How to exit your kayak in current

You round the corner and see water spraying up off something unexpected in the next drop… you stroke for shore, try to get out to scout but then .. oops!


Your skirt is off, your paddle is on the bank, your bow catches current and suddenly you’ve got to decide whether to hand-paddle the rapid or jump and swim for the bank? STOP! Lets REWIND! Most of the time when we get out of our kayaks it’s in an eddy or in flatwater, but if you kayak enough you’ll find yourself hanging onto a rock above a drop or tree or blind corner.. wishing there was a better eddy. When it happens to you, you’ll be glad you read this… and I hope you’ve practiced….

How to exit your kayak in current:

1. Swing into the bank bow upstream in a niche or eddy or anywhere your bow can be further out of the current than your stern. Your bow has more rocker, and will stay on the surface against the current much easier than the stern – put the bow into wherever the current is coming from.
2. Grab a rock, ledge, root or tree that’s a SOLID handhold you can pull inwards on, not just down. Ideally, there should be enough room to stand up and exit the river.
3. Put your paddle under your thumb as you grip with your fingers so it’s there if you need it, but you can still grasp the bank firmly enough to resist the current’s pull.
4. Lean into the bank, pulling with your knees and abs to keep the bow right against shore, letting your stern wander out. This streamlines the boat to the current and prevents the unintentional peel-out.
5. Pop your skirt and backband with the opposite hand and continue crunching your bow toward shore as you get your knees out of the cockpit and walk your heels up towards the seat. Steady the boat with your free hand if needed.
6. Pull on the bank to help you stand up in the kayak, use both hands on the shore or pull up on the cockpit rim with the free one but don’t forget that your feet now have to hold the bow angle towards shore.
7. Step out onto the bank with one foot and quickly hook the other on the cockpit rim until you can safely pull it up with your hands.

Even if you fall in during this process, you’re connected to the bank and have a free hand with which to grab the boat, but also have your paddle in your hand to help snag the boat if it gets away. If the boat starts to peel out early in the process, your paddle is your best hope for getting back into the eddy. NEVER throw your paddle on shore where you can’t grab it from your position – unless you like hand paddling through portages.

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