Can You Launch a Kayak From Any Location?

There is nothing better than taking in a beautiful view of the water on a nice day, except, of course, doing it in a kayak in the middle of the water. Launching your kayak is the only thing standing between you and making that a reality. This begs the question, can you launch a kayak from any location?

You can launch a kayak from any location that is accessible to the public. Kayaks are lightweight and easy to carry, so they aren’t limited to any specific type of launch site. However, not all areas are ideal for launching due to the types of watercraft users, traffic level, and accessibility.

In this article, I will discuss where the best place is to launch a kayak. I will also explain what makes a site an ideal location for launching and teach you how to launch a kayak in different bodies of water. 

a man mounts a steering wheel on a kayak on the river bank before launching

Where Is the Best Place To Launch a Kayak?

Shore launch sites are the best places to launch a kayak because entering from this point is easier than a dock and doesn’t risk damaging your kayak. When boarding a kayak, you need plenty of space to prepare for your launch and preferably with fewer people to share it with. 

The more crowded the launch site is, the longer you may have to wait to be out on the water. 

Finding an excellent place to launch is as easy as asking the locals or joining a group for kayaking enthusiasts online. 

Also worth noting, rivers, lakes, and coastal waters all have shorelines. In contrast, not every body of water has a dock or a boat ramp that are available to use. However, shorelines aren’t always accessible, so it’s best to scope out the site ahead of time to prepare.

What Makes a Site Ideal for Launching?

When finding a location to launch your kayak, there are a few things to consider to narrow down what launch site would work best for your needs.

Who Else Uses This Type of Launch Site?

Taking into consideration who else will be using the launch site will help you decide if it’s an ideal location for you to use as well. Knowing what types of watercraft you will be sharing the site with will help you determine if this is a place you are comfortable launching at.

How Much Traffic Does This Site Typically See?

If this is a site that other people use to launch boats, Sea-Doos, canoes, and kayaks, it may be very busy. Boats and Sea-Doos typically need boat ramps to launch. Because of this, they may be more limited on launch sites. 

If it’s a busy day at this site, you may need to wait a while for your turn to launch. You may also be in for more socializing than you would like if you were planning for more of a peaceful day out on the lake. 

What Amenities Are Nearby?

Having amenities nearby could make launching your kayak more convenient. Considering if there are useful amenities close to your entry point could help you decide the best place to launch your kayak. Some of these amenities include:

  • Parking lots: If there is a parking lot nearby, you won’t need to carry your kayak as far to a put-in area or carry it back to your vehicle after a tiring day of kayaking. Kayaking takes a copious amount of energy, so having less of a haul afterward would be ideal.
  • Restrooms: It’s always nice to have a restroom nearby to empty your bladder before launching out onto the water or cleaning up after you get back. This also gives you privacy for changing out of wet clothes.
  • Covered picnic area: A covered picnic area provides a place to eat, raising your energy levels before heading out on the water. It also provides shelter from unplanned bad weather and shade from the burning sun.

How To Launch a Kayak in Different Locations

Different locations require different techniques when entering your kayak to launch. Learn how to enter your kayak from all types of launch sites to avoid tipping and going for an unplanned swim.

How To Launch a Kayak From a Shoreline

Launching from a shoreline is pretty straightforward once you find the perfect entry point. You’ll want to look for a spot that has a gradual slope to push off from. Once you find an ideal location, you can begin to prepare for the launch. 

Here are the steps you can follow when launching from a shoreline:

  1. Place your kayak on the water.
  2. Have the front end of your kayak in shallow water with a gradual slope. 
  3. Straddle the kayak with one foot on each side.
  4. Slide your paddle in the cockpit with easy access.
  5. Sit in the cockpit seat, bring your legs into the kayak and slide them down into the cockpit.
  6. Grab your paddle and begin forward hip thrusts to slowly inch the rest of the way into the water. You could also push off with the paddle to accomplish this.

How To Launch a Kayak From a Dock

Launching from a dock has its conveniences. It gives you a designated place to launch and typically has nice calm water when the weather is clear for you to launch from with ease. 

Here are the steps to follow when launching from a dock:

  1. Lower your kayak into the water on the side of the dock.
  2. Either tie your kayak to the dock or use your foot to secure the kayak next to the dock.
  3. Lay your paddle down on the dock within arm’s reach.
  4. Sit on the edge of the dock above your kayak, and lower your legs and rear end into the cockpit of your kayak.
  5. Sit your rear end on the cockpit seat and slide your legs forward into the kayak.
  6. Untie your rope and grab your paddle to push the kayak away from the dock.

How To Launch a Kayak From a Boat Ramp

When launching a kayak from a boat ramp, be careful not to bring your kayak too far up the ramp. The cement can scratch up and damage your ride’s surface. 

Never position your kayak perpendicular to the ramp. Instead, always have it positioned parallel to the ramp.

Here are the steps to follow when launching from a boat ramp:

  1. Position your kayak parallel to the boat ramp in 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) of water before entering.
  2. Stand next to your kayak, facing the same direction your kayak is facing.
  3. Step in with the leg closest to the kayak first.
  4. Bring your other leg and position it on the inner side of the kayak.
  5. Move the first leg towards the outer side to create balance.
  6. Sit in the cockpit seat and stretch your legs forward.
  7. Use the paddle to push off.

Regularly practicing getting in and out of your kayak on land will help you master how to stay balanced and avoid tipping your kayak no matter what site you are launching from.

Father and son preparing kayak for launch from lakeside


Having the ability to launch from any location makes kayaks a convenient choice of watercraft. However, just because you can launch from any location doesn’t mean it’s wise. Always check weather forecasts, the direction and speed of winds, and the water conditions in the area. 

Make sure that your choice of launch site is accessible, free of debris, and has all the criteria for a successful launch. Doing so will keep you safe and ensure your time on the water is most enjoyable.