How to Get Into or Out of a Kayak When You Have Bad or Artificial Knees.

Having bad or artificial knees no longer means giving up kayaking and canoeing. 

Full disclosure I have two artificial knees that are now 5 and 6 years old. Kneeling in a canoe is no longer an option, and my knee joints have less range of motion. On the plus side, going up and down steps is no longer a big issue. Having said that, getting in and out of a kayak or canoe has at times entertained family, friends, and casual onlookers.

You can do a few things to make getting out of these boats a little easier. Keep reading for tips on how to get out of a kayak with bad or artificial knees! In this blog post, we’ll share some techniques to help make your paddling adventures more comfortable and enjoyable.

Three tips for choosing a kayak to make getting in and out easier.

Tip #1 Consider a kayak with a larger cockpit. This gives you more room to maneuver when your legs don’t bend quite like they used to.

Tip #2 If the weather is warm, a sit-on kayak is way easier to get on and off.

Tip #3 Wider kayaks are more stable.

My go-to method for getting out of a kayak.

As long as there’s a good shallow and even shoreline, I stop in around two feet of water, swing my legs out, and straighten up.

The advantage is that I don’t have to bend my knees more than 90 degrees, making it way easier to straighten them and stand up. 

It does demand some coordination, is not always elegant but doesn’t need major upper body strength.

Practicing getting up out of a low chair without using your upper body is a good winter exercise.

Paddle bridge technique.

Considered one of the more traditional techniques for entering and exiting a kayak, the paddle bridge technique is used by kayakers with and without knee problems. 

It’s a common technique but with the caveat that it does require some degree of upper body strength. Given that there is often (but not always) a correlation between age, joint degeneration, and decline in strength, some paddlers with knee or hip issues might not have a good quad, core, arm, or shoulder strength to carry out this maneuver. 

If you stop parallel to the shore, put the paddle behind the seat, bridging the shore or ramp. Push up using your hands on the paddle behind you. Then, swing your legs out into the deeper side of the boat.

Straddling the kayak

I use this approach with sit-on style kayaks and get into my kayak.

You either need reasonably long legs or a narrow kayak.

Like the shallow water approach, park your boat near the shore with relatively shallow water. 

Getting in involves straddling the kayak and gradually lowering your backside into the cockpit. The last foot or so relies on a good aim as my knees stop bending, and I plop down onto the seat. It’s then just a matter of getting the legs into the cockpit.

Exiting the kayak is the opposite. Swing your legs out, so they are planted firmly on the shore surface. Push yourself into a standing position and slight the kayak out from underneath. Using the paddle as a cane support or as an outrigger can help.


In the end, you’ll probably develop your own technique, but most importantly, practice as much as possible, and don’t be afraid to entertain onlookers. Remember, they are just the audience; you are the warrior.