Launching your kayak from a rough shore or in rough weather conditions can be difficult and even dangerous if you don’t know what to do. But if you follow these steps, with a little practice you will learn how to launch a kayak safely anytime and anywhere.

How to launch a kayak

1) Position your boat

First, put your kayak completely in the water. Then position your boat away from the rocky shore and pointed into the wind.

2) Get seated

Next, sit on the back deck of the boat, so you can slide down and be fully seated inside the boat.

3) Swing your legs in

Once seated, bring your legs inside the boat. Then paddle the boat to an area that you can safely attach your sprayskirt.

Video: How to launch a kayak in rough conditions

For a more in-depth demonstration, instructor Steve Ruskay joins us from Black Feather Adventures near Parry Sound, Ontario. From the waters of the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve he demonstrates how to launch a kayak from a rough shore or in rough conditions.

Watch the video below:



  1. Fine advise if your legs are sufficiently short and your knees are sufficiently flexible to first sit in the kayak and then bring your legs in. Otherwise, like me, with a 35″ inseam and an artificial knee with somewhat limited range of motion, sitting before bringing in my knees will not work. So, I sit behind the cockpit, then insert my legs and slide forward until seated. Although less stable than first sitting, I need to use this sliding in method even with large size cockpits. If possible, getting into my kayak on land and sliding into the water is usually preferable.

    • I agree with Glen, I’m 77 and 17stn, getting in isn’t to bad it’s getting out. I’ve opted for a canoe and SOT. Happy paddling.

  2. This is far from a rough water or shoreline entry. This is generally a standard entry. Rough water entry would be used when launching into surf where you need to get out far enough to avoid waves on breaking the beach/rocks. We use a speed launch pushing the kayak out into the surf, then jumping on the back deck and entering as demonstrated.

  3. You make the assumption that no waves are going to set you back against the shore before you have entered your kayak. Your demonstration is in calm waters.

  4. Concur with Glenn. It is super helpful to have a reliable sculling brace to provide stability on one side while getting the second leg into the cockpit. With a little practice, thigh-deep water launches feel safe, and my hull and sieg appreciate floating above the gravel and rocks.

  5. I have a similar problem , as I have a TKR ( a Total Knee Replacement ) on my right knee with very limited fexibility, so I do the same as Glenn McCreery , by sitting on the kayak behind the cockpit , slide my legs in and then carefully try to slide my body in to place . I envy people with full flexibility , but I guess I really needed the new knee , which has enabled me to be able to walk with minimal discomfort ! I’m now 74 , having had my new knee for six years . I also have a new left hip , but that doesn’t pose any problems .

  6. That was pretty lame. One of the calmest rough water launching’s I’ve ever seen. If you’re going to advertise a rough water launching you need to show the real thing. I also agree with the comments on long legs. I have that problem myself. Maybe next time they can get it right.

  7. Hardly “rough seas” and marginally rough launch site given that even with larger rocks its often easy to find a flat launching pad from which to slide off into the water. Also no mention of simple paddle brace assist options and no mention of dealing with high seat back and/or gear (paddle float, etc.) usually stowed behind cockpit. Point is, it’s one way of entering a kayak, but certainly not the only way. Like anything, practice it in actual conditions so you know how your body and your boat will work together on this and other skills. Be Safe; Be Smart; Have Fun!

  8. “Launch a kayak safely anytime and anywhere.”… holy click bait!!! This technique demonstrated, in calm conditions, works well for many people. As many others have already commented it doesn’t work for all people. In what I think of as “rough conditions” you could be standing over your boat like that one moment and have a wave breaking over your head the next (choosing the right spot, technique, timing and speed become critical factors).
    How about recognizing that there are many different techniques for different people/conditions/boat styles, not to mention many times/places where there just is no safe and easy way to launch? With better technique more spots become useable, but around this country there are thousands of miles of coastline where, even on a calm day there’s simply no place to safely launch/land. In rough conditions judgement, technique, skill and fitness all play a big part, and there is no “one easy trick”.

  9. Not buying this, sorry. I’ve done surf launches in New Zealand and elsewhere (from beaches) — in those, you get into the cockpit in the surf zone, get your skirt on, and “hand-walk” the kayak down to the point where the next wave will float it, then once you’re afloat, paddle like hell into the next wave set. Obv you need good braces for this.

    I’ve seen (but not practiced) “seal” launches from slightly elevated rock ledges — you need a solid roll to try those.

    Yes, in mild- to moderate surf you can paddle out with your legs outside the kayak and the skirt off, but any wave that breaks over your bow runs the risk of filling your cockpit. If you succeed, once past the surf line, you can put on your spray skirt, possibly with the assistance of a paddle-float.

    This video comes off as lame and not realistic.

  10. I should have added, in a group trip, you can do the beach launch I noted with assistance to get you into the surf. The last person needs to be able to do what I mentioned.


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