Save Your Back With This DIY Kayak Load Assist (Video)

Clever contraption makes it a breeze to load and unload your boat

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In recent years, fishing kayaks have grown in size and evolved into ever-more-capable fishing platforms. They’ve also become heavier, making it more important than ever to get the right transport and launching solution. Roof racks are affordable and easy to install, but lifting your boat to the necessary height is no easy task. Rather than shelling out extra cash for a lift-assist roof rack, Eric Williams came up with a clever DIY kayak load assist that will save a few bucks and your aching back, too.

How to Make a DIY Kayak Load Assist

Williams, an angler and real estate agent based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, dreamed up his design to augment a Malone J-loader roof rack. As he explains it, the goal was “to load and unload my Hobie Outback kayak without any assistance.” All components for the project should be available at your local hardware store.

man demonstrates how to unload a kayak from his diy load assist
This clever DIY kayak load assist that will save a few bucks and your aching back, too. | Image: Eric Williams/YouTube

The design is deceptively simple. “It’s basically two 2x4s, ten-foot-long on each side, and then I have twenty caster wheels,” Williams says. “It’s twenty caster wheels per board and really everything just rolls right up on top.” Each caster wheel is attached with four one-inch screws and washers. Both of the boards have a 90-degree corner brace affixed to the top end, providing a way to hook them securely into slots on the Malone roof rack.

Roll Your Boat Up, Roll Your Boat Down

Finally, Williams demonstrates his process for loading and unloading the boat. “You just kind of walk it up and then it stops naturally at the J-loader,” he says. “That’s super simple, it requires let’s say 30 [percent] effort versus trying to heave-ho that thing on top.” The process for unloading is similar, though Williams has made a clever tweak to the top caster wheels to help balance the boat at its apex.

Watch the whole video for all the details on this simple but effective DIY kayak load assist, and visit the Eric Williams YouTube channel for more of his DIY projects, tackle tips and fishing footage.


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  1. Same concept, pre-built 8′ lengths. $21ea.

  2. So cumbersome. And others have mentioned that how the hell are you going to get that contraption to the launch site?

  3. Not sure why transporting the loader rails is a question – I’d just throw them up on the kayak rack itself. Simple.

    I had an idea brewing in my head though: why not have the entire kayak loading assembly take place on a framework, leaning on the roof rack / extending to the ground (and in my case, it will be 3 kayaks on edge for my crew).
    This makes loading the kayak super easy and down lower / near the ground. Then once they’re all loaded and secured to the framework, you lift the ground-side of the framework up and start walking it / pushing toward the vehicle. This could even be gas-strut assisted possibly, to reduce the initial ‘squat press’ lift.
    Guides would keep it sliding straight, you’re only lifting 1/2 to 1/3 of the load since the other end is already sitting on the roof rails (amounts to a ‘slight’ – a technique to reduce the load / weight / force required to accomplish the work).

    Et Voila! Rack/Framework is mounted, kayaks assembled/secured, framework latched down, fore/aft tethers applied as needed, and away you go.


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