Launching your kayak well gets you off to a good start. You want to avoid injury when lifting or handling the boat, or damage to the kayak. And you don't want to go for an embarrassing swim just as you push off - we've all done it! These tips and techniques can help make launching an enjoyable and safe experience.




Like any other manual handling, lifting and carrying kayaks can cause injury.

  • It's best to avoid carrying a kayak on your own. When in a group, help each other carry kayaks to the water's edge.
  • Bend at the knees and not the hips when lifting the kayak.
  • Stand close to the kayak before picking it up. Don't twist your back.
  • Only carry light or empty boats using the toggles.
  • When carrying a heavier boat, support the kayak under the hull.
  • With an expedition kayak, empty the loads first and carry water and supplies separately.
  • Watch your feet. Be conscious that the person at the back may not see the ground as easily.

Solo lift

If you need to carry a kayak on your own:

  • Stand close to the kayak.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
  • Pull the kayak up onto your thighs before lifting it onto your shoulder.

Flat water launch

There are a variety of ways you can launch your kayak to suit your capabilities, your kayak, and the launch area itself.

A flat water launch from a smooth, sandy beach makes for ideal conditions. The simplest way to launch is to take your kayak to the water's edge and push your kayak's bow out into the water at right angles to the beach.

To stabilise the kayak while getting in, place your paddle behind the cockpit coaming. Lean on the paddle to get in, keeping your centre of gravity low. Take care not to damage the paddle.

  • Keep the grab handle out and accessible when doing up the skirt.
  • Lean forward and use your knuckles on the beach to slide the kayak further into the water.
  • You may need to 'shimmy' along the sand till you are fully launched.


Parallel launch

At other times you will prefer to launch with your kayak parallel to the beach, for example with a ruddered kayak, or if launching from a pontoon, rocks or river bank.  

Place the paddle behind the cockpit coaming with your blade flat on the sand. It will support your body weight as you sit behind the seat and swing your legs in.

Mid-water launch

You can also launch in the water, for example if you need to dodge rocks:

  • Keep your centre of gravity low when dropping into the seat.
  • Brace or scull with your paddle to support yourself while getting in.



Launching in small waves

Launching through a surf zone is out of the scope of basic skills.

When launching through small waves or a small shore break, you can use the same techniques as for flat water.

  • Choose your launch spot carefully to find the best conditions.
  • Keep your kayak at right angles to the waves.
  • When getting ready on the beach, waves may hit you and knock the kayak sideways. Lean the kayak to one side and use your hands to swing the bow back.
  • Timing is the key.
  • If helping someone else to launch, keep an eye on the waves, and stay on the sea-ward side to avoid being hit.