Kayaking is a fun and relaxing way to spend a day, but if you have bad knees, that can put a real damper on your outdoor activity. In this article, we will explain how to get out of a kayak with bad knees. We will cover several different techniques and share some ways to make getting on and off your kayak a whole lot easier.
Even if your knees are in fine shape, it can still be a struggle to get out of a kayak. Depending on the landing spot and water conditions, exiting your vessel can be a serious challenge. We have put together this guide to explain different ways to get off your boat and have included some tips that might help down the road.
How to get out of a kayak with bad knees
Maybe your knees aren’t quite as bendy or flexible as they used to be. In that case, it’s essential to know how to get out of your kayak when you need to. Being seated with your legs bent for hours can sometimes make things worse.
With that, let’s get right to it.
Option 1 – Roll out of your kayak
- You probably know where this is going.
- Before you get too excited, make sure your life jacket is securely fastened. Now is not the time to test it out.
- Make sure any gear you have onboard is securely stored in a hatch or strapped down. Using a dry bag is also a good idea for anything you don’t want to get wet.
- Paddle to an area relatively close to shore, about waist deep, is good for this method. You can use your paddle to gauge how deep the water is. About half the length of your paddle shaft should do.
- If the water is clear, check for obstacles like rocks or tree stumps under the water’s surface. If the water is murky, you can feel around with your paddle.
- Begin the process of rolling out of your kayak (starboard or port side, your choice). Now, be warned that tipping a kayak over may not be as easy as it sounds, for good reason. With a sit-inside kayak, your center of gravity is closer to the water, which can make it more difficult to tip over.
- Once you are in the water, find your footing, stand up and pull your kayak to shore.
- Brace yourself and if it’s cold, make sure you are adequately dressed.
- This can be a great option on a nice warm day, though!
Option 2 – Paddle into shallow water
- When you are ready to get out of your kayak, paddle to shallow water. Try to get as close to shore as you can, preferably in about two feet of water if possible.
- If there is a sandy beach to exit the kayak, even better. Paddle your kayak until the bow is grounded on the sand. This can help with stabilizing your body and your kayak when you are ready to exit your boat.
- If you have a sit-inside kayak, you will need to swing both legs to the side and get your feet outside the cockpit. Once you have both feet out, you can put them in the water, brace yourself on the cockpit, and standup.
- You might want to turn the kayak parallel to the shore and get out on the deeper (downhill) side. Effectively, you will be sitting on the port or starboard side of the kayak, and you can use the coaming on the cockpit to brace yourself as you stand up.
Option 3 – Ask for help
- There are several ways to pull this exit method off.
- Give yourself a couple of additional firm strokes to land your kayak as far up the beach as possible.
- Make sure your paddle is secure, either with paddle clips or toss your paddle to shore.
- Swing your legs to the side of the kayak and put them on the ground.
- Grab your partner’s forearm, closer to the elbow is better, and lock arms.
- Have your friend gently pull you up as you stand up
- You can get out on the uphill or downhill side of the kayak.
Tips for kayaking with bad knees
Next, let’s talk about some tips to help you get out of a kayak with bad knees. There are various ways you can make kayaking with bad knees a little more comfortable and more enjoyable.
Choose the right type of kayak
Choosing the right kind of kayak can make a big difference when you are dealing with bad knees. As for types of kayaks, we are talking about sit inside kayaks vs. sit-on-top kayaks (also known as SOT).
Sit inside kayaks are great and serve their purpose well. A sit-inside kayak is not nearly as easy to get on and off as a sit-on-top kayak. If you are kayaking with bad knees, paddling a sit-on-top kayak can make a huge difference.
Sit-on-top kayaks are much easier for folks with bad knees since you don’t have to crouch down and climb into a cockpit. You can simply step on and off. Also, with a SOT kayak, you sit up higher, which means less bending of those knees to get out of the kayak.
Some sit-on-top kayaks are designed for the paddler to stand up, which is excellent if you need to stretch your legs.
Check with your doctor
Is sitting on a kayak for hours on end terrible for your knees? I don’t know, but your doctor should. If you have bad knees, but the water is beckoning you, pay your doctor a visit.
Your physician should have a good idea of your medical history, including any injuries that may have contributed to knee pain. If you have structural damage or an old injury in the mix, your doctor is a useful resource.
It’s a good idea to consult a doctor before you start exercising, and yes, kayaking counts as exercise. Your doctor might be able to give you some exercises or other recommendations to help those creaky knees when you are paddling. You can ask your doctor questions, like if a pedal drive kayak is right for you to use.
Wear a knee brace
Again, not medical advice, but if your knees are shot, you might want to try a knee brace to give you a boost when you are kayaking. There are times when you need to paddle more aggressively, and believe it or not, you need to use your lower body for leverage.
Check with your doctor (as we mentioned earlier) to see if wearing a knee brace is acceptable when you are kayaking. It could give you some much-needed pain relief while you are on the water and take some of the strain off those creaky joints when you get out of the kayak.
Wiggle it, just a little bit
Paddling for an extended period can be very tiring on your entire body. Keeping your knees bent in the same position can be tough on those joints. Occasionally you need to take a break and relax.
Many recreational kayaks have padding around the cockpit. This padding gives you a soft place to lay your knees if you need to take a break from paddling.
Another option is to change your posture. By adjusting your posture now and then, you can take some strain off your knees. This is especially true if you have a SOT kayak with lots of legroom so you can stretch out.
Adjusting your posture can help take the strain off your knees, making it easier to get out of the kayak when you are done.
Identify your launch spot
If you are kayaking with bad knees, it’s essential to carefully choose a launch and exit spot. Climbing over boulders or up a gravel bank when you get off the water is not a great idea, even with good knees.
Choose a launch spot that is easy to access and has a gentle slope. This will make getting out of your kayak a whole lot easier than on rocky terrain. When you have identified a good spot to take your kayak out, refer to the exit strategies in this article.
Take a lesson
If you have bad knees and still want to enjoy paddling, you might want to consider taking private lessons. A certified instructor will be able to school you in kayak entry and exit. Many will have experience dealing with similar ailments like bad knees.
An instructor will show you paddling techniques that can help you (and your knees) be more efficient on the water. He or she will also be an excellent resource to offer recommendations on setting up your kayak to make it easier to get off at the end of the day.
Stretching and warming up
There are a lot of articles online about the benefits of stretching—things like increased range of motion and improving your performance in physical activities, to name a few. You can read this article for more information.
Loosening up the muscles, tendons, and all the other stuff around your knees can be a huge benefit when you get off a kayak. The more flexible you are, the easier it will be to get out of a kayak with bad knees.
Some of the exit strategies listed require the paddler to lift and twist their legs outside of the kayak. Strength in your mid-section can help you rotate your lower body when it’s time to get out. Talk to your doctor and see what types of exercises would be suitable for your core and glutes.
Get the right gear
Having the right gear can make a big difference when getting out of a kayak with bad knees. Even if you need to spend more money, your knees will thank you down the road.
Padding around the cockpit for your knees (if you own a sit-inside kayak), a seat that is the correct height, and an adjustable footrest (so you can change your legs’ position) can help. These are little things, but they can help.
Sometimes keeping your knees comfortable during your outing can help keep them fresh, so it’s easier to get out of your kayak when you are done.
Position your knees correctly
It can be tough to keep your legs in the same position for hours on end, with or without knee pain. One thing that can help prevent pressure on your legs is to elevate them during your outing.
If you are paddling a sit-on-top kayak, you could put a cooler or dry bag under your legs to elevate and support them. You can also change your posture by using a different footrest position. Depending on your knees, changing positions now and then could provide some relief.
Kayaking is a low-impact way to get some exercise. Even if you have bad knees, you can still enjoy a day out on the water. Paddling with bad knees can take some of the fun out of kayaking, but hopefully, this post’s suggestions will help going forward.
Choosing the right type of kayak and an appropriate exit point can do wonders if you try to get out of a kayak with bad knees. With a little bit of planning and some preventive maintenance, you can keep paddling for many years to come.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out anytime.
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.