You are currently viewing Master the kayak shuttle

Master the kayak shuttle

Getting from point A to point B is pretty easy while on the water. There will be a time in your paddle adventures when you would like to explore different sections of the waterways. One option available to paddlers is something called a shuttle. This is likely to become part of your normal activity as one expands their paddle destinations.

A shuttle is quite simply, the ability to leave your kayak and gear at your launch point, and having a vehicle at your take-out location to transport your kayak(s), gear, and passengers.  This process is part of the overall planning process for a kayak trip. There are several ways this can be completed, as I will expand on all of these.


The solo paddler: This process can be accomplished fairly easy, however there are a few items needed to make this a success. One would drop off the kayak at the put in (launch spot) – and secure it to a stationary item (tree, light post, telephone pole, etc). This may be accomplished by using a lock and cable, or lock and chain idea. Where this is attached to the kayak does vary from model to model – the idea is to find a place which is part of the kayak (something which can not be removed). Once this has been secured, time to drive your vehicle to your take-out location. Drop off your car (take your keys), and pack up the items needed for your paddle adventure (PFD, Paddle, phone, clothing, etc). Getting back to your kayak can be done several ways – walk/hike, bring a bicycle, Uber/Lyft, find an outfitter who will drive you to your kayak, or phone a friend for a lift. Once you have completed your paddle trip, your car is awaiting you, all you need to do is load and go (unless your bicycle is back at your put in).

One car, two paddlers – This one is a bit similar to the solo paddler, as far as the plan of getting back to the put in. However, there is no need to secure the items at the put in, since your paddle partner will be patiently awaiting you to arrive.

Two cars, two paddlers – This one has a bit more driving involved and should be factored into your paddle trip. If both cars have the ability to transport two kayaks, this is pretty simple. Load both kayaks and gear onto the car which will be going to the put in. Take both cars to the take out, and leave the car without the kayaks at this area. Bring the paddlers and kayaks to the put in, after finishing the paddle trip, load up the vehicle at the take out, and drive back up to the put in location.

If only one car can carry two kayaks – follow same starting process as above by dropping off a car at the take out, and take the vehicle which has the kayaks to the put in. Once finished and at the take out, one person stays at the take out with the kayaks and gear, while they take the take out car to the put in location and gets the vehicle which can transport two yaks – and they drive back to the take out to load up. Then they return back to the put in with the paddle partner so they can get their car. Side note: it is a great idea to have a change of clothing, towel, food/water inside the take out car awaiting you after your paddle trip. It would foolish not to mention the obvious here, but ensure everyone has their car keys BEFORE launching.

If both cars have only the ability to carry one kayak at a time – this would reflect a solo paddler option.

Multi kayaks

Multiple cars, multiple paddlers – This sounds complex, however becomes rather easy once done a few times. Firstly – all gear and kayaks should be left at the put in. Secondly, there should be some pre planning who can carry more than one kayak, and/or who can transport more than three people. These folks will become the ‘shuttle crew’.  Ideally, the vehicles which can carry a multitude of kayaks, or a multitude of passengers should be left at the take-out location. These will be used later to take the gear and passengers back up to the put in after the trip. Trailers which can haul many kayaks are an excellent resource during this trip. Some local outfitters may assist your needs, otherwise if it is a rather large group a bus service or even a community taxi service may be a worthy investment. These would need to be prearranged days, or weeks prior to the trip.

Shuttles can be very useful to the paddler, but it does take planning. This expands your destinations to explore waterways one would otherwise not think about. Get out and explore, the water is awaiting you.


For the paddler within.