As an avid kayaker of petite stature, I am often faced with the daunting task of maneuvering a kayak. While my strength may be substantial for my size, handling a kayak is still a challenge that necessitates not only proper lifting techniques but also the ability to ascend a step stool.

Often, my efforts to mount or dismount my kayak from my vehicle have been comically akin to a Cirque-du-Soleil audition tape. Indeed, on several occasions, my kayak has met the ground a bit more abruptly than intended. This may sound familiar to many kayakers, given that sea kayaks, with their length and unwieldy nature, can be challenging to handle.

A typical single-person touring sea kayak may weigh between 40 to 60 pounds. However, it’s not the kayak’s weight that tends to cause injury, but the manner in which you lift it.

Efficient Kayak Lifting: Back to Basics

Let’s assume you’ve successfully navigated the first hurdle—getting your kayak off the roof rack and onto the ground (a topic worthy of its own discussion). Here are some critical reminders when lifting and transporting a kayak:

  • Always bend from your knees, using your legs for lifting instead of straining your lower back or upper body.
  • Keep the kayak as close to your body as possible while lifting.
  • Break down the lift into stages and avoid twisting or jerky movements.
  • Utilize both hands for balance and support.

Mindfulness of your surroundings also plays an important role. Be on the lookout for obstacles such as uneven ground, roots, rocks, and even slippery seaweed.

When moving your kayak over a considerable distance, such as during a low tide, it’s prudent to take breaks—even if this means having to lift the kayak multiple times. Remember, it’s not a race; it’s about safety and maintaining your stamina.

While lifting a kayak by yourself is generally discouraged, it may be unavoidable at times. Ideally, you’d have a fellow paddler to lend a hand. They can grab one end of the kayak and assist in transporting it to the shore.

However, if you’re alone and nobody’s available to assist, a kayak cart can prove invaluable. It allows you to safely drag your kayak to and from your vehicle.

Mastering the Solo Lift

If you find yourself faced with the task of lifting and carrying a kayak solo, sans wheels, here’s the safest technique:

First, roll your kayak onto its side with the cockpit opening facing you. Crouch down and place your hand inside the cockpit rim. Use your shoulder under that hand for additional strength and support, then lift from the knees to a standing position.

It may require some adjustment of your hand positioning to find the kayak’s balance point. Once achieved, you can slowly start moving toward or away from the water.

An alternate version of this method involves initially having the kayak on its side facing you. Crouch down and lift the boat onto your thigh, then position your shoulder inside the cockpit rim before lifting to a standing position.

Always remember that when lifting any heavy object, it’s critical to avoid twisting or jerking movements and use your leg muscles to do the heavy lifting. If you encounter an obstacle, handle it with caution. Steer clear of jumping on loose rocks or crossing creeks.

Upon reaching the water, reverse the lifting process to lower the boat to the ground. First, lower it to your thigh, then adjust your grip to bring it down the rest of the way.

Regardless of which method you choose to transport your kayak, always execute it slowly and methodically. Remember, safety should be your primary concern when lifting and carrying your kayak. This guide should not only help you in avoiding injuries but also in ensuring a more enjoyable kayaking experience.