Before lifting a kayak or paddling, make sure you’ve stretched and warmed up the muscles you’re asking to do the work – it’s very easy to throw your back out and this isn’t fun. Get a Smart-Start with some good warm up exercises in Paddling Fitness – take a look, they’re easy.

A heavy load isn’t always the cause of back problems, simply lifting the wrong way could twist or concentrate all the load to one area which causes muscle strain. Your precious leisure time shouldn’t be spent watching everyone from shore while you nurse back pain – so here’s how to avoid doing this . . .

  • Bend with your knees – lift with your leg muscles
  • Take breaks if you have to carry for a long distance
  • Preview your path for any obstacles or uneven ground
  • Use both hands to lift
  • Avoid quickly hoisting the kayak – move in stages
  • Keep the kayak close to your body


Whether it’s a sit-on-top kayak, or a recreational one, to move your kayak to the water edge, it’s best not to drag it because you’ll scratch up the bottom and thin the hull material.

Lifting a kayak is easiest with the help of a friend – you can each grab an end with the handy-dandy toggles located on each end. (You can never have enough friends)!

The second easiest way is a Kayak Cart. You can purchase a set of lightweight wheels that attach to one end or the center of the kayak. You can find them in the here.

They attach to one end of the kayak, allowing a person to lift the other end and easily move it to the water. These are specifically designed to move the kayak to the water after it is transported to the site – not to be used as a trailer.

For the handy person, there’s a clip below that shows how to build one.

But if you are lifting a kayak alone, here’s how…


  • To lift a lightweight kayak (under 40 lbs) by yourself


    • Set the kayak on it’s side with the cockpit against your body
    • Stand at the cockpit location
    • Bend your knees – crouch – place one foot in front to secure your footing
    • Grab inside the cockpit rim
    • Move your shoulder under your hand that’s holding the rim
    • Straighten, lifting with your legs to a standing position

Now move it to the water!

To lift a kayak on top your shoulder by yourself

    • With the kayak on the ground, stand at the center point of the kayak length
    • Crouch and pull the kayak up so that the cockpit opening is against you
    • Grab the top/inside edge of the cockpit and lift the kayak onto your closest thigh
    • Feet firmly planted, one foot in front, lean your shoulder into the bottom edge of the kayak
    • Find a good balance spot
  • Vertically straighten with your legs to stand, balancing the weight on your shoulder

Now move it to the water! . . . and away you go!

From “Lifting A Kayak”, back to Home Page