Respect for the water god
I do not want to seem pretentious and confrontational so I do not launch bow first. That is a frontal assault of the water and looking it straight in the eye like that might offend it.

I also do not want to turn my back on the water because showing it my backside may be offensive. Showing a lack of concern is also showing a lack of respect.

I launch sideways and only glance casually at the water so as not to offend.

starboard first
Ryan L.

Red right re-turning
That means turn to the right continuously while you are waiting for green (for go). If need be wait until sundown and the green flash at the horizon, then paddle like hell which ever way you are turned.


– Last Updated: Jun-27-12 8:10 PM EST –

I didn't say the skeg was deployed on launch (and why would anyone do that?). That said, many skegs are still a little proud normally, like in my Explorer, and even if not proud it is a royal pain to get out on the water then find out you got a small pebble in there that is blocking it. At the least, it means that someone else has to come to my aid when I could skip the whole problem by floating the stern and checking before getting in.

Much of our paddling on the ocean is from rocky, pebbly beaches. It is not hard to get a pebble in there at every launch.

I also don't understand the timing you envision for turning around. As I said, I wait until things are less white around me. If the waves were seriously large, I could catch a wave sideways and turn around the same way I would if I had ridden it in. I have generally found it it most helpful to go out backwards at wave height you mention, a couple of feet, because they are usually easy to manage backwards and it works when they are that close together. I definitely get less water in my cockpit with my back blocking it than with my lap open to it.

Also, why would paddling backwards be any more likely to break a paddle than paddling forward? The direction the paddle is facing doesn't change the depth of the water.

Northern California
Has some pretty steep beaches with a fast dropoff. This generally means we get a lot of dumping surf, not something one wants to approach sideways. Backward is ok, but most commonly, what is done here is as follows:

-2nd skilled kayaker is nosed into the water so the bow is wet, stern is dry. It is held in place by other kayaker(s) until he/she is buttoned up

-Once the conditions look good, the boat is pulled into the water on the next good wave and off he/she goes

-repeat until only most skilled kayaker is left on the beach

-kayaker straddles boat and noses it into the spot where water may float the bow on incoming surf. Then he/she either (a) sits in the boat, attaches skirt, and hip thrusts out into the water until the boat is afloat, or (b) walks boat into the water, plops into the seat, paddles out beyond surf zone, retracts legs and attaches skirt. (b) is generally done in calm conditions only, but it can be done in modest dumping surf if timed well.


It must be a regional thing again.

– Last Updated: Jun-27-12 11:15 PM EST –

I've never seen anyone try to paddle out backwards through the surf zone. It doesn't mean you couldn't do it, but I like to be facing breaking waves, especially those that are diagonal or mixed angles. Besides, I don't gorilla walk out as well backwards.

The reason I might break a paddle would be the potential for an uncontrolled broach in the surf with a cockpit full of water, and a throwing a bad brace while getting rolled in the shallows by an unexpected diagonal catching an edge. I'd rather just deal with a stuck skeg.

I must say though, if that's the way you do it, it sounds like an interesting adaptation of proficiency development as a result of local pebble problems.

stern first, except in surf

– Last Updated: Jun-27-12 11:26 PM EST –

Nothing to do with superstition, all due to practical considerations.

As someone pointed out, water is fluid superstition is rigid. Disaster combination!

Like others with skegged boats, I prefer to launch stern first. To be exact, I float the stern so there's no chance for pebbles to get into the skeg slot.

(BTW, I learn to kayak in noCal and it's pretty common to see people launching stern first there -- how else did I learn to do that?)

In surf, I would get in well out of water, put the skirt on, then "walk" the boat to the edge of water and wait... Time the last couple of pushes very rapidly, right when the wave floats the boat completely! Paddle like mad to punch through...

It seems the kind of beach that has sizeable surf don't seem to have pebbles that would jam my skeg...

My boats are floating parallel to the shore when I launch.

I never scoot off the shore or ramp to launch.

No superstition involved, just boat care.

I’ve done it for fun
and it was fun!

My 2 cents
It seems to be easier for me to push off of a beach stern-first (with the rudder up, of course), and because I put on the spray skirt from the back to the front, I’m a bit less likely to take on water if I get hit by the chop or a wake from a large nearby protected bay.

If I had help I might take off bow-first so I wouldn’t have to turn around once I was on the water.

If I’m at a launch ramp I take off from the dock (if there is one) depending on which way it’s convenient to put the boat in.

Everyone else I’ve seen launching a kayak at a public launch ramp launches from the bottom of the ramp instead of the dock, thereby keeping other people from using the launch ramp until they are all done, and, perhaps, instilling in the rest of the boating public the notion that kayakers are…inconsiderate people. (The irony-challenged will want to note that “inconsiderate people” is a euphemism for a more common, but offensive, term.)

It isn’t that difficult to use the dock, and it may even be a useful thing to know how to do. Try it sometime; expand your horizons!

I feel better now.

launching at boat ramp
"Everyone else I’ve seen launching a kayak at a public launch ramp launches from the bottom of the ramp instead of the dock, thereby keeping other people from using the launch ramp until they are all done, and, perhaps, instilling in the rest of the boating public the notion that kayakers are…inconsiderate people. (The irony-challenged will want to note that “inconsiderate people” is a euphemism for a more common, but offensive, term.)"

Kayakers have just as much right to use the launch ramp as power boaters! It’s no different than if a motor boat comes to the launch and had to wait for another motorboat finish launching/retrieving!

Should kayakers take their sweet time to put on their skirt while a line of power boaters are waiting? No. But I’ve never seen THAT many kayakers launching from a boat ramp that it causes any noticeable delay for motor boat launches.

I don’t believe we have to hurry out of way as soon as a motorboats appear on the scene.

I’ve seen kayakers lollygag at ramps

– Last Updated: Jun-28-12 10:53 AM EST –

Unless the dock or whatever alternative is available is going to be a major PITA, I prefer launching anywhere that motor boats aren't including from taller docks. If nothing else, that way I am not holding anyone up with an oh shit moment to run back to the car and grab whatever AI just realized I forgot.

But frankly, large groups of kayakers even trying to be well behaved can be difficult at ramps. And I've seen groups of 40 plus around here. They take too long because some portion of the crowd is insisting on getting in with the boat sideways using the paddle to keep their darned feet dry, so each person takes a couple of minutes and they can only go one at a time. While one person gets in this way, four of us who just walk the boat in, float it and plop into the seat with wet feet and calves could be away from the dock and pulling our skirts on.

I have also seen kayakers simply take too long getting their shit together at crowded ramps, assembling all their gear into their boat at the ramp rather than away from there and walking in over. There are ramps around here where you can do that because there is no boat traffic, but it should never happen at a busy ramp.

Not a majority of kayakers at all, but enough to cause comment.

always bow first
I also haul it bow first to the lake and water.

I’m not superstitious but I figure that my life is in the hands of my kayak and if I make it happy by letting it see where we are going, it will be more likely to keep me safe.

I paddled with large groups
that’s about the only time I found myself launching from a boat ramp. Otherwise, I tend to paddle where motor boats aren’t. So no ramps.

When there’s such a large groups, it’s really up to the “leader” or “initiator” to remind people they shouldn’t be at the ramp blocking traffic! And one easy way to do so is to ask the first few people arriving to line their boat up off the ramp: side of ramp, for example. That sets the example all other late arrivals will follow. Then, it’s only when people are ready that they go down the ramp.

When a trailer is seen approaching, simply stop anyone who’s not already at the water’s edge from carrying down the ramp. That left whoever that’s already at the bottom with full view of the trailer approaching. You’ll be surprised how quickly they got out of the way!

This won’t work too well if it’s such a busy ramp that a trailer is arriving every 2 minutes! But really that’s NOT the kind of ramp a group should be launching from in the first place, unless you really truly don’t have ANY better options…