Kayaks come in an unlimited number of variations in size or design or purpose, but no matter which kayak you have decided to invest your time and money in you need to get it to the water right?
Assuming you bought your first kayak used (which I highly suggest for a number of reasons), you probably showed up with whatever DIY rigging you had laying around the house so you could get your new toy home right? Sure, this may work for a time but is it really the best method to get your investment to and from your fishing holes?
Lets start with the easiest transportation method: the faithful pickup truck. I love my truck for so many reasons among which is the ability to transport large items like landscaping supplies, furniture or my kayaks with ease.
My first kayak, a 12′ Perception Pescador, fit in the bed of my truck just fine. A 6′ bed plus the tailgate down leaves only a few feet of kayak hanging out unsupported. For most quick trips to your local waters, this setup is just fine and the easiest method there is.
However, an important point to note is that your fancy fishing kayak is made of plastic. Even more important to remember is that PLASTIC MELTS AT RELATIVELY LOW TEMPERATURES.
Nope, that’s not a Photoshop job that is someone who left their expensive kayak in the sun too long without proper support. The weather in Hampton Roads during the summer can top 100 degrees during the height of the summer and at that temperature, in direct sunlight, you really don’t have too long until your hull starts to warp. Above may be an extreme example, but your hull is plastic and it will warp and bend itself to however you have your kayak positioned.
Above is a 12′ Vibe Skipjack 120T supported by my E-Z Hitch Mounted Bed Extender. I cannot recommend a bed extender highly enough if you have a medium length kayak like 12-14′ because it will provide that extra support at the trailing end of your kayak to prevent any warping or drooping in the hull.
The E-Z Hitch Mounted Bed Extender is only $78 and can be used both horizontal AND vertical positions. This means you can use it to support the kayak either inside the truck bed or OVER the truck bed using the roof of the cab to support the front of your kayak.
For 12-14′ kayaks, the bed extender is a great solution because there is really no heavy lifting required. Plus, while inside the bed of your truck your kayak is protected from the majority of road hazards and your bed usually has plenty of tie-down points to secure your kayak.
To further support my kayak, I built a simple cradle for the kayak to sit in in the bed of my truck. It is simply pressure treated 2x4s covered in exterior grade carpeting and screwed together with exterior deck screws. I measured the bottom contour of my Trident and made sure the two longer boards sit on either side of my keel to support my kayak more evenly. On hot days, letting your kayak sit on a flat surface like the bed of your truck can cause flat spots on your hull since the entire weight of the kayak is again concentrated along the bottom keel rather than distributed across the hull.
As you can see, this cradle keeps the hull off the surface of the truck bed and allows me to support the hull on either side of the keel rather than sitting directly on it. Also, the carpeting on the 2x4s gives the cradle more traction and keeps the kayak from sliding around in the bed.
However, as you can see above a longer kayak like my Trident 15 that measures 15’6″ end to end still leaves a large percentage of the kayak hanging off the back unsupported. I really liked the bed extender method for transporting my kayaks because it is by far the easiest but I ran into a heat-related issue and had to make a change. During my first time in the Chesapeake Bay on my kayak I was practicing deep water reentries, which involves flipping my kayak over quite a bit. During this practice I accumulated a decent amount of water inside the hull from the constant flipping. It wasn’t enough to affect stability, but it was enough to pool to one end given the opportunity.
On my way home from the beach, my kayak was pitched slightly nose down on the bed extender and the water I had accumulated pooled in the bow of my kayak. It was over 95 degrees that day, and by the time I arrived home I found the back half of my kayak strapped securely in the bed of my truck. HOWEVER, I found the front half bent at a 45 degree angle until the bow was almost dragging on the ground behind my truck!
IMPORTANT HELPFUL TIP!!!
If your kayak ever becomes deformed from heat or improper storage, leave it upside down in full sun for a day or two and the hull SHOULD reform itself. The bottom of the kayak is, ironically, the thinnest and least supported surface. In the water, your body weight and the weight of the kayak is evenly distributed across the entire bottom equally. The top deck where you sit/stand however, is much thicker and designed to support your body weight over a smaller area and distribute that weight across the entire hull. By leaving it upside down, resting on the more supportive top deck, the deformed bottom hull should regain its original manufactured shape with enough heat. In the winter you can try a hair dryer but EXTREME caution should be used to avoid overheating the plastic causing it to melt. If this happens, you are probably buying a new kayak.
Given the length issue with the be extender, this is now my current transportation setup. The two j-shaped cradles are spaced evenly apart and support the kayak across the sides and bottom evenly. However, this required me to purchase the racks for my truck bed AND the cradles for the kayak to attach to them. This is a more expensive solution, but it allows me to use my entire truck bed for storage of fishing or camping gear as the need presents itself. Transporting the kayak in your truck bed means you cannot put the tailgate up, which limits your ability to transport anything else back there without losing it on the road.
Also, I can transport multiple kayaks more securely in this fashion. I have two cradles on opposite sides angled in towards the middle so I can bring both of my kayaks if necessary. The cradles also have a rubber bottom the kayak sits on in the base of the “J” shape. This provides a bit of cushion to avoid damage and also provides plenty of traction to prevent the kayak from slipping or moving with your acceleration
How do you transport your kayak? Join the conversation on our Facebook Page!
Also, check out our Facebook Page for upcoming fishing trips! If you are in the Hampton Roads area and are interested in joining us, send me a message and I can answer whatever questions you have about our adventures. First time kayaking or veteran kayak angler, we welcome everyone to join us!