As we age, it becomes increasingly important that we choose sports that we can continue to participate in as our bodies change. Kayaking is definitely one of those sports, but it may require some adaptations as we grow older.
For seniors, entering and exiting a kayak can be the roadblock that hinders us from continuing to enjoy kayaking as we age. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you’re familiar with the best techniques for entry & exit from a kayak for seniors.
These techniques will help you avoid uncomfortably bending at the knees, hips, or back in order to enter or exit your kayak. And they will also give you the safest methods possible so that you avoid the potential for injury before or after your paddle.
Even as our joints don’t quite bend and function as they once did, we can still get out and enjoy the sport of kayaking. And the best part about these techniques is that you don’t need to overspend on one of the best kayaks for older adults to make them work!
So let’s climb in gently and carefully!
- General Tips For Entry & Exit From Kayak For Seniors
- Easy Kayak Entry Methods For Seniors
- Easy Kayak Exit Methods For Seniors
- Final Thoughts
- Enjoyed Entry & Exit From Kayak For Seniors? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the Kayak Help journey.
General Tips For Entry & Exit From Kayak For Seniors
For starters, there are some general tips you can use to more easily enter and exit your kayak. Some of these tips involve healthy lifestyle habits while others are more technical, but they will all be useful for easy kayak entry & exit.
Make Stretching A Daily Habit
Many folks believe that the best way to stay active as you age is simply to keep participating in the activities that you’ve always known and loved. We firmly believe that to be true and have personally witnessed the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” phenomenon.
But if you’re starting to notice that getting into your kayak is much more difficult than it used to be, then consider incorporating 20-30 minutes of stretching into your daily routine.
This will help you loosen up your legs, back, shoulders, and anywhere else you’re experiencing tension or tightness.
If you don’t quite know where to start with a stretching routine, we highly recommend a quick YouTube search. This will undoubtedly turn up many videos with quick and easy stretching routines you can do at home.
When your muscles and ligaments are more loose and relaxed, you’re going to have a much easier time bending and squatting to get into your kayak.
And the added benefit of stretching is that you’ll be more comfortable once you’re in your kayak so that you can continue to enjoy long days on the water.
Always Kayak With A Partner (or Partners!)
This is a general recommendation for safe kayaking that even many experienced kayakers follow once they have countless hours of kayak experience under their belts. But there are benefits for easier kayak entry and exit if you always paddle with a partner (or partners!) as well.
Some of the easier kayak entry & exit techniques for seniors require a helping hand to execute properly. So you may need an extra set of hands to work together to get in and out of your kayaks if you find that one of these techniques works best for you.
Of course, there’s always the argument for having at least one younger, able-bodied kayaker in your crew. But the reality is that having a paddle partner of any age or physical stature will allow you to have more entry & exit techniques at your disposal.
It will also place a trusted companion by your side if anything does go wrong while entering or exiting your kayak and it’ll also give you someone to converse with and share in your kayaking adventures.
Choose A Sit On Top Kayak When Possible
We must admit there are certain situations where a sit-inside kayak is almost required over its sit on top counterpart. If you want to learn more about those situations, check out our article comparing sit on top versus sit inside kayaks.
One of the benefits of a sit on top kayak for seniors is that they have much larger cockpits than their sit inside counterparts. This makes it easier for you to enter and also gives you more space to find a comfortable position once you’re seated in the kayak.
These are the main two reasons why many seniors can benefit from choosing a sit on top kayak whenever possible. But these kayaks are also much easier to climb back in deep water, which hopefully doesn’t happen to you.
If it does, however, sit on top kayaks require less upper body strength and balance to climb back into in deep water. So, in addition to being easier to climb into onshore, they also allow you to recover from capsizing with less effort.
Find An ADA-Accessible Dock In Your Area
One of the most clever tricks for easy entry & exit from a kayak for seniors is to find an ADA-accessible dock in your area.
This can come in handy even if you don’t have a specific handicap and many locations will allow seniors to launch from their docks for little or no charge.
These docks are specially equipped with easy launch accessories that are designed to make kayaking accessible for individuals with physical disabilities.
One of the best accessories out there is the EZ-Launch System, which allows you to get into your kayak on a dry dock and then slide into the water using handrails (pictured below).
Many of these docks also have seats that make it easier to sit and then slide over and gently into your kayak. These seats are designed to help individuals with partial paralysis enter a kayak, but they can also be very useful for seniors with tight hips or knees.
There are also a number of additional accessories you might find on the ADA-accessible dock in your area.
But they are all meant to make entering and exiting your kayak much easier, which is why finding (and gaining access to) one of these docks is like a cheat code for easy kayak entry & exit for seniors!
Easy Kayak Entry Methods For Seniors
Imagine you’re just starting out your day at the lake. Hopefully, you’ve made use of one of the best kayak carts, wheels, and trolleys to get your kayak down to the water with ease, but now it’s time to get into your kayak so you can start paddling.
The Straddle Method
This method is most useful if you’re launching from a beach or a shallow shoreline because it does require that you get your feet wet.
It also requires that you’re able to stand comfortably in the water without battling a current or struggling to maintain your balance on an uneven lake bottom.
But if you can find a nice sandy beach or shoreline with sand bottom, you should be able to employ the straddle method with relative ease. To set up for this method, you’ll want to get your kayak into the water deep enough so that it’s not touching the bottom.
Aim for water that’s ankle-to knee-deep in order to ensure that you won’t get stuck trying to push your way into deeper water using the blades of your kayak paddle, which is a surefire way to break a paddle before you even get started.
Also, make sure that everything you want for your day is already loaded onto your kayak before executing this technique.
But once you have those criteria met, set up with your paddle in one hand and the bow of your kayak between your legs. Using your free hand, bring the kayak forward between your legs until the seat is positioned directly underneath your hips (as shown below).
You’ll most likely need to widen out your legs as the widest part of your kayak comes underneath you. But moving the kayak (instead of walking one way or the other) allows you to keep your feet more stable and take advantage of the fact that your kayak is floating.
Once your kayak seat is directly underneath your hips, squat gently until your hips are settled into the seat. You’ll then need to bring your legs into the cockpit and re-adjust for comfort before you actually set out paddling.
If you do have a paddle partner close by, you can ask him or her to help stabilize your kayak from the stern as you sit into it.
If you want to keep both of your handsfree for this technique, you can either utilize your paddle parks, ask your partner to hold your paddle, or simply slide it into the cockpit as you’re entering your kayak.
It should be noted that this method is much easier when you’re paddling a sit on top kayak because you won’t have to bend your knees into your chest to get your legs into the smaller cockpit of a sit-inside kayak. So if you do have a sit inside, check out this next method!
The ‘Modified Straddle’ Method
If you’re intent on sticking to your sit-inside kayak, then there is a relatively simple way you can modify the straddle method to work for you. To set up for this modification, however, you’ll want to keep the bow of your kayak on the shoreline for extra stability.
Then, you’ll want to set your paddle into the cockpit or secure it using the paddle park on the gunwale so that your hands are free. From here, stand on one side of your kayak with your hips facing away from your kayak.
Your goal for this next step is to sit on the deck of your kayak just behind the cockpit. To do so, gently bend at the knees until your hands can reach the sides of your kayak to give you a little extra stability.
In terms of hand placement, you’ll want to reach the hand that’s closest to the bow of your kayak over to the opposite gunwale so that you can keep the kayak stable as you put more weight into it.
With your hands on opposite gunwales, gently set your hips on the deck of the kayak just behind the cockpit. From here, it’s time to twist so that your upper body is pointing towards the bow of your kayak.
Now it’s time to set your first foot into the cockpit and you’ll want to lead with whichever foot is closest to the bow of your kayak.
As you set your first foot into the cockpit, your second foot may need to slide forward towards the bow of your kayak to keep you stable.
Once you have one foot in, your entire torso should be facing towards the bow of your kayak and your hips should be comfortably in the center of the kayak.
By sitting on the deck behind the cockpit, this makes it easier to slide your legs into the cockpit without bending too far at the knees.
But this next step should be done with caution and, if you have a paddle partner, now is a great time to ask him or her to stabilize your kayak from the stern.
If you don’t focus on keeping your weight aligned with the midline of your kayak to avoid rolling to one side or the other.
With your hips remaining on the deck of your kayak behind the cockpit and your hands providing additional points of contact on opposite gunwales, you can lift and slide your second foot into the cockpit until you find yourself in a similar position as the kayaker in the below photo.
From here, you’ll want to slightly lift your hips and slide forward until you’re sitting in the seat of your kayak. During this step, getting into your kayak seat as quickly as possible can help reduce the likelihood of tipping when you’re still seated on the deck of your kayak.
That’s why many experienced kayakers will lift their second foot into their kayak while simultaneously lifting their hips forward and into the cockpit. But if you’re unsure of yourself at first, it can be good to complete these steps in sequence.
Also, remember that quickness doesn’t always lead to accuracy, so a better word for the movement you should be shooting for here might be decisive.
The more decisive you can be in lifting that second foot in and sliding your hips forward, the higher your chances of success will be.
And finally, remember that a higher center of balance always translates to less stability. So the higher you lift your hips when you go to slide them forward into the cockpit, the less balanced you will feel.
Easy Kayak Exit Methods For Seniors
Now that you’re into your kayak easily and you’ve done as much paddling as you can handle for one day, it’s time to get back out of your kayak safely and (hopefully!) as easily as possible. So check out some of these easy kayak exit methods for seniors.
Reverse The Straddle Method
As you might imagine, the first technique for getting exiting from a kayak for seniors is a simple reversal of the straddle entry method we detailed above. But it does come with a few special considerations that we should mention.
To set up for this method, it can actually be useful to utilize the shore or beach this time around. So, as you approach the beach, gather as much speed as possible so that you can beach the bow of your kayak as far up onto the shore as possible.
Of course, this relies on having a sandy shore that won’t damage your kayak. If you’re exiting your kayak at a concrete boat launch, you’ll want to be more gentle with your approach and if you’re exiting on a rocky shoreline, we’d strongly encourage you to reconsider exiting at an alternative location.
Once you beach your kayak for this method, however, you can gently toss your paddle up onto the shore to keep your hands free.
If you don’t want to toss your paddle, you can also attach it to the paddle park on the gunwale of your kayak or set it down in the cockpit.
Once you have your hands free, lift your feet out to either side of the kayak to set up for the reverse straddle. If you have enough upper body strength, you can then place your hands on the gunwales at your hips and left your hips until your feet touch the beach on the sides of your kayak.
From here, you can walk your hands toward the bow of your kayak until you’re in a comfortable position to stand. If you don’t feel comfortable lifting your hips, you can simply skip that step and roll forward until you can place your hands in the cockpit in front of you (as seen below).
This will allow you to push up from a position that utilizes your larger upper body muscles. And, if all else fails, you can even slowly crawl your way all the way up and out the bow of your kayak until you’re safely onshore.
The Roll-Out Method
This method of exiting a kayak is really useful for seniors with especially tight hips and knees. But the only problem with this method is that it does require you to get wet, so we only recommend using it on very warm days or when you need a little lake shower anyway.
That said, it’s a relatively straightforward method that minimizes any stress or strain on your knees, hips, ankles, or back when exiting a kayak. And, as you might imagine, it simply requires rolling out of your kayak and then standing up and walking into shore.
That said, there are a few general pointers that will make this method much easier if you’ve never tried it before. For starters, you’ll need to make sure that your kayak is in water that’s shallow enough for you to stand but deep enough for you to avoid hitting any submerged objects.
That’s where you can use your kayak paddle as a useful guide for gauging water depth and also the safety of the submerged water underneath your kayak. By sticking your kayak paddle straight down into the water, you can estimate how deep it is depending on the length of your paddle.
For example, let’s say you’re utilizing a six-foot paddle and you stick it straight down into the water until it touches the bottom.
The water level then reaches the exact midpoint of the paddle shaft, which allows us to estimate the water depth at approximately three feet.
In addition, you can also use the paddle to feel around on the bottom for any large rocks, stumps, or other potentially hazardous submerged objects.
This is especially useful if you’re attempting the roll-out method in locations where the water clarity doesn’t allow you to visually see the bottom.
As a general rule, we recommend aiming for a minimum water depth of four feet when you’re attempting this exit method. That will give you enough clearance to avoid hitting anything and will still be shallow enough for most folks to stand once they roll.
When you’re comfortable with the water depth, hold onto your paddle, and lean one direction until you’re enjoying the brisk waters of your favorite paddling location. If you’re paddling a sit on top kayak, exiting the kayak and then standing up comfortably shouldn’t be an issue.
But if you’re paddling a sit inside kayak, there is a bit more nuance to making sure you exit your kayak when you roll. So if a sit inside is your kayak of choice and you’re interested in trying the roll-out method, we also recommend studying our article on how to execute a wet exit properly!
Kayaking is truly one of those sports that should not have an age limit associated with it. In fact, we find that many folks get into kayaking later on in life because it provides amazing opportunities to slow down and unplug from the fast-paced lifestyle they’ve lived for many years.
With these techniques for entry & exit from a kayak for seniors, you can literally enjoy kayaking for as long as you desire. Don’t let age or tight joints hold you back from exploring new waterways and enjoying the sport of kayaking!