Getting into and out of a kayak isn’t the easiest endeavor even if you’re completely healthy and very limber. If your knees aren’t what they used to be, it’s important that you know how to get out of a kayak with bad knees as safely and easily as possible.
Fortunately, there are a variety of tips and tricks for getting out of a kayak with bad knees. And there are also some clever techniques that will help you get into a kayak with minimal discomfort if you’re tight or have bad knees.
Today, we’re going to dissect those techniques and provide clear advice on how to get out of a kayak with bad knees. And we’ll also provide some insights into ways to can make entering and exiting your kayak much easier.
So let’s get started!
- How To Get Out Of A Kayak With Bad Knees
- Tips For Easier Kayak Entry And Exit
- Final Thoughts
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How To Get Out Of A Kayak With Bad Knees
Kayakers everywhere know that simply getting in and out of your vessel can sometimes be the biggest challenge. That’s especially true if your knees don’t bend the way they once did, in which case you’ll need to experiment with some of these helpful techniques.
The ‘Shallow Water’ Exit
The first method we’ll address is called the shallow water exit (or at least that’s what we call it). When you’re paddling into the beach or wherever you’re landing your kayak, stop short of allowing the bow to completely push up onto the shore.
Use your paddle to test that you’re in about six to 12 inches of water before you attempt this technique. Once you’re confident in the water depth, swing both of your feet out to one side of the kayak or the other (it doesn’t matter which side).
Turn your body so that you’re facing perpendicular from your kayak and scoot towards the edge until your feet touch the ground. From here, you can let go of your paddle or place it on one of the paddle parks on the gunwale of your kayak.
Once you have your hands free, use them to push off the edge of your kayak and stand up. Because you’re in six to twelve inches, this technique will help you stand up from more of a seated position rather than a deep squat.
The ‘Go For A Swim On A Hot Day’ Exit
If that first method doesn’t feel great or work well for you, you can try this next method on for size. As a caveat, however, we only recommend using this kayak exit method on hot days or if you’re fine with getting wet.
To set up for this exit method, paddle until you’re a little way offshore in about waist-deep water.
Again, you can utilize your paddle to check the depth of the water and you should be looking for a depth that’s about half the length of your paddle shaft.
If you’re paddling in clear waters, perform a visual check to make sure there aren’t any large rocks or tree stumps on either side of your kayak. If you’re paddling in murky waters, use your paddle to feel around the bottom and make sure the area is clear of hazards.
From here, your next step is to essentially flip your kayak over so that you go for a swim. You’ll then be able to find the bottom with your feet and stand up with much less strain on your knees than you would if you were standing from a squatting position onshore.
If you’re paddling one of the best sit on top kayaks, you should have no problem flipping and going for a swim. But if you’re paddling a sit-inside kayak, you should take some time to study up on the techniques for a proper wet exit before attempting this method.
That being said, we do have one final piece of advice if you’re struggling to tip your kayak for this method. It can be useful to grab the handle opposite of the direction you’re trying to flip in order to really get yourself into the water.
The ‘Phone A Friend’ Exit
If you’re paddling with a friend or a partner that has better knees than you, you can always phone a friend when it’s time to get out of your kayak. This method is great because it usually allows you to stay drier than the other two methods we’ve previously touched on.
As you’re getting ready to land, give your kayak a couple of extra-strong paddle strokes so that you slide up onto the beach as far as possible when you make landfall. From there, you can toss your paddle up onto the beach or set it on your kayak so that your hands are free.
Just like the shallow water exit, you’re now going to turn your body so that it’s perpendicular and both of your feet are touching the ground on one side of your kayak or the other.
Again, the side you choose doesn’t really matter, but you can favor one side if one of your knees is better than the other.
Before we go further, we’d like to clarify that last point. Because most beaches or shorelines are slanted, there’s going to naturally be more strain on your downhill knee as you’re trying to get out of a kayak.
So if your left knee is worse than your right, for example, you might want to get out on the right side of your kayak so that the greater strain is on your right knee. And the opposite would be true if your right knee is worse than your left.
Anyhow, once your body is perpendicular to your kayak and both of your feet are touching the ground, it’s time to phone a friend. Ask that friend to assume a stable position with their feet wide and their knees bent.
From here, grab each other’s forearms so that there’s no unnecessary pressure on your hands or wrists. Here’s a quick photo showing you the arm-lock strategy we recommend for this kayak exit method:
After you have your arms locked, you can count down together so that you both know when you’re going to stand and your friend is going to help pull you to your feet. Making sure you’re in sync is really important during this step.
As you stand together, make sure your friend doesn’t let go of you prematurely. There’s a common kayaking phenomenon (that’s also common to boating in general) known as ‘sea legs’.
Even for a few moments after you’ve stood up, it may take some time for you to gain your balance and walk up onto the shore. So make sure your friend escorts you until you feel safe and stable back on dry land.
The ‘Crawl Out’ Exit
If all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with trying the crawl out method once you’ve beached your kayak on land. This method might look a little funny to any onlookers, but it’s effective, and who really cares what they think anyway?!
Just like in the previous method, you’re going to want to gain momentum so that the bow of your kayak makes it as far up onto the beach as possible when you land. Once you’ve landed, toss your kayak paddle gently up onto the beach and prepare to give onlookers a show.
Now you’re going to want to turn your body perpendicular to your kayak and set both feet out on the ground like you’re setting up for the ‘phone a friend’ exit. But instead of calling your friend over next, you’re going to take matters into your own hands.
With your body perpendicular to your kayak and both feet on the ground, roll your body toward the shore so that you end up on your belly on top of your kayak. This is the same position you would wind up in if you fell out of your kayak and just pulled yourself back on.
From here, you can gently back up onto your hands and knees on the shoreline. Then you can crawl up onto the shore and flip over again so that you’re sitting down and you have a moment to collect yourself.
When you want to stand up, a sloped beach could make it easier, but you can also turn over again so that you’re on your hands and knees once more. From there, you’ll need to channel your inner yogi and gently work your way into a downward dog position, which looks like this:
Once you’re in that position, you can gently walk your feet (step by step) up to where you feel comfortable standing again.
Keep in mind that this technique may not be comfortable for everyone, but it can provide a healthier alternative than standing straight up from a squatted position in a kayak.
Additionally, you can always skip the step of turning over and sitting on the beach to collect yourself if you’re in a hurry. But we like to include it in there because it’s good to give ourselves a break once in a while!
Tips For Easier Kayak Entry And Exit
The good news is that there are several things you can do to make it easier to enter and exit your kayak. Some of them involve kayak accessories that you can buy and others involve healthy practices that you can do on land before even attempting to get into and out of your kayak.
You may not believe in the benefit of daily stretching if you have serious structural damage to your knees, but loosening up the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around your knees can make a significant positive impact on your ability to get out of a kayak.
In fact, daily stretching can have a myriad of positive effects on your body that actually have nothing to do with kayaking. But the more limber you are, the easier it is for your body to move, which is why this is out top tip for easier kayak entry and exit.
Elevate Your Legs While Paddling
Even young folks experience the discomfort of their knees stiffening up while kayaking, not to mention the tightening of other muscles above and below your knees.
If you sit flat-legged in your kayak, blood can pool around your knees and make them very uncomfortable when you’re ready to get out of your kayak.
That’s why we recommend elevating your legs while paddling by placing a dry bag, backpack, or other soft item under your knees. This will help you reduce that pooling of blood and help you feel less stiff when it’s time to get out of your kayak.
Wear Knee Pads
This is a great tip for easier entry and exit if you find yourself regularly using our ‘crawl out’ exit method. It’s probably going to be uncomfortable to climb out of your kayak onto the shore the first time around.
That’s especially going to be true if you’re not always climbing out onto a nice, soft, sandy beach. So wearing knee pads is definitely an easy and affordable way to make entering and exiting your kayak easier.
Kayaking should always be a relaxing and fun experience, regardless of your preference for paddling on oceans, lakes, bays, or in whitewater. But you can’t get on with that fun unless you can comfortably get into and out of your kayak.
Many experienced kayakers simply stop enjoying the sport they love because of the discomfort they experience trying to enter and exit their kayaks. But we hope that the recommendations we’ve provided will give you the knowledge to keep enjoying kayaking for years to come.
In spite of some common sayings out there, we’re never quite too old to learn something new.
And it is our desire that you’ve absorbed something today that will help you better understand how to get out of a kayak with bad knees so that you can enjoy more comfortable paddling experiences moving forward!