Most kayak lifts and carries are performed by 1 or 2 people. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Two-person lifts and carries are commonly used to carry kayaks short distances and to lift them onto roof-top car racks.
To carry your kayak short distances, use a basic underhand lift. Stand on the opposite side and opposite end of the kayak from your partner. Grab the closest carrying toggle with your boat-side hand (while your partner does the same) and lift straight upwards, keeping your back straight and your knees bent.
Face in the direction you're traveling so you can see where you're going and avoid obstacles in your path. Communicate with your partner, especially if you need to stop and set the boat down. If you're in front, be sure to point out any upcoming obstacles that your partner may not see.
When transporting your kayak with a partner over longer distances (like during a portage), you can reduce arm and shoulder strain by carrying the boat overhead on your shoulders. The following lift procedure can also be used when lifting a kayak to place it on your roof-top car rack:
If you're going to carry the boat, rest the hull on your boat-side shoulder. You may wish to pad your shoulder ahead of time, or simply wear your PFD for a little extra padding between you and the boat.
Two-person overhead carries are most effective when the ground is relatively flat and the distance to be covered is not too long. On rough terrain and long trails, it can be somewhat difficult to stay coordinated.
With a little practice, carrying a kayak on your own is easy and efficient, even on long routes and difficult portage trails. But it can be dangerous if you're not careful. Developing proper technique is important.
The single-person lift
Single-person lifts should be performed only when necessary. Even if you're going to carry your kayak by yourself, let other paddlers help you get it into position whenever possible. Learn and practice single-person lifts with other paddlers nearby before you try them alone. Remember, kayaks can be heavy and awkward. The risk of injury does exist. NOTE: The procedure described below begins with the kayak on the ground, hull side down.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 02/18/2014
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