How to Carry a Kayak: The Right Way!


Lifting and carrying a kayak may seem like a straightforward process. However, this can be dangerous if done incorrectly and can lead to damages to your kayak (if you accidentally drop it) or injuries to your lower back. Now, this shouldn’t be a problem if you have an inflatable kayak, but if you have a traditional hard-shell kayak, then knowing how to carry a kayak properly and safely is one skill that you’ll need to learn.

Why You Should Lift and Carry Your Kayak the Right Way

There are three major reasons why you must learn and apply proper techniques when lifting and carrying your kayak.

Protect Yourself from Injuries

All too often we see paddlers injure themselves when lifting and carrying their kayaks. Improper lifting techniques often result in lower back pains, while incorrect carrying practices lead to an aching shoulder. All in all, these injuries will make it uncomfortable (if not unbearable) for you to sit in your kayak and paddle for long hours. At worst, you may find yourself contemplating giving up kayaking altogether!

Protect Your Kayak from Damage

Your kayak, whether it’s one of those expensive high-end touring kayaks or affordable fishing kayaks, is not something you should risk damaging unnecessarily. Like any investment, you need to take good care of your kayak so that it can give you years of fun in the water. Many beginning kayakers make the mistake of carrying their kayaks by holding them in the cockpit rim and letting them hang by their side as they walk. Carrying your kayak this way will only increase the likelihood of its bow or stern bumping into objects that can damage them.

Protect Those around You

Some kayaks (i.e. recreational and touring kayaks), can be pretty long, reaching lengths of 10 to 15 feet. Because of this, carrying your kayak in crowded places or tight spaces presents a problem of its own since there is a chance of you hitting someone while carrying your kayak. The problem only becomes worse when you’re turning around. By carrying your kayak properly and being mindful of your surroundings, you decrease the chance that you’ll hit other people around you.

How to Carry a Kayak when You’re Alone

How-to-Carry-a-Kayak-when-Youre-AloneBecause of the size and the weight of a kayak, it is recommended that you try and look for someone to help you lift and carry your kayak before attempting to carry it by yourself. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you have no option but to carry your kayak by yourself, then you’ll need to learn how to do so correctly and safely.

1. Position Yourself

With the kayak on the ground, face your kayak, and stand right next to the cockpit. Stand with your feet should-width apart; this stance will give you more stability when lifting your kayak off the ground.

2. Turn the Kayak

Bend down using your knees (not your waist) and grab the cockpit rim closest to your body. Then, pull on the cockpit rim to turn the kayak to its side. By this time the hull of the kayak should be leaning against your shins and the cockpit is facing away from you.

3. Grab the Kayak

With the kayak on its side and keeping your back straight, grab the part of the cockpit that is raised or the nearest to you using both hands.

4. Lift the Kayak

Using your hands to hold and stabilize the kayak, lift the kayak onto your thighs. Drive your weight down and push against the ground using your feet. Straighten your knees as you rise and pull the kayak onto your thighs until you’re in a standing position. At this point, the kayak should be resting against your legs.

5. Flip the Kayak

With the kayak resting against your thighs, take off your right hand from the cockpit and reach inside the other end of the cockpit with your palm facing upward. Then, using your right hand, lift and flip the kayak onto your right shoulder so that your right arm and shoulder are now inside the kayak’s cockpit. The process is the same if you’re using your left hand, except that the kayak will be resting on your left shoulder instead of the right.

And that’s it. Now you’re ready to carry the kayak to the launch area.

How Two People Should Carry a Kayak

How-Two-People-Should-Carry-a-KayakUsing the above technique, you should be able to carry your kayak on your own. However, certain types of kayaks can be hefty (like those made from rotomolded plastic) and you’ll want to ask someone for help in carrying them. If you have a paddling buddy or can find someone to assist you in carrying your kayak, here’s how you’re supposed to do it.

1. Use the Grab Handles

  1. With the kayak on the ground, position yourselves at each end of the kayak so that one person is standing next to the bow while the other is standing next to the stern.
  2. Bend your knees and grab the handle on your end of the kayak. Ask the other person to do the same.
  3. When both of you have a good hold of the handles, straighten your knees until you’re both in a standing position.

There’s a second way to carry the kayak when you have someone to help you, and that is by carrying it by the hull.

2. Hold the Hull

  1. Start by following steps one to three above.
  2. Then, with one hand holding the handle, put your free hand under the hull.
  3. Once you have a hold of the hull, release the hand holding the grab handle and move it under the hull. At this point, both of your hands are holding the kayak’s hull.

You might also be interested in: Learn the Right Way to Get In and Out of a Kayak!

Use a Kayak Trolley

If you are looking for an easier way to bring your kayak from the parking lot to the water, then you may want to consider getting a kayak trolley. Using a trolley is a much better option than dragging it to the launch area. Here’s how to properly load your kayak onto the trolley.

  1. With the kayak on the ground, place the kayak trolley right next to it and align the trolley with the kayak’s cockpit. You’ll want the trolley to be as close as possible to the kayak’s center. This way, the trolley will able to carry and support more of the kayak’s weight than when it is nearer to the kayak’s stern or bow.
  2. Put both hands under the kayak’s nose or front end and slowly raise it above the ground.
  3. Slowly bring the kayak over the trolley.
  4. Once the trolley is under the kayak, slowly lower the kayak onto the trolley.
  5. After the kayak is resting snugly on the trolley, strap the kayak in place.
  6. With the kayak firmly in place, you can now tote the whole thing to your launch area.

Globo Surf Overview

Learning how to carry a kayak properly won’t be easy at first. It will feel heavy and awkward, but the more you practice, the easier it gets as you’ll be building strength and honing your technique. And with even more practice and experience, you’ll become familiar with the correct lifting and carrying techniques and soon enough they’ll become second nature to you.

More Skils Guides:


  1. Proper Lifting Techniques