the interior hull surface where the feet would be placed when trying to stand or be pulled up as some yaks possibly are a little slick there. At least it might minimize some slippage.

    Anyway, other ideas.
  • I'm not loving this one
    -- Last Updated: Dec-06-12 3:30 PM EST --

    Admittedly I couldn't open the video. It requires software that is not in running shape on this PC. But from the picture, it seems awfully dependent on the situation - a handy dock of the right height, good balance and flexibility on the part of the paddler etc.

    The pole could help with pulling up. But it doesn't seem to totally fix the issue of transferring weight to the dock. I don't see anything that stops the kayak from sliding sideways while the paddler is still hanging valiantly onto the pole and risks whacking their head on the dock.

  • I Have an Elderly Hip
    Maybe that qualifies me to give you advice. I broke my hip some years back and it will always be weaker than my unbroken one. Here's how I compensate:

    I own only keyhole cockpits. To get in I go to shallow water, straddle the boat, plop the butt in the seat then bring in leg and leg.

    To get out I go to shallow water. Bring out leg and leg; USE ARMS TO LIFT AT THE COAMING AND GET BUTT TO THE BACK DECK. Getting my butt up to the back deck lets me get my feet and legs under me to help hoist me out.

    I'm doubtful any device is going to help you. Exercises might. Try simulating the motions in your living room. A lot.
  • SIT on TOP easy exit and entry
    It is not like getting up from the ground or a low seat if you do it right.


    1 Start in knee deep water.
    2 Face out from the side of the cockpit.
    3 Sit down
    4 Swing your legs out.


    1 Start in knee deep water.
    2 I mean it. push the boat back out to knee deep water or it will be really hard.
    3 Swing both legs out to one side.
    4 Stand up.

    Sit on tops are much easier to enter or exit than canoes or most any other boat.

    The biggest problem folks have is trying it in shallow water, because it is like getting up of the ground. Old folks have a hard time getting up off the ground.

    The cockpit rim gets in the way if you try this with a sit inside.

  • Options
    You don't have to love it...
    I agree it will not solve everyones problems or even yours. But if the OP have problems entering from a dock I think she should at least have a look at the video to see if it might help her with the specific problems she is experiencing. I think best to let the OP decide what suits her needs. Her needs may differ from yours.

    I myself have no such issues but having helped hundreds of paddlers in and out of their boats I can see how this product would be helpful for many elderly people lacking in strength and/or mobility.
  • I'll say it more directly then
    -- Last Updated: Dec-07-12 7:57 AM EST --

    I lead evening paddles in the warm weather for a large local group with lots of aging folks, many of whom are dealing with post-surgical knees, weight issues and quite a lot of weakness in the upper body. I and the other trip leaders usually spend some amount of time helping newer paddlers, many of whom are also older paddlers, out of their boats back at the launch. My concerns about the risk of this device are based on actual experience.

    The shift of weight to a non-sitting position that is pictured for this device is the most dangerous phase, and the one that has most sends people into the water or the boat sliding sideways away from the dock. The physical position pictured, with the paddler crouching while still fully above the cockpit, sets up a risky balance point.

    For the scenario pictured, if there is a problem I tend to get the person's upper body weight over the dock earlier. Then the worst that happens is they get wet legs and someone has to retrieve their boat.

    I am able to get in and out of a boat just about any way I need, without any device including a paddle. It is necessary for the places we prefer to paddle. But this device sets up as many risks as it solves issues.

    Using the back deck as a transition point, as suggested by Kudzu, is device-free and keeps the weight low enough to help be safer. I use that for things like tall docks and have advised others to do the same if the paddle as a brace isn't working for them. Sometimes it doesn't due to strength issues, but mostly it helps.

  • Options
    Open your mind
    Ok, I'll be direct with you as well. Why don't you let the OP be the judge of wether this might be a good idea for her or not?

    My "actual" experince is that this would be helpful for many elderly or unfit paddlers I have helped launching from a dock. But as neither you or I know the specific needs of the OP or even if she is using a dock or a beach, all I suggest is that we leave it to her to decide. Since she is not new to paddling she is probably the best judge of what might be helpful to her?

    If you could watch the video you would realise that this very simple product will leave you with one hand free to place on the dock. Hence no problem with balance or with the boat sliding away as you suggested. Besides, since 75 year old Ingvar in the video find it helpful it would not seem too far fetched to think that others might find it useful to, would it? Or do you suggest that Ingvar is uncomparable to everyone else in the world?

    All I am saying is that this is one more option that may or may not help the OP. Why slam it if some already found it helpful?
  • Why spend money for a guess?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-07-12 5:05 PM EST --

    I admit I was in a grumpy mood. I was also put off by the concept that any older person of the female type - like myself albeit I don't have this issue - would not consider something just because of concerns voiced on a discussion board. I am guessing she is at least my age, and at past 60 I wouldn't care.

    My problem with it is that it requires an investment in equipment that might not even be apt for the OPer's boat, and could still leave her with the same problem.

    There suggestions that do not involve money first that might work. Unless and until the OPer lets folks know where her problem is - upper body strength, knees or other joints that won't bend well or basic balance - the no-cost options could work just as well and be easier to implement. In fact I am curious about why anyone would jump right on advising a device rather than start with the more basic steps that often work.

    And yes, Ingvar's knees bend a hell of a lot better than the post-surgical knees of a few women in our local paddling group. And not just older ladies - also better than the right knee of my 20-yrs-younger yoga instructor after a fall walking her enthusiastic but large puppy.

  • How I do it is
    Getting in, straddle the kayak and sit in, then pull my legs in. Getting out, I raise my bum to sit on the back deck, pull my legs out, then grab the cock pit combing at the front to pull myself up to a standing position, straddling the kayak. It does help with upper body strength to get the bum onto the back deck though.
  • Options
    Don't spend money
    Please understand, I am not suggesting against all other advice given by you and other posters. It is all good advice. The more the merrier. All I am saying is that this is another option that may or may not help depending on the circumstances. Since the OP is not new to paddling, chances are that she has already tried many of the previously mentioned advice.

    Born in a kayak shop and having paddled all his life, I'm sure Ingvar already knew of and considered all other options that has already been mentioned in this thread. Still he realized that he could use an extra handle to help with entry and exit. If he found it helpful, chances are others (not everyone) might also find it helpful.

    I should also point out that I'm not suggesting to order a simple product like this from across the world. (Given the fact that it might not fit her kayak.) But if the idea seems helpful to the OP she may consider it an inspiration for a low cost DIY project.
  • Options
    Kayak dock launch help
    I came across this item and it solved all our problems getting and out.


  • What's That Smell?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-08-12 10:55 AM EST --

    Smells like...

    some stealthy marketing. Anyone else smell it?

    (I'd just like a little $$$ for participating in this commercial.)

  • kayak balance
    Maybe you can enter and exit in shallow water with the boat parallel to shore. A sit on top might be easier. The important thing is to keep paddling and do not worry about how you look.
  • What I do with a dock like that
    There's a place where I paddle sometimes where the dock sits about level with the deck of the boat. I lay the top part of my body on the dock such that I can stick my legs in the boat. This casues the boat to come on edge and move slightly away from the dock, but my legs are in the cockpit and my arms are on the dock, I slide in and and I hip flick up. It feels a little like doing hip flicks on the side of a pool. I like the feel of that control I have. You can kind of do the same thing getting out, but it's not quite as elegant. I learned this when I launched off the back of my sister's powerboat once which has one of those ski platforms in the back. Probably not for everyone, but I like it for a low dock situation.

  • That's a Truly Embarrassing Ad
    Safety's all about entering and exiting your kayak, with the lads' jim-dandy little rig to help you, isn't it? And then off our hero goes, no nothing - PFD, spare paddle, throw bag, zipping right along that scenic concrete wall - a patter line and sound track that's right up there with fingernails on a blackboard - oh my, oh my...
  • Exiting
    -- Last Updated: Dec-14-12 4:39 PM EST --

    I have difficulty lifting myself out of the kayak.
    I've found I can exit by using the paddle against the bottom or the bank to stabilize the kayak I can rotate in the cockpit into a hands on the stern deck and knees in the seat, raise to my feet and step out of the kayak quite reliably. This in a ocean cockpit.

  • Rennyrij, I too am an older paddler.
    Depending on the put-in site, I use different methods.
    I use a paddle behind the seat method or straddle for shoreline entry. When straddling, at times, I will push the boat forward until clear of my legs then pull it to shore.
    I still paddle sit-inside kayaks but with cockpits a bit longer than sea kayaks, especially for longer trips. I have a 14' Necky Vector SOT that is 24 or 25" wide and it's a piece of cake (for me) to get out of. I can either exit by straddling or turning my body sideways, with the legs over the side and just stand up.
    Check out friends or other paddlers boats and if they're like most paddlers, they'll gladly let you try the fit and/or entering and exiting.
    I watched the video and though it seems a good concept, it wouldn't be for me. I didn't like the way one would have to put a hole into the top of top of the kayak, just forward of the cockpit and also to have part of the aperatus screwed to the floor of said boat. But that's just me.
    The gentleman that was the model in the video was tall and quite slim, which some of us older folks are not.
    As one who has experience working with older citizens, as noted in her replies, Celia made some good observations for folks to consider.
    Thanks to all for your input. May Rennyrij find what she's looking for and BTW--Welcome back!
  • painter line...
    Attach a nylon rope to your bow that easily reaches you in the cockpit and grab hold of the the line to help pull yourself up with one foot outside the boat. It helps to have someone holding onto the boat that will tend to slide backwards. Using this method allows some steadying and an elevated pull point from the normal combing height. Does take a bit of getting used to but handy in shallow water.
  • I have to agree with Celia on this
    I watched the video and that looks like just about the most difficult way I can imagine to get in and out a kayak for an older person. The guy in the video appears to have both upper and lower body strength and good balance and he's on the slim side. Many people over age 60 have problems in all three of those categories---strength, balance, and body weight. Some people have trouble getting out of a chair, let alone standing up in a kayak from a seated position.

  • This method is foolproof
    . . . except when there are strong waves arriving perpendicular to shore. So let's assume fairly calm conditions.

    This method requires the least strength and flexibility. It relies on gravity rather than strength.


    Place kayak parallel to shore.

    Hold paddle parallel to kayak.(Paddle will not be used to assist. You just want to protect it.)

    Grasp coaming with both hands at front of cockpit.


    Drop rear end gently into seat, using hands on coaming and foot in center to steady and support you.

    You are now in a balanced position with one foot still on the bottom of the lake for stability and you can stay like that as long as you like.

    Bring in other foot

    SIDESADDLE EXIT (described for left-side exit)

    Pull up parallel to shore in water about 12-14" deep. Shore is on your left.

    Take out left foot and place on bottom. Use that foot for balance.

    Left hand grasps coaming on left side of left knee. Right hand grasps coaming at front right of cockpit.

    Swivel body so your chest is facing the shore.

    Bring out right foot and place on bottom.

    You are now sitting sidesaddle in a balanced position with both feet on the bottom (of the lake). You can sit like that as long as you like.

    Now comes the only tricky part. Bend forward slightly and stand up. Do NOT push down with your left (forward) hand) as that will swamp you. DO push down with your right hand, which by now is behind you. That provides a counterforce for your body to push against and keep the kayak steady. Your body is putting pressure on the shore side of the kayak. You want to put equal counterpressure on the water side.

    This is a lot easier than it sounds. It just takes practice. I've only been dumped when hit from the side by a strong wave. That situation requires more rapid exit perpendicular to shore.

    Why does my method exit parallel to shore? So both feet are standing at the same depth in shallow water.

  • tktoo suggested trying a canoe and I
    suggest that MAY be a solution. It seem that trying to sit on or get up from a position that places your butt at or near floor level is difficult. Sitting or kneeling in a canoe is generally an easier position to attain or recover from.

    Yes, canoes can be tricky for someone with balance or other age related issues but the idea is worth trying. There are numerous variations to get into and out of the canoe as well, so some experimenting is likely to be worthwhile. I'd suggest beginning with a canoe on soft grass, sand or even indoors on a rug. A Royalex or similar plastic boat would be virtually immune from any damage in such a scenario. If after some experimentation, perhaps with some assistance, the idea shows promise, I'd move the boat to the water and try again. If done with a borrowed boat, it's a no cost experiment. How can you loose?

    Marc Ornstein
    Dogpaddle Canoe Works
    Custom Paddles and Woodstrip Canoes
  • Single blading
    Well, if I were an "elderly" female, single blading a canoe would not be my first choice, especially if the poster's resources are limited and the canoe is likely to be heavy.
  • If you get out of a SOT a little
    ways away from the shore, then "your butt at or near floor level" is no longer a problem. Just turn to the side, with your feet in the water, standing on the bottom. Stand up. I've got bad knees and leg strength issues and this has always worked well for me.
  • Canoe is likely to be heavy?
    Heavier than a kayak? I believe we're talking solo canoe.
  • Canoe heavy?
    -- Last Updated: Dec-24-12 9:44 AM EST --

    A solo canoe (I assume we were referring to a solo kayak) made of similar materials to the kayak in question will undoubtedly be lighter in weight than the kayak.

    Come to the Florida Canoe Symposium and try out a few. Better yet, sign up for classes. New this year is "Canoeing for Kayakers". The new class is expressly designed for kayakers who wish to add to their repertoire.

    See the website: www.freestylecanoeing.com

    Marc Ornstein

  • Exactly right
    As described in the sidesaddle method above. Getting the right water depth is important. I like about 14", or a few inches below the knees.
  • Example of a light CHEAP solo canoe?
    My intuition tells me that the OP is not going to be looking at kevlar etc. I tried an Old Town 12' Pack canoe and wow, was it ever slow.
  • Options
    Great answer
    Great answer from waterbird on entry and exit of kayak. This will work no matter how stiff or weak your legs and back are. I always wear knee high neoprene kayak boots and stay dry. Always ended up flipping in muddy swamp water till I started doing it this way! 75 years old and go alone in really remote places every week.
  • Kayak stabilization at launch and exit
    Go to www.kayaarm.com for effective, efficient devices for kayak stabilization at launch and exit.
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