When I pulled into a parking spot at the store the other day, I had to do a double-take at the car next to me. I don’t really make it habit to peer into other peoples’ cars – honest, I don’t – but you can’t help but notice a kayak inside a car, bow resting on the dashboard and stern reaching through to somewhere in the trunk with the seats folded down. It’s a bit of a crazy sight, and I wondered for a second how in the world they got that thing in there. After all, wouldn’t a kayak carrier be much, much easier than stuffing a boat down the entire passenger side of a four-door car? Some peoples’ kids…
A boat loaded inside a vehicle certainly is an exception, and most of the kayaks I see (if I do spot them out of water), are, in fact, cradled in some type of rooftop rack on a vehicle. But kayaks seem to be everywhere these days compared to when I was a kid, when I thought it was a sport reserved just for the thrill-seekers of the world. Turns out, it’s not just my impression that kayak-sightings are more common these days because some studies show that the sport has, indeed, grown dramatically over the last few years. And the fact that it’s not the territory of daredevils alone has quite a bit to do with it.
A report called “Outdoor Recreation Participation” published by the Outdoor Foundation in 2012 shows that, out of ten popular recreational activities, participation in kayaking had the single-greatest increase at 27% between 2010 and 2011. Industry professionals attribute that spike in popularity to several factors:
- Kayaking is a great way to relax. Being out on the water is peaceful and can be done solo or with others as a group. Some even combine two of their favorite hobbies, and go kayak fishing.
- Kayaking is easy to learn. Most people, from kids to adults, and many different athletic abilities, can kayak with ease. The paddling motion is fairly intuitive, and once you get a feel for it, it doesn’t take most people too long to figure out the basics of steering and maneuvering.
- There are many beautiful places to go kayaking. People often start out on water they know will be relatively calm, like a smaller lake, until they get the feel of the boat. But changing up your venue from various lakes to rivers can provide very different (and fun) experiences, and you don’t even necessarily have to find a location with a boat launch, though that can make getting in and out a bit simpler.
- Kayaking is a good form of exercise. The constant paddling and resistance of the water is a terrific workout, without being overly taxing.
- Kayaking is a relatively inexpensive form of recreation. In a bad economy when everyone is watching their spending so carefully, kayaking is a lot of fun for the money. It doesn’t require expensive equipment in order to enjoy it, and once you’ve made that initial investment, there aren’t many maintenance costs along the way. Registration requirements vary by state, so it’s best to check with your local DMV on that. But otherwise, no gas, repairs or anything of that sort, and it’s great for families who are opting for “stay-cations” to save a little while money is tight. In fact, for many kayakers, their next investment tends to be an upgrade in the kayak itself when they realize how much they enjoy the activity.
- A person can load and carry their kayak solo. Even if you aren’t going on a group or family outing, most people can easily lift a kayak to get it loaded onto a rooftop carrier by themselves. No trailer needed! Or if muscling the kayak all the way from your car to the water’s edge is just a bit further than you care for, there are specialized dollies available to make that part of the outing a little easier.
What Equipment is Needed to Kayak?
The equipment needed to kayak is pretty minimal. Obviously, there’s the kayak itself, with which the professionals at a good recreational outlet will be able to advise. They can also help you out with a paddle and life vest, which you should always have with you when out on the water. Other than that, you will need a means of transporting and securing your kayak, and there are lots of options for kayak carriers available.
A T-Rack Carrier is one of the most popular styles of kayak racks because it’s not only simple to load, the semi-vertical position of the kayak allows enough room for a second carrier to haul a second kayak. There are also other similar, vertical-style carriers or cradle-style kayak racks if only one boat is being transported.
Fasten the kayak to the carrier itself with some quality tie down straps, and also secure the bow and stern of the boat to your vehicle to prevent any updrafts from lifting the kayak and causing damage. These tie downs should always be made at a metal contact point on the vehicle. If your vehicle does not have metal tie down points in the locations you need, hood loop straps are also available to create the points needed. Several good ratcheting pulley boat tie downs will greatly simplify this entire process. It’s so easy, in fact, here is a video that demonstrates all the steps you’ll need to know in tying down a kayak for transport. It is recommended to stop periodically along your drive to test the tie downs for any loosening or if the boat has shifted, particularly if the straps are wet.
One last note regarding storage. It’s not recommended to store a kayak on the boat’s bottom, as that can result in a flat spot. Instead, you may want to invest in a kayak hoist to store your boat overhead when not in use. The pulley system prevents any damage to your kayak and also frees up valuable garage space.