How to launch pedal kayak from shore?

Gandy Boat Ramp
Photo by Dorothy Riley on Unsplash

Pedal kayaks aren’t exactly your regular kayak that’s propelled forward with a double-bladed paddle. Instead, two pedals are added to the inside of the hull for you to pedal. Underneath, either a mirage drive or a propeller turns with your pedaling to drive you forward.

It’s the latest trend in kayaking, and it’s gaining popularity, as it’s easier to control, drive, and is much faster.  Even better, you can have your hands completely free for fishing or other activities.

In short, pedal kayaks are ideal for either working out, exploring, or simply enjoying the water. It doesn’t take special skills or training to use a pedal kayak.

Using a pedal kayak you can simply burn up to 500 calories. How cool is that?

Though it looks easy to launch, having a whole mechanism sticking out from under the kayak can complicate bringing the pedal kayak in and out of the water.  It needs some practice and knowledge to do it properly without damaging the pedal kayak.

Stick with and we’ll show you how to take off safely and efficiently.

Get Ready

When it comes to water sports, safety is a key element for preparation. Taking safety measurements before getting off the shore is one thing, but coming back safe is another thing. Some pre-decisions can improve your kayaking experience and your chances to return without a glitch.


Be prepared to spend long hours away from the shore. Make sure to bring water and snacks with you. You’ll need to bring a watertight bag. It comes in various sizes and shapes. It can be firmly sealed to prevent water from reaching the food. Pack some dry food and fruits. Also, bring a couple of bottles of water.

But, this complicates your launch process! If your supplies aren’t in a storage hatch, they could easily fall out of the kayak when you


Bring your maps, cameras, or fishing rod with you. Though it’s great to be able to enjoy the scenery around you, it’s also fundamental to be aware of your surroundings and to be able to locate yourself if necessary.


Even if you’re a superb swimmer, you’ll need a life jacket in case of the kayak flipping over. It’s bulky and uncomfortable to wear, but it’s also the law. A family member of ours got a ticket from the Wisconsin DNR for not wearing a life jacket while in a kayak.


If your boat, for one reason or another, got filled with water, you’ll need a bilge pump or a sponge to get water out of the boat. Both are worth carrying with you, but again it adds more things to your kayak. This will increase the weight, and increase the items that could fall out of the kayak as you launch it.

Launch a pedal kayak from shore

Pedal Kayaks are mainly used for recreational sports like fishing and touring, but when they’re out of the water, they’re actually quite bulky. For that reason, launching them can get incredibly difficult. The added weight, plus the drive shaft on the bottom of the kayak, can complicate things.


One crucial step before launching your kayak is to make sure it’s adjusted well. It should fit your body type and position. Make sure to check this before you launch the kayak. It’s often easiest to adjust this before launching as the pedals can get stuck and require you to have access to the drive while moving them. Having to take a heavy pedal kayak out of the water to help launch is not a fun start to a day on the water!

Try to move the pedals until they are in a position that allows you to move easily without having your knees bending too much or your legs stretching too straight. Your knees need to bend slightly with each stroke. You shouldn’t feel any pressure on your ankles or legs.

Also, adjust your seat comfortably. You should be able to sit upright. Leaning forward or backward will add too much strain on your shoulders and back. For extra support use a pool noodle or a foam cushion on your saddle.


The main concern about launching pedal kayaks is the draft of the drive and the weight of the kayak. The drive can extend nearly two feet from the bottom of the pedal kayak and the overall weight can be substantial due to the drive added is high.

Taking off from shore is not a great idea as the water is too shallow. Therefore, the fins, rudder or propeller, depending on your specific system, can get seriously damaged or at least scratched hitting the bottom.

The good news is that most pedal kayaks have the option to disengage or lift up the pedal system. You can push one pedal all the way forward and feather the fins against the hull. Some manufacturers also offer the option to remove the pedals altogether till reaching deep water. We have a detailed pedal kayak reviews page that can help you figure out if your kayak has this functionality.

Either way, we recommend getting set by finding a partner to help you lift your pedal kayak to place it into the water.


There are three different ways you can launch a pedal kayak:

Let’s look into each one with a bit more detail!

From shore

If you are launching from shore with a retractable drive, then you have an easy way to launch your pedal kayak! All you’ll need to do is to have your buddy help carry the boat into the water. You can then step into the kayak.

With a small paddle, you can push off the water floor until you reach deeper water and you can lower the retractable drive without damaging it.

From shore (no retractable drive)

In this case, it’s much more difficult. You and your buddy will need to get wet and carry the kayak into the water deep enough where placing it into the water won’t hurt the drive. In our experience, that’s about two feet deep.

If you have a boat landing nearby, similar to the photo of this article, then we’d recommend launching there.

From a dock

The last option is perhaps the easiest. If you and your friend have access to a dock or pier that ends up being over two feet of water, then you can simply carry the pedal kayak down to the dock and lower it into the water.

How to Choose the right Pedal Kayak for your situation?

As a beginner, it’s tempting to put stability at the top of your list when you buy a new kayak. The bigger the hull size, the more balanced the kayak will be. That’s why many people love pedal kayaks: they’re extremely stable so great for beginners, fishing, or fast cruising.

If you’re looking to learn more, we wrote a huge buying guide for pedal kayaks!

But, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention to consider your launching situation when you buy! If you don’t have access to a dock and prefer not to get wet, then definitely consider a pedal kayak with a retractable drive.

Final Thoughts

A pedal kayak is a excellent recreational water sport. It allows you to enjoy your surroundings and do different water activities without lifting a hand.

All you need to do is to take the necessary precautions when launching!

See you on the water!

Article Author
Robert Walker has been a Kayak enthusiast for over a decade. He's owned several different Kayak's, but only recently got into Pedal Kayaks in the last few years. This website is Robert's way of sharing his passion for Pedal Kayak's with the world.