Kayak Security Issues
by: Andy Knapp
It’s a sad reality of our times that any personal possessions of value may be subject to theft or vandalism, and our kayaking equipment is no exception. In storage at home, while on the road to a paddling destination, or unattended on a beach, it is possible for our stuff to disappear. While I haven’t seen any hard statistics on the issue, I do know from my experience in the retail outdoor industry, from fellow paddler’s stories, and from postings on Internet kayak bulletin boards that kayak theft is an increasing phenomenon.
Would-be thieves and renegade paddlers are increasingly aware of the value of these craft. Since it is obviously impossible to completely secure something the size of a kayak, protecting your investment becomes a game of making it as inconvenient as possible for someone to grab your boat and run, or making it harder to take your boat instead of the one belonging to the next poor fool who didn’t take any precautions.
The first link of security for your kayak is the roof rack or carrying system on your vehicle. While a foam-block setup might be adequate for hauling a kayak around, the more sophisticated system racks offer some locking methods that are a starting point for securing the boat. On these systems, the uprights, crossbars, and even the hull cradles can be locked to prevent removal. The kayak itself won’t be locked down, so the next step is to provide a lockable link between the two, most likely by using a cable or chain.
A good quality, vinyl or plastic-coated cable, the thicker the better, is probably easiest to obtain from a good bicycle shop. Some hardware or home-improvement stores have heavy-duty custom cable cutting and splicing services. A basic chain might be cheaper and provide more locking points, but will be harder on the finish of the kayak and the vehicle.
Next, you need to run the cable through some secure part of the kayak. Some kayaks, especially whitewater boats, will come with a built-in security loop. If your kayak comes with a fiberglass or molded plastic seat, a cable will often fit through some space between the seat and the hull. The cable can then be run out and around the crossbar of the roof rack and secured with a padlock. This method may interfere with the use of a cockpit cover, however.
Another alternative is to use two cables, or perhaps one long one, and loop them around the outside of the hull and around each crossbar. If this is done without any slack, it will be impossible to slide the kayak out, since the widest part of the hull is between the two cable loops. There are several commercially-made kayak cable locks available that work on this principle, and have an extension that runs through a car door to the inside thus securing one end. If you can get the positions of these loops just right, they can cross over at least one of the hatches, thereby providing a “locked” compartment. If you can keep the cables tight and snug against the hull and rack, it will be more difficult for a thief to attack it with a bolt cutter.
Another way, of course, to avoid these locking issues is to own a folding kayak which can be stored inside the vehicle.
Security concerns don’t end when you get to the put-in point. If you must leave your kayak unattended while doing a vehicle shuttle, the same cables used on the roof rack system can usually be rigged to lock it to a tree or fence. Also, don’t leave valuables in an unattended kayak at a put-in or on a beach accessible to the public. There are a number of good waterproof dry bags, fanny packs, deck bags, or duffles that can be quickly converted into totes or packs so you can carry your necessities with you while hiking or walking into a town.
Security for your kayak while stored at home is yet another consideration. Even in a locked garage, you may want to rig up a backup cable or chain lock. Perhaps you have a basement window at the right elevation so a kayak can be slid inside onto a hanging loop system.
Last but not least, it is important to check the limits and exclusions relating to watercraft on your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. There is usually a limit that may be well below the cost of a high-quality sea kayak. Additional coverage for theft anywhere you go is very reasonable.