How To Tie Down a Kayak

If you are transporting your kayak on the roof of your car, on a trip to some scenic lakes, or for a beautiful day down on the sea, it can be so exciting that you don’t take all that much time to tie down your kayak. 

However, it is important that you tie it down properly. Tying down the kayak properly will ensure that it doesn’t get damaged, or come off during your trip.

It is not difficult to tie down your kayak, if it is your first time it may seem a little difficult and awkward, but you are fully capable of doing this, and once you get the hang of it, it will be easy as breathing. 

But whether you’ve been doing it for a while, and you are a pro at tying down your kayak now, or if you are a newbie at it, you should always take your time and ensure that your kayak is tied down securely before you take to the roads. 

What to do and what not to do

Before we jump in and tell you how to do it, we would like to give you some tips on what you should do when tying down your kayak, and some important tips on what you should definitely avoid doing. 


  • Use high-quality straps to secure your kayak to the roof rack. 
  • Check that the roof rack is securely fitted before you secure anything else on top of it.
  • Use a high-quality roof rack.
  • Check your straps for wear and tear, replace them when necessary as nothing lasts forever. 
  • Use some pads between the kayak and the bars. 


  • Avoid overloading your roof rack. 
  • Do not use bungee straps to secure your kayak. 
  • Do not use wooden planks as roof bars. 
  • Do not use blue nylon rope as a form of lashing the kayak to your roof rack.
  • Do not forget to check the overall height of your vehicle after fitting, as you may not fit under some height barriers.
  • Do not use a J-Cradle style carried for large kayaks such as tandem sit-on-top.

Using the appropriate supplies for the job

Now, we want to give you a full step-by-step guide into how you should correctly select the appropriate supplies to tie your kayak to your roof. 

  1. First of ll you should seek out padding for your roof rack, this will prevent your rack from damaging your kayak during your drive. Padding blocks can sit on top of roof rack bars, or you can use padding that wrap around the bars. You can usually find this padding at any of your local sporting goods stores. 

  2. You can get kayak straps with cam buckles. These are designed specifically for  this purpose. Straps that have cam buckles will let you tighten your kayak onto your roof without potential damaging with overtightening. 

  3. Purchase bow and stern lines. These are straps or ropes that are used to secure the bow and stern of your kayak to your car. Bow and stern lines prevent your kayak from lifting and detaching during your drive. These can come with a cam buckle or ratchet attached.

How to tie the kayak to the roof rack

Once you have all your gear, the first step is to tie your kayak to the roof, here is how you do that. 

  1. You start off by lifting your kayak onto the roof rack on your car so that it is right side up. These are not the lightest things to lift, and they can be cumbersome, so you may need someone to help you. The front of the kayak should also be at the front of the car, and the back should be at the back of your car.

  2. Center your kayak on the roof rack. Move it around, back and forth, and side to side if need be, until the middle of the kayak is centered between the two roof rack bars. Then once this is done, ensure that the kayak is central. You do not want your kayak to be closer to one side of the car than the other.

  3. Run the straps over your kayak one by one, and loop under a roof rack bar. You should loop the bare end of the strap under the roof rack bar. Leave the end of the strap with the cam buckle hanging on the other side. After the end of the strap is looped under the bar, pull the slack at the end of the strap up in your hand in a bundle.

  4. Throw the bare end of the strap across the kayak to the other side. If you have a helping hand, throw it to them. Then loop this end over the same roof rack bar. Ensure you use the same roof rack bar, on the other side of the kayak, just like you did on the other side. 

  5. Run the bare end through the cam buckle. Doing this will close off the strap and secure your kayak to the roof rack bar you are using. Insert the bare end of the strap through the slot and pull it through with your hand. 

  6. Tighten the strap with the cam buckle so that your kayak is secure. Pulling on the bare end of the strap so that more slack comes through the cam buckle. You want it tight enough that the kayak won’t shift about as you drive, but not so tight that you will damage your kayak. 

  7. Repeat this process with the other strap on the second roof rack bar. Loop the bar end of the strap under the bar, and throw it over the kayak to the other side. Loop again and run through the buckle, tighten to secure. 

  8. To prevent any damage wrap the strap ends around the roof rack bars. Do not forget to tie down the bow and stern also, these are equally important. Hook these to your bumpers for best security, using similar straps.

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