How To Lock A Kayak & Keep It Safe

Don't let kayak theft sink your paddling plans! Kayaks are a prime target for thieves if left unsecured, but with the right locking strategy, you can protect your investment. We share the most effective techniques for locking your kayak to your vehicle, a rack, or a stationary object, as well as the best theft-deterrent devices on the market. Discover how to outsmart crafty kayak snatchers and keep your beloved boat safe from sticky fingers!
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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Nessa Hopkins

ACA-Certified Kayaking Instructor

Vanessa is a certified kayaking instructor, has taught over 500 people how to kayak, and is a senior member of the American Canoe Association. By combining her deep understanding of the sport and a background in journalism, she offers a wealth of experience and expertise to our growing water sports community, promising to educate and inspire paddlers of all levels.

As a kayak owner, one of your top priorities should be keeping your beloved watercraft safe from theft. Whether you’re leaving your kayak unattended at a familiar spot, a secluded campsite, or in a hotel parking lot overnight, it’s crucial to know how to lock your kayak properly.

The primary goal of locking your kayak is to make it as difficult and risky as possible for potential thieves to steal it. By making the process of stealing your kayak more challenging, you can deter criminals and keep your kayak secure.

In this guide, we’ll explore various methods and tools for locking your kayak, including:

  • Using a simple bicycle cable lock, such as a Master Lock, to secure your kayak to your roof rack or trailer
  • Threading the cable loop end through the scupper plug holes of a sit-on-top kayak before locking it
  • Securing your kayak accessories using lockable straps, like those made by LightSpeed
  • Storing your kayak off the ground and using a permanent fixture to loop a locking cable through
  • Tying your kayak to a permanent structure with a chain and padlock or a cable lock system, such as the kayak lock cable by Supsenz

We’ll also discuss the importance of keeping your kayak out of sight to prevent opportunistic theft and provide tips for long-term, off-season storage.

Remember, investing a little time and effort into kayak security can save you from the heartache and expense of dealing with a stolen kayak.

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How To Secure Your Kayak At Home & On The Go

Canoe storage on Lake

If you got this far thinking that your kayak’s somehow immune to thievery, think again. 

I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about kayaks “magically” disappearing from docks, getting stolen from people’s yards, and being lifted off car roofs in the middle of the parking lot. 

So, yes, you’ll have to take some additional precautions to protect your investment and keep you kayak safe. 

Here are a few common scenarios where securing your kayak might be necessary, and advice on how to do it! 

How To Lock A Kayak When On The Road 

Kayak on roof rack of black audi cr

Whether you’re towing it in a kayak trailer or on the car’s roof rack, using a cable lock and tie-downs to lock your kayak when on the road is highly recommended

No, scratch that. 

A kayak lock is a must in order to keep your kayak safe on the road

Responsible paddlers already know better than to try and transport kayaks that aren’t secured to the car. 

Having it fly off the roof rack as you’re driving down the highway can damage it beyond repair and put others in a life-threatening situation. 

That’s not the only reason to tie your kayak down on the go, though. 

If you’re traveling to a remote destination, you’ll likely have to make stops along the way. Leaving an unsecured kayak unattended, on roof rack or trailer, in a random parking lot or unfamiliar location – even for short periods, let alone overnight – is an open invitation to crooks.  More kayaks are stolen on the road than anywhere else.

Something as simple as a bicycle cable lock, such as a Master Lock, can secure your kayak to your roof rack or trailer. It will help keep your kayak safe on the road – giving you that extra peace of mind whenever you need to “abandon” your kayak temporarily. 

And, remember to secure or lock your kayak accessories – keep them out of sight in the car. Or, if too big and need to be left on the trailer of roof rack, secure them lockable straps – like the ones made by LightSpeed

If you have a sit-on-top kayak, try threading the cable loop end through the boat’s scupper plug holes before locking it – see, those scupper plug holes has there uses!

Locking your Kayak

As for sit-inside kayaks, which do not typically have a drain hole or scupper hole, some might come with dedicated cable bars. If not, you can use one of those Lasso locking cables or drill and install a kayak lock hole yourself – as long as you don’t mess with its watertight hull, that is. You can then use this to lock your kayak to the roof rack. 

How To Lock A Kayak When Stored At Home

One plastic kayak in the garage,

Storing your kayaks inside a locked garage, shed, or – if possible – inside your home, is the ultimate solution for keeping them safe and sound, and away from a thief. Freestanding kayak rack, a wall-mounted kayak rack, or a suspension system; you have plenty of options for secure indoor kayak storage

Storage space is a common issue among paddlers and the reason why many opt for an inflatable over a hard-shell. 

So, if there’s no room inside for your kayak, what can you do to keep keep your kayak safe and secure while sitting outside your residence?  

For starters, I’d recommend that make sure you keep it as close to the house as possible. Better yet, install a wall mount on your home’s exterior wall or build a wooden rack if you’re handy enough.

If installing a kayak rack isn’t possible, or you don’t have a garage, then a tree or other permanent structure can make a good anchoring point.  Just loop a cable lock or lock cables around and through the scupper plug holes or kayak handles, to keep it locked and safe. Place the kayak in a protective storage bag and cover with tarp to keep your kayak out of sight from any would-be thieves.

Ideally you should be able to store them off the ground and, more importantly, have a permanent fixture through which you can loop a locking cable

Sometimes, all it takes to prevent theft is to make something tricky to steal. You don’t necessarily need to invest in a high-end locking system, I’d say that tying a kayak to a permanent structure with a chain and padlock or a cable lock system counts as “tricky enough.” Such as, the kayak lock cable by Supsenz.

Need a help with finding suitable kayak storage, then check out our post on space saving and practice storage ideas.

How to Build a Kayak Rack - Tutorial

If you don’t want to buy wall mount kayak rack, and have more than one kayak, its also possible to create your own DIY freestanding kayak rack , check out the video above for more details.

How To Lock A Kayak When Away From Home 

View of camp life. Woman sitting near campfire, drinking tea or coffe and have a rest. Orange tent next to lake shore. Canoe on water near the tent. Snow mountains on background.

Sure, bringing your kayak along on camping trips can be all kinds of fun. But waking up and learning that your kayak’s been stolen is a surefire way to ruin an enjoyable weekend in the outdoors. 

If you parked next to the campsite, using a cable lock to secure the kayaking to the trailer or car rack should be enough. 

But if not, and you carried it to a remote campsite on foot, this method won’t work. 

So, with your vehicle left behind, what’s the alternative if you need leave your kayak outside on camping trips? 

If you have inflatable or folding kayaks – which, by the way, are surprisingly travel-friendly – then the simplest solution is storing it inside your tent. 

Securing hard-shells isn’t as straightforward, though. You’ll have to find permanent structures, such as a tree, nearby where you can fasten the kayak with a cable lock

Trees, logs, even a dock if it’s close enough to the tent; as long as it’s a solid and permanent structure near your campsite, you’re golden. 

Keeping kayaking accessories safe when outside of the home is tad more tricky. Where and if possible, make sure to keep them in you tent – failing this lock your electronic kayak accessories inside of the hull of your sit-on-top kayak. Paddles can be secured using a paddle-lock, such as those made by DockLocks.

Top 3 Tips For Keeping Your Kayak Secure (Other Than Locking It)

If somebody wants something bad enough – your kayak, for example – they’re going to get it, lock or no lock. 

Is there anything else that might help keep your kayak secure, then? 

Yes – and you can check out the three additional tips for kayak safety below! 

Check Your Homeowner’s Policy & Buy Specialist Kayak Insurance 

Insurance claim form and bills

Unforeseen and unexpected is the primary reason why things like insurance policies exist

Now, the good news is that if you have an active homeowner’s insurance policy, there’s a chance that it already covers your kayak and accompanying accessories.  But be mindful

When it comes to insurance options, before you go ahead and buy a separate boat owner’s insurance, make sure to check your current policy’s details.

The not so good news is that this only applies to watercraft within a certain price range – and there might be limited cover for a kayak outside of the home. If your kayak’s more expensive than the policy’s specified limit, then a kayak insurance or watercraft insurance policy might be your best bet. 

Either way, getting kayak insurance will be a smart move in more ways than one, not to mention an extra reassurance if something goes wrong. Plus, some policies even cover your kayak accessories, including portable electronics such as a fish finder, fishing rods, and the like. 

Keep Your Kayak Out Of View: “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” 

Mystery man in a raincoat with a hood hiding in the trees

Opportunistic thieves love nothing more than an easy target – and with kayak theft, the story usually goes like this: 

Someone comes along, sees a kayak sitting there by itself, and figures that they could make a quick buck. So, they steal it. 

Its up to you to make sure that the opportunity to snatch your kayak never arises

Knowing how to lock a kayak is only the first step. Keeping your kayak out of sight – and, consequently, out of mind – can add an extra layer of protection, especially for long-term, off-season storage. 

They can’t steal it if they don’t know it’s there!

A dedicated spot in the garage, basement, or shed would be ideal. If that’s not an option and you have to store your kayak outside, the least you can do is keep it covered with a tarp so that it’s not easy to identify from afar. 

Record & Register Your Hull Identification Number (HIN)

Person Hand With Magnifying Glass Over A Finger Print Revealing Binary Code Within The Print

Non-motorized kayaks are exempt from many labeling and registration standards, and other federal requirements. Some kayaks need to be registered, and others don’t; the laws and regulations vary from one state to the next. 

However, the good news is that all kayaks made after 1972 still need to have a Hull Identification Number or HIN for short. 

Why is that a good thing? 

Your hull identification number is an unique 12-digit code – typically stamped or engraved near the stern – serves as your kayak’s ID. If your kayak gets stolen despite your efforts, providing the HIN to the authorities can be crucial for returning it to the rightful owner.  Basically, its your kayak’s own finger print!

So, keep a record of your kayak’s hull identification number just in case. 

Also, never underestimate the “enemy.” 

You’d be surprised how crafty thieves can get when trying to make the stolen kayak less identifiable. Removing the HIN is often the first thing they do after the fact. 

You can outsmart them in their own game, though: 

Find an inconspicuous spot – under the seat, inside a storage hatch, or below deck – and mark the HIN there. You’ll have a better chance of identifying your stolen kayak that way. 

How To Lock Up A Kayak: Summing It Up  

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a familiar spot, a seemingly secluded campsite, or leaving it overnight in the hotel’s parking lot. 

If your kayak is going to be unattended at any given moment, make sure that it is locked.

The whole point of knowing how to lock a kayak is making it as difficult and as risky as possible for the potential thief. 

Ideally, you want to make it hard enough that they give up on the idea of stealing your kayak altogether. 

There are some good and inexpensive kayak locks out on the market, such the Master Lock Python or BV cable lock, make sure you have one part of your kayaking kayak accessories kitbag. A kayak lock might not be a 100% theft-proof solution – then again, nothing is – but at least you’re not making your kayak an easy target for the crooks! 

Finally, always keep a record of your your hull identification number – this will help track your kayak should it gets stolen. I hope you have found this post helpful and learnt some tips on how to keep your kayak safe.

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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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