Exercise/Stretching to make getting out of kayak easier

Hi all! I’m a 6-ft 240-lb 63 years male that is going to get back into paddling. I though I was in pretty good shape - till I had the chance to do a test paddle in a kayak I was considering to buy. had no issues lifting the 40-lb kayak above my head or carrying it solo the 1/8-mile to the launching site. It was getting out that did me in. Granted that one issue was the cockpit size made it difficult to get my stiff legs out, but it also was hard to get back up - seems I’m not using those muscle enough.

Can any of you who are also exercise gurus give me some ideas on exercises I can do? I though about going to the gym and getting a trainer, but they are all closed for the time being.

I have a bow line that reaches back to the cockpit and that can help getting up…

There are a lot of too-small cockpits out there for me, and I’m only 6’2". Its hugely easier to get in and out if the cockpit is long enough for you to fold and straighten your knees while sitting on the seat. If your candidate boat’s cockpit is too short or the front deck is too low to do that, buy something else.

Longer cockpit helps. But Yoga. It won’t hurt you to do it anyway at our age, and will directly help w kayaking.

Core exercises. Most are not at all difficult, you just need to do them regularly. I had back problems in my 40’s and now I’m your age and doing pretty well. I suggest that you look at YouTube and find some core exercises that you like. I bought a used exercise mat made for tumbling (it’s thick) and it gives me my place for doing core exercises. Core exercises can be as simple as lying flat on your back and lifting your (straight) right leg 15 times then same for your left leg…do three sets. Then flat on your stomach and lift each leg 15 times (3 sets) then on your side and lift each leg 15 times and do three sets. Maybe some gentle crunches too. My routine came partly from physical therapy recommendations but there’s just tons of stuff on the Internet or YouTube. For me the key was the routine, not the exercises. Set aside 15 minutes a day 5 days a week and start with whatever exercises you like, you can always change the exercises but the routine is essential. With even a gentle routine I think you’ll see benefits within 3 weeks.

Not an exercise guru but sounds like squats would be helpful since you found it hard to get back up. Also core and flexibility exercises. You can find examples at any reputable health site.

I do this one every day not because I have any pain, but because it stretches the piriformis muscles and opens the hip:

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Look up Bob and Brad, “the most famous physical therapists in the internet”. They have an exercise for just about anything and demonstrate them.

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Most people I’ve paddled with run their kayak up on shore and then try to get out. I’ve found it easier to be floating in 6-12 inches of water. I then put one leg over the side of the cockpit, touch the bottom and then use that leg to do much of the upward pushing to get me out of the seat. Because the foot starts out deeper, the leg is less bent and can give me more lifting power. Admittedly, this ends up requiring more balance with most weight on the one leg, but it works for me.

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Wolf has a point. I don’t know how long it has been since I got in or out of my kayak with it not floating on the water. Probably years now.

That does mean you have to be able to extricate your legs while sitting in the cockpit, then drop them over the sides to stand up.

Thanks for all the great advice. I tried to get out of the kayak by nosing it into shore. I still had about 6" of water below the cockpit. I used the paddle behind and grounded to try and get out - arms behind on paddle, coaming - lift and sit on back of seat/coaming while pulling legs out and down to each side. Couldn’t get legs to clear the cockpit. Tried again with kayak on shore - still hard to get out without help. Problem seems to be flexibility and not strength. Won’t hurt to lose a few pounds either :wink:

I’ll be working on stretching and flexibility while I search for my kayak!

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Out of curiosity, what kayak were you testing?

From your description, getting put for you was similar to exiting a Greenland style low volume qajaq where you learn to get your balance with the paddle, set you hands behind you (and the placement takes some experimentation) then push you butt out while keeping your legs straight until you knees clear enough to pull them up & get your legs out the rest of the way and to each side.If that is what that kayak requires you might want to be looking at one with a larger cockpit.

Core exercises are important for comfort and paddling technique. For me, work on stretching my hip flexors & lower back along with the Achilles have worked well to improve my comfort. I’m rather smaller that you but have about 6 years on you.

That’s a good way to bail out into the water. Nosing in to shore puts the bow “up”. It then works with the stern as pivot points making it tippy. Better to be parallel to the shore. Brace paddle to mud and back deck. I use paddle as “walking stick” when transition to standing. Loose the pounds and work on flexing legs.

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Just to be clear:
Is your cockpit opening so short that you can’t lift one leg out out with your butt in the seat, without the knee getting stuck under the deck?

In his other thread he noted it was a Pygmy Goldeneye HI,

Yep, saw that later

As to having just the nose of the paddle on shore and the rest of the boat floating, that is a good way to entertain onlookers. Almost guarantees getting wet. What Wolf and I talked about has the entire boat floating, easier to balance.

If you are going to do the thing with the paddle, you want the boat sideways to the shoreline so all of it is nearly grounded equally. Then the blade of the paddle rests on land, it isn’t going anywhere unless you snap it.

However you do it, you need to be able to pull your legs out of the cockpit. There are moments in some of the non-roll recoveries where you need to adapt to something going off tilt while you get your legs and posterior back into the boat. The normal tendency will be to bend a leg.

It sounds like you need to get some stretch into your hamstrings and piriformis (spelling?) as well as strength in your quads. FWIW, guys generally have issues with tightness in the second to start with. Let alone as they age. It would hardly be unusual for you to have issues there.


Boat is often easier to get out of if in 6 to 12" of water. A lower negative angle between knee and hip of the lifting leg is desired. It means getting your feet wet.

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Lots of good ideas here.
You’re on the right track. It caused you some difficulty, and you’re addressing it.
I suggest making it an intended activity for a few sessions. Start on the ground at home, and find a way that works for you that you can work out doing it smooth and balanced, and just repeat it until it’s strong, controlled, and balanced. Next, float your boat all the way in the water (as above, do not have one end on the bank - that’s less stable) and practice in and out, again until it’s strong, controlled, and balanced. When you do this on-water part, start with a swim. Get comfortable in the water. Get comfortable falling off of the kayak into the water. Then relax, and try to repeat what you practiced without any serious jitters for fear of falling in the water.
If you have to lift your butt onto the back deck to get your knees out, practice floating while sitting on the back deck. It helps if this can become a point of reasonable stability. On the other hand, if you can scoot your butt as far back in the seat as possible, and use your hands to pull an ankle in, and can get one leg in or out at a time, this will prove a much easier process. But you’ll get what’s necessary ironed out on dry land.
No better way to improve necessary coordination and strength than actually safely performing the activity to develop it.
I have a couple ocean cockpit sea kayaks among several others, and it always goes more smoothly if I just slip in and out on dry land a few times to refresh myself of how to work that piece the most smoothly. Then it’s a quick smooth motion when I do it for real, when every tiny little hitch and interrupted motion can jab at my balance.

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Best to get checked out by a Dr. (orthopedic) to make sure there’s nothing going on in your knees that would be further damaged. Dr can give you flexibility exercises, like the kind with a rubber strap or cut to fit rubber bands like Physical Therapy offices use.

I hate to be pessimistic, but I had a kayak with a similar small cockpit and a low front end without much wiggle room for my legs. I didn’t have too much difficulty getting in, but after a short time paddling it became uncomfortable. When I went to get out my legs were stiff. The cockpit was small enough that I couldn’t pull my knees up in front of me while sitting in the seat. I fell into the river multiple times getting out of my kayak. No amount of exercise or stretching was going to help. I never mastered getting in and out of that boat. The solution was buying a kayak with a larger cockpit and more leg room.