How To Lock Up A Kayak?

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Knowing how to lock up a kayak is important whether you own a personal kayak or you’re running a commercial business with multiple kayaks you need to keep secure. But the best way to lock up a kayak can depend on many factors.

If you don’t have a dedicated outdoor kayak rack where you store your boats, you probably have them stacked together on the ground or up against a tree, building, or storage container. And if you’re just dealing with a personal kayak, you might even want to lock it to your roof rack.

This last point is arguably the most important for new kayakers in urban areas because it allows you to feel comfortable running into the grocery store and leaving your kayak locked to your roof rack after your morning paddle.

Those are just a few examples of the many scenarios you might find yourself when considering how to lock up a kayak. So we’re here to provide you with a comprehensive guide to the methods you can use to lock your kayaks and we’ll also provide some options for the best kayak locks on the market today.

Let’s jump right in!

How To Lock Up A Kayak?

There are multiple methods for locking up kayaks and they all depend on the types of kayaks you need to lock and where you’re planning to lock them up. So, we’ve organized this section to provide tips for every looking scenario you could imagine!

Locking Sit On Top Kayaks to Anchor Point

If you’re working with sit on top kayaks, one of the best ways to lock them up is to set them on or close to an anchor point. This could be a large tree, an outdoor kayak storage rack, or a stake that you’ve permanently driven into the ground at your storage location.

The point here is that your anchor location must be permanent and immovable. Otherwise, this will be the obvious weak point that any potential kayak thief will identify and compromise in order to hoist your kayaks.

Once you’ve identified your anchor point, sit on top kayaks make it easy to lock them up because they have scupper holes that you can feed a cable through. This also makes purchasing a kayak lock for sit on tops relatively inexpensive.

You can build your own solution by purchasing a length of cable at your local hardware store along with a keyed or combination lock. Just make sure that the length of cable is enough to wrap around your anchor point and then fit through all of the kayaks you want to lock up.

While you could purchase a cable that already has locking loops at both ends, these can be hard to find in lengthy sections. That means that anyone who needs to lock up multiple kayaks will often have to create their own solution.

Fortunately, most hardware stores (the good ones at least!) will help you purchase a straight length of cable and then bend the ends and secure them in place to create loops. If you do this, you’ll need to purchase rope sleeves that you’ll feed the cable through, loop it, and then feed it back through before crimping the sleeve down.

Below you’ll find examples of the rope sleeve you should be looking for and what your loops can look like when you’re finished:

Rope Sleeve Example

Loop Example

From experience, you’ll need to make sure that the loops are crimped small enough so that they will fit through the scupper holes on the bottom of your sit-inside kayak. And you should also consider covering the rope sleeve and the end of the cable that’s threaded through it with duct tape or Gorilla tape before you start using it.

As you use this type of cable over time, the stainless steel strands can sometimes separate at the ends. These can become sharp and dangerous for your hands if they are left exposed, so cover them with tape or something protective to avoid cuts to your hands, feet, and legs.

Now that you have your cable, you’ll simply be able to wrap it around your anchor point and then feed one of the loops through the other and tighten down. The remaining loop that is now not tightened down to your anchor point can now feed through the scupper holes of your kayak.

Ideally, once the external loop is threaded through the scupper holes, you have enough cable length to loop it over the top of your kayaks and lock it back to the other loop by your anchor point. But if you don’t have enough length, you can also lock the external loop directly to a straight length of your cable between two of your kayaks.

Locking Sit Inside Kayaks To Anchor Point

Sit-inside kayaks can be a little trickier to lock because they don’t have the scupper holes that will allow you to feed a cable length through. As a result, these kayaks tend to require a cable that loops around the bow and stern and is secured to an anchor point that’s centrally located between your kayaks or on the side of one.

As you can see from the image above, these folks utilized a large, fallen tree trunk as their central anchor point. Their cable wrapped around the tree once and then secured around the bow of one kayak and the stern of the other.

If you’re just locking a single sit-inside kayak to an anchor point, you’ll place one end of the cable around the bow and the other end around the stern. The center of the cable will be wrapped around your anchor point and you’ll need to make sure there’s not enough slack in the cable that would allow a potential thief to slide one of the loops over and off the bow or stern of your kayak.

Here’s a quick diagram of how this would look for a single sit-inside kayak:

Notice that this solution requires a single keyed or combination lock and two lengths of cable. Because of the additional cable you’ll need to lock a sit-inside kayak to an anchor point, it can be beneficial to purchase a manufactured kayak lock for this application rather than seeking a DIY solution.

Locking Sit On Top Kayaks Together

While it’s always preferred to find an anchor point to which you can lock your sit-on-top kayaks, we recognize that it’s not always possible to find the perfect scenario. But you can always lock multiple sit on top kayaks together to make them less likely to be carted off while you’re away.

The basic premise behind this solution is that it’s much more difficult for a single thief to carry off multiple kayaks. And this is especially true if they are locked together tightly and can’t be easily separated.

So, you can use the same basic principle we outlined for locking sit on top kayaks to an anchor point. Thread your length of cable through the kayak’s scupper holes and then bring it back so that you can lock the loops on either end together.

If you have extra cable length, you can even thread it through two sets of scupper holes before locking it to itself. This will create further confusion and provide a better deterrent for potential kayak thieves if you don’t have an accessible anchor point to lock to.

Locking Sit Inside Kayaks Together

Locking sit inside kayaks to one another is also a secure solution if you don’t have a functional anchor point readily available. The difficulty in doing so with sit inside kayaks is that they don’t have scupper holes through which you can thread a length of cable.

This means you’ll need to find hardpoints on your sit-inside kayaks to your cable through. Many sit inside kayaks have small metal loops that are bolted into the deck at the bow and/or stern and they look something like this:

These loops can be used to lock one sit-inside kayak to another, but they will require a much smaller cable than you would use to lock your kayaks to an anchor point. So you’ll need to measure the space underneath those loops to make sure you have a cable lock that can fit through the opening.

If you have rails installed on your sit-inside kayak, you can also purchase tie-down eyelets that give you more flexibility for locking sit inside kayaks together. Here’s an example of what these eyelets look like:

These eyelets slide into the rails on your kayak and give you additional anchor points through which you can thread a cable lock. This gives you more flexibility for locking sit inside kayaks together in situations where the existing hardpoints on your kayak aren’t close enough to lock them together.

Locking Kayaks To A Roof Rack

If you’re constantly on-the-go and your kayak basically lives on your roof rack, you should also explore options for locking a kayak to a roof rack. This gives you the freedom to pop into the store after your morning paddle without worrying about someone simply unstrapping your kayak while you’re away.

The easiest way to lock a kayak to a roof rack is to purchase locking straps. We’ll provide some examples of great locking kayak straps below, but these are great because they serve as tie-downs and also lock your kayak in place on your roof rack.

But if you don’t want to go with this solution, you can also utilize a cable lock much like you would for locking a sit on top or a sit-inside kayak to an anchor point. In this case, your anchor point will be the crossbars of your roof rack, which is hopefully locked in place already.

If you’re using a kayak cable lock to secure a sit-inside kayak to your roof rack, your setup should look something like this:

Notice that this diagram is very similar to the one we shared above for locking a sit-inside kayak to an anchor point. The only difference is that the cable goes under your roof rack bars rather than wrapped around a central anchor point.

If you’re locking a sit on top kayak to your roof rack, you can also utilize a similar solution. Start by threading your cable through a scupper hole at the bow of your kayak and then pass the cable underneath your roof rack bars and through another scupper hole at the stern of your kayak.

From there, you can bring the two loops at either end of your cable together before locking them together. But it’s important to keep in mind that your cable lock or DIY cable locking solution won’t be super tight and shouldn’t necessarily be relied on to keep your kayak in place.

These final two locking solutions should be done after you’ve already strapped your kayak to your roof rack. And if you’re not sure how to do that properly, please check out our article on how to strap a kayak to a roof rack.

Locking Inflatable Kayaks

The best inflatable kayaks on the market today are such popular options because they don’t require a complex locking solution. You can simply deflate your kayak and then lock it up safely inside your vehicle, apartment, garage, or enclosed kayak storage shed.

That being said, if you use your inflatable kayak frequently, you might not always want to deflate it between every use. In this case, you’ll need a solution for locking your inflatable kayak up in between paddles.

If you ever transport your inflatable kayak on a roof rack, you can lock it to that roof rack using locking straps or the same cable lock method you would use for a sit-inside kayak. And, actually, the universal kayak cable locks that you’ll need to purchase for locking sit-inside kayaks to an anchor point are also compatible with most inflatable kayaks.

Be careful to choose a solid anchor point for locking inflatable kayaks and make sure that there’s not too much slack on the cable that would allow a potential thief to slide one end over and off the bow or stern of your kayak.

And while you can consider doing so, we would never recommend locking two inflatable kayaks together for security if you don’t have an anchor point. The minimal weight of inflatable kayaks makes them much easier to pick up and carry off than other types of kayaks, and that will remain true even if you lock two inflatable kayaks together.

Best Kayak Cable Locks

1. Suspenz Universal Kayak Locking System

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The Suspenz Universal Kayak Locking System is the industry-staple for locking up sit-inside kayaks. It includes the two lengths of cable that you need to secure the bow and stern of your sit-inside kayak to a central anchor point or the roof rack of your vehicle.

This locking system actually comes in two sizes: small and large. The small size is made for kayaks from nine to 14 feet in length and the large size is designed to accommodate kayaks longer than 14 feet.

While it doesn’t come with its own lock, this gives you the freedom to choose a combination or keyed locking mechanism, depending on your preference. And this locking system is a super affordable solution for locking sit-inside kayaks to any stationary object.

2. Malone Auto Racks Lockup Cable Lock

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The Malone Auto Racks Lockup Cable Lock is a great solution for anyone that likes to store their kayak on a roof rack and needs to keep it locked down. This cable requires a key to lock and open, but you’ll simply be able to add that key to your existing keychain and you’ll have a spare leftover for a backup.

The cable is eight feet long and constructed from heavy-duty 12-millimeter stranded steel. That steel is also wrapped in a corrosion-resistant vinyl sheathing that maximizes its longevity and also protects your kayak and your body from scratches or cuts that sometimes result from dealing with unprotected steel cable.

The Malone Lockup Cable is also designed with anti-theft and anti-saw design components. And because the locking end is just about the same diameter as the cable itself, this cable lock can also be used to lock sit-inside kayaks together without an anchor point, provided the U-shaped loops on the deck of your kayak are large enough for the cable to fit through.

3. DocksLocks Anti-Theft Weatherproof Coiled Security Cable

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The DocksLocks Anti-Theft Weatherproof Coiled Security Cable is ten feet long and utilizes a combination lock to secure your kayaks. This means you won’t have to worry about misplacing or losing a key, but it does mean you’ll have to choose a four-digit combination that you can easily remember.

The steel cable comes inside a vinyl coating so you don’t have to worry about getting injured if the steel itself frays over time. And the locking end of the cable is the same diameter as the cable itself, which gives it the ability to easily fit throught the scupper holes on a sit on top kayak.

The cable itself is manufactured with 10-millimeter, marine-grade stainless steel and it also features a coiled design that makes it easier to store when you’re not using it. That coiled cable design also keeps any excess cable from dragging or making harmful contact with your roof when transporting a kayak on a roof rack.

Best Kayak Locking Straps

1. Lightspeed Outdoors Lockable Tie-Down Strap

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The Lightspeed Outdoors Lockable Tie-Down Strap is six-feet long and the locking cylinder is constructed using reinforced aircraft-grade aluminum. Each strap comes with a single locking cylinder and two keys so that you always have a spare just in case.

Inside the strap itself, you’ll find a Steelcore cable that’s made with cut-resistant, aircraft-grade steel. This means even a pair of bolt cutters won’t be able to cut through this strap when you leave your kayak unattended for a few hours.

2. Kanulock Lockable Reinforced Stainless Steel Tie-Down Straps

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The Kanulock Lockable Reinforced Stainless Steel Tie-Down Straps are available in 8, 11, 13, and 18-foot lengths and they come as a ready-to-roll two-pack. The straps themselves are reinforced with stainless steel cable, which means a potential thief can’t just cut the strap and take off with your kayaks.

These straps work just like regular cam-style tie-down straps, but they are locked with a key once you tighten them down. The locking cylinders are also protected by an external housing that minimizes the likelihood of damage to your kayaks or the cylinder itself.

3. Thule Lockable Strap

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The Thule Lockable Strap comes in either a ten foot or 13-foot length and each strap includes two One-Key locking cylinders. The rubberized housing around each locking cylinder helps to protect your vehicle from scratches once the straps are tightened down.

While this is a single strap (you’ll need to buy at least two for strapping any kayak to a roof rack), it’s designed and manufactured by the same folks at Thule that we trust with many of our kayak roof rack solutions!

Final Thoughts

Even if you’re not a commercial business that needs to lock up an arsenal of kayaks every night, it’s still important that you know how to lock up a kayak. Whether you’re dealing with one or multiple kayaks, protecting your investments is never a bad idea.

Fortunately, kayaks aren’t necessarily the easiest pieces of recreation equipment to simply pick up and wander off with. But if you leave your kayaks stored at a vacation home or unattended for months at a time, you better lock them up for added security.

We hope that, by reading this article, you now have a bevy of solutions for how to lock up a kayak at your disposal. And we want to wrap up by wishing you the best of luck securing your kayaks so that they’re safe and ready for your next paddling adventure!

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