Top Tips For Loading Your Watercraft

Loading your paddleboard, kayak, or canoe can be a hassle when riding solo – it’s even more challenging if you’re in the 5’3 height range like myself. Luckily, we have a community full of savvy women that we’ve collected the best tips from that’ll help you easily load and transport your watercraft.


If you don’t have a truck bed, you’ll need to load your watercraft onto some type of rack. Here are the best options to look for.

  • Crossbars: Crossbars run across the roof of your vehicle. Most crossbars attach to factory-installed bars that run front to back on your car, but this depends on your vehicle type.
  • Soft Racks: A lightweight and portable roof rack system consisting of two nylon and foam pads with two straps. It requires no tools and anyone of any size can use it! Perfect for vehicles that do not have built-in crossbars.
  • Load Assist Mount: Helps gently raise your vessel to the top of the vehicle. Once loaded, it securely cradles your boat or boards for the ride.

Note: If your vehicle has an antenna that you need to work around, most are removable and will easily unscrew. Just don’t forget to put it back later!

Pad & Straps

Your next step is to protect your vessel and vehicle and ensure safe travel with proper pads and straps.

  • Low Budget: Our simplest solution? Pool noodles! These can be wedged between your board or boat and the roof of your vehicle. They can also be sliced down the middle and placed over your rack rails.
  • Long Term Use: For those who travel often, you’ll want to look for a more durable padding option. Many different brands offer paddleboard specific pads which can also be used for kayaks or canoes.
  • Straps: Use adjustable, Cam straps or paddleboard (surfboard) specific straps to secure the watercraft to the vehicle. Do not use ratchet straps, these will damage your boat or board. Use multiple straps to distribute the load evenly.


With two people, lifting is simple, but solo can be tricky. Don’t worry, we’re going to help you with that too.

  • SUP: Lean the board against the side of the car with the deck facing you and the fin at the front of the car. Lift the board onto your knee and grab the other edge. Place the board deck-down on the rack or padding.
  • Kayak/Canoe: Push it up nose first from the back, using a towel or pad to protect the boat and car. If you don’t have load assist, a step stool is nice to have on hand!
  • Protect Your Back: Bend with your knees and keep your back straight when reaching down to pick up your vessel.
  • Placement: Make sure the watercraft is centered and aligned with your vehicle’s roof. If you have multiple boards to load, stack them with foam pads or towels in between to prevent scratching or damage.
  • Safety first, always: Before hitting the road, double-check that your watercraft is loaded securely and that all straps are in good condition and correctly fastened. Give it a gentle shake to confirm it’s not wobbly. Make sure there are no loose ends of straps that could flap in the wind.

Remember, always drive with caution and be mindful of overhead clearance. We hope this helps build your confidence and assists you on your next trip. Happy paddling Girl Paddlers!


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