Kayak-Getting in-out with low human flexibility

Sit in kayaks:
This is not medical advice. This is just what works for me; 68, bad knees, artificial hip, overweight, spinal surgery. This post is not intended for use with boats that will roll over if you look at them funny. Most recreational boats are stable enough to use these techniques. On a windy day, hold a rope tied to your boat, just in case :innocent:

I have the same problem getting out of low couches. The issue is gravity, muscle strength, and weight distribution. If my knees are higher than my hips, I need assistance. The key to this is being in 1-2 ft of water and getting hips higher than knees so that gravity is an assist rather than a hindrance.

Getting out of a kayak:
1 - warm day, warm water = fall out and blame the wave nobody else saw.
2 - small cockpit? Good luck. Position your hands on the cockpit rim and try to hoist yourself above the seatback onto the rear deck and swing your legs out to one side of the boat and stand up.
3 - longer cockpit? Stay in 1-2 ft of water, pull one leg up towards your chest and swing it over the side. Pull the other leg up and swing it over the same side. Hold onto the rim of the cockpit in a convenient location and roll/lean towards your legs and stand up. This is like getting out of a rocking chair. Some water might get into the boat, but that’s obviously a design flaw in the boat, not your fault.
4 - rotate your body (head towards the stern, belly towards the keel) until you can grasp near the rear cockpit rim and get one knee onto the seat. Bring up the other leg and hang it over the side. Push up on the rear of the cockpit and stand up on the leg in the water bringing the boat leg out at the same time or after. You can do this in low water or on your lawn too after a heavy rain.

Getting into the kayak:
1 - squat as far as possible and fall in. Can be painful and embarrassing. If you can straddle the boat and squat, that can work.
2 - (remember to be in 1-2 ft of water), face the bow put one foot into the boat, grab the cockpit rim behind your legs, lean on your arms, swing in the water leg and lower yourself to the seat.
3 - (this works in shallow water too), face the stern, grab the rear cockpit rim, bring one leg into the boat and kneel on the seat, bring in the other leg, then rotate your body to the seated position (sounds more difficult and more coordinated than it really is).
4 - grab the cockpit rim fore and aft, lower your rear end into the seat, swing your legs into the boat and settle in for a good time. Let the boat roll towards your legs while sitting, water probably won’t get in.

For me, fooling around with bracing the paddle and shuffling my body while holding onto the paddle and boat, proved to be clumsy (me) and difficult. Also, not all kayaks are built with a secure place to brace the paddle.

Other ideas? Rebuttals?


yes… The beached or unbeached whale techniques. I have used several of them.

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I’ve done the same. An additional help for me is my partner backs the truck down until the bed extender is where I can grab it and pull myself up until I’m standing.

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I’m 67 and a lifetime of work has wore my knees mostly out. They still get me from point A-B when walking but kneeling or doing a deep squat is out of the picture.

The trouble I have in my canoe is similar as after a 3-5 hours of paddling bad knees seem to be even worse.

I paddle my canoe with a double blade kayak paddle and I have no stern deck to get on so I have been using my paddle across the gunwales behind my back as a high seat position to shift to and then both feet over the side in a couple foot of water and stand up. Even thought of making a board the right width with a couple blocks to fit between the gunwales to bring along. Not sure but I think with a canoe being wider it might make the problem a little worse but then again your starting seat height is a little higher.

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An inflatable ball or flotation bag behind the seat might work in a kayak. For a canoe, how about an inflatable ball stuffed into a milk crate?
You can get 5 different size yoga balls on Amazon for $24 ea.

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58- arthritis- knee ops- know the entire chiropractor staff by first name-built heavy, but still carrying to much fat- both shoulders sound like rice krispies-

Why would one try to get out of the kayak in 1-2 feet of water unless you are at a dock?
Beach the boat. If you want to get on and off with that much movement out in the water, look at a raft.

Ok, to stick my 6’ 240# in my 22in wide boat, I exersize a bit a few times a week. Keeps the joints lubed.
To enter, I get all my junk on board, stick the paddle in the forward deck lines, straddle the boat with about 2 inches of water under the cockpit, sit on the rear deck with the hands behind my butt, put in one leg, then as the other goes in, slide my butt into the seat, get foots on pegs, get seatback sorted, grab the paddle and then do the motion that almost got me in trouble so many times in my late teens and twenties to scootch the boat into the water.
Getting out.
build up a head of steam on the water, hit the shore. tuck the paddle under the forward rigging, put hands on the sides of the cockpit, lift butt out of the seat and onto the back deck, get the legs out, hold the front and rear of the cockpit rim, rest, put my weight forward and stand up.


You can get out however you choose it’s your kayak. I won’t beach mine simply because it’s hard on the kayak and will cause unnecessary wear and tear over time. Sand and rocks are abrasives. I wet foot every time. Often I will pull parallel to shore and secure the paddle behind the cockpit and steady against the shore and lift out of the cockpit. When paddling with others and limited beach space I’ll stop in a half foot of water, pull up and sit on the rear deck and pull my legs out.


Well, mine is only 22 years old. When should I check for excessive wear?

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Mine is 18 and it looks great.

and it was a used livery kayak

Well like I said you can get out however you choose.

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and the question was about low flexibility. If one can do a dip out of the cockpit keeping it balanced and getting out while afloat, then low flexibility isnt a problem. Those of us who need a bit extra can use ground contact that will not hurt the function of the boat in any appreciable way in the foreseeable future but will make it possible to use. If it does enable one to use the boat until one wears it out, then that is just a bonus.

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We started checking… 30 years almost. 1993 boats.


I am finding this guy right on about muscle and balance loss and how to improve, and he speaks from his personal experience on how not to do more damage https://youtube.com/c/Uprighthealth

Flexibility and Balance are two different things. If someone is cruising around in the 22 inch beam kayak, balance is already assumed. I have a bad knee that causes me flexibility issues but it doesn’t affect my balance in the least. I’ve also broke my back in a cycling accident but again I can still maintain balance. Steadying a paddle against the shore as I mentioned can assist in balance as well. Running a kayak on shore can cause the kayak to tip to one side if it isn’t far enough forward.

Bad knees and damaged left shoulder since May 2019. During the last four trips, I finally restored the strength in my arms to push myself up out of the cockpit so I could withdraw my legs and stand. I guess if you damage muscle you use all the time, you’ll have to wake up the muscles that have been taking a free ride for a lifetime. I found it takes more persuasive force to get them to comply. No free rides.

Age 82. 250 lbs, 6’1"; arthritis, but in decent overall physical shape. I’ve been kayaking in SOT yaks for the last 10 years.

It seems to this old codger that the biggest mistake I see people do, when trying to exit any type of kayak, is to do it in too little depth of water. They put the yak in four inches of water; swing their legs over, and push. That can only lead to pushing the yak further away from the exit point.

As said before; swing the legs over in 12/15 inches of water (depends on your height) and STAND UP. You can use the paddle as a staff, or lay the paddle across the yak and use its strength as a base on which to push. Just my opinion, of course.


68 year old moderately overweight woman with 2 hip and one knee replacement, arthritis in other knee as well. Upper body strength is decent. I learned a few years back to back paddle into shore with at least stern grounded. Uses gravity to my advantage pushing up and out of kayak especially if there is even a mild incline. I have a narrow enough cockpit that I push myself up with hands on either side of cockpit to rest on seat back and then pull my knees up and straddle the cockpit to stand on lake or river bottom, usually in at least a few inches of water. Then just push kayak forward between my legs.
For several years we had some strong young men in the group that would straddle the front of my kayak and hold a paddle parallel to the ground for me to grab and help pull me up!
(Worked well for several of us older paddlers!) I am not ready to give up this sport!


Any suggestions for self rescue in deeper water for someone with low flexibility.

I like to get in and out in knee deep water if possible. So much easier. Saves the boat from scratches on a pebbly shore.