How to Enter a Kayak in Open Water

How to Enter a Kayak in Open Water
Knowing how to enter your kayak in open water can mean the difference between life and death. A number of factors---including currents, surf, wind, or simply trying out a new move---can contribute to a capsize. When practicing these skills the first few times, many prefer to practice in the still waters of a pool or lake. Eventually, it is important to practice in rougher conditions. Always wear a PFD (Personal Flotation Device).


Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak
  • Sprayskirt
  • Paddle
  • Paddle float
  • PFD (Personal Flotation Device)
Step 1
Practice exiting your kayak calmly and efficiently (entering your kayak in open water first requires you to exit the kayak.) You may want to practice this on dry land first. To do this, close your eyes to simulate being underwater, hold your breath and feel for the coaming or rim or the cockpit nearest your hips, then slide your hands forward along the coaming to reach the grab loop. Lock your elbows and lean forward to release the sprayskirt. Push off the coaming by your hips to get out of the cockpit.
Step 2
Paddle out to open water that is deep enough to make a wet exit and try what you have practiced in the water. As you are exiting underwater, blow a gentle, slow stream of air out of your nose to keep water from entering your nostrils.
Step 3
Hold onto your paddle and kayak immediately when you surface. Most paddles float, but they will drift faster than you think. Get in the habit of holding onto the paddle and the boat, which should still be upside down from when you exited. Stick one of your feet in the cockpit to keep the boat from floating away while you blow up your paddle float.
Step 4
Attach the paddle float to one of the blades on your paddle and then inflate it. Flip your boat right-side up again and stick the other end without the float under the deck rigging to secure it in place. The paddle should be at a right angle to your kayak and at behind the cockpit.
Step 5
Face the back deck of the boat, and situate yourself to the left of the paddle, which is at the back of the coaming. Kick your feet out behind you and swim onto the back deck of the kayak. Once balanced, slowly rotate so that you can straddle the boat.
Step 6
Keep your paddle shaft at a right angle to the kayak as you put the weight of your left leg on the paddle float and put your right leg into the cockpit. Replace the weight on the paddle float with your left hand, so you can swing your left leg into the cockpit as well. Situate yourself in your seat, and move the paddle in the front of you so you can remove the paddle float, and proceed to pump out water from your boat.

Tips & Warnings

Practice until you have this task---known as a whole self-rescue sequence---down pat so that it takes you less than two minutes to complete.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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