How to Tie Down a Kayak

How to Tie Down a Kayak
Your kayak is on top of your vehicle and you are ready to go. Ready, that is, except that your boat is only sitting on the crossbars. To safely transport your kayak while traveling at highway speeds, it is necessary to properly secure or tie down the boat. Although there are methods and theories on how to secure a kayak to the top of a vehicle, some basics are essential regardless of the type of strap or knot used. With some insight and basic instruction, most paddlers can secure their kayak to prevent damage or injury during transport.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Roof rack
  • 4 ratchet tie-down straps
Step 1
Place your kayak in the center of the rack if possible. Unless other boats or equipment require space on the rack, center the kayak on the front and rear crossbars. If you are using kayak pads on the crossbars, make sure the kayak is positioned on the pads.
Step 2
Connect one side of the ratchet tie-down to the cross bar immediately next to the kayak. Place the S hook, if it large enough, around the crossbar. If the S hook is not large enough to fit around the bar, wrap the strap around the bar and connect the S hook to the strap itself.
Step 3
Pull the strap across the kayak and connect the S hook on the opposite end of the strap to the cross bar. Connect the strap in the same method as before, positioning the strap next to the kayak. Pull or ratchet down the strap so that it is tight across the kayak. Repeat the process with another strap on the rear crossbar.
Step 4
Search for the tie-down point on the bow, or front, of the kayak. Attach an S hook at one end of a ratchet strap. Pull the strap taut and locate a connection point on or below the front bumper. Connect the S hook on the free end of the strap to the connection point. Pull on the strap or ratchet down to tighten. Do not completely tighten the strap down at this point.
Step 5
Connect the S hook of another ratchet to the tie-down point on the stern, or rear, of the kayak. In the same manner as the front, locate a tie-down point on or below the rear bumper and connect the free end of the strap securely. Pull or ratchet down the strap tightly. The combination of resistance from the front and rear straps will secure the kayak to the crossbars.

Tips & Warnings

Double-check the straps before driving the vehicle onto the highway.
Adjust the straps so that they are tight; however, the kayak should not be pulled out of shape or damaged by the straps.
Stop the vehicle after 10 miles or so and recheck the straps. Make any necessary adjustments. Periodically check and make adjustments as necessary.

Article Written By Keith Dooley

Keith Dooley has a degree in outdoor education and sports management. He has worked as an assistant athletic director, head coach and assistant coach in various sports including football, softball and golf. Dooley has worked for various websites in the past, contributing instructional articles on a wide variety of topics.

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