Prevent Theft of Your Kayak, Paddleboard, Canoe

Kayak Theft

Minimize Your Risk of Stolen or Lost Kayaks, SUPs, Canoes

Kayak, paddleboard and canoe theft is a far-too-common problem. Most people don’t realize it’s one of the fastest-growing crimes at campgrounds and parks.Take these simple steps to reduce the likelihood of your kayak, SUP or canoe being stolen, and to help you identify it if that ever does happen. The goal is to make your kayak easily identifiable, and a harder target to steal. Nothing is foolproof, but thieves will usually go for the easier target.

Keep A Copy of Your HIN (Serial Number)

Keep a copy of your serial number in a safe place. Take a photo and tag it so you can find it on your phone or cloud storage. I also have a note with my vehicle VINs and boat/board HINs.

On kayaks, you’ll usually find this number stamped or engraved into the (right (starboard) side on the back (stern) of the boat on the outside of the hull. On paddleboards, the location varies, but is often on a PVC patch near the grab handle or the leash D-ring, or on the underside by one of the fins. On canoes, the number is typically on both inside seams and also on the front (bow) deck.

This serial number is called the Hull Identification Number (HIN) in the boating world. A HIN is as unique as a car’s VIN or a person’s social security number. It’s used by law enforcement to trace stolen boats, by manufacturers for warranty purposes. The HIN gives the Manufacturer (first three characters), the Hull Serial Number from that manufacturer (characters four though eight), the Date Of Certification and Model Year (last four characters).

Make Your Boat or Board Easily Identifiable

Personalize your kayak, paddleboard or canoe with installed accessories, stickers (including a Vessel ID sticker), and identifying marks to make it easier to recognize.

Add a Vessel ID Sticker

We provide free Vessel ID stickers to Paddle KC members at events, so RSVP for an event on our paddling calendar and then post a comment that you need a Vessel ID sticker and we’ll make sure we have enough on hand that day.

Vessel ID sticker for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards

A Vessel ID Sticker is a small, orange, waterproof sticker with the owner’s name and contact information to help identify the owner of the kayak if it’s ever found empty. We recommend putting a second, backup phone number along with the owner’s number. These stickers are important because:

  • They save lives.  If you’re ever separated from your kayak (in the water or on shore) the person who finds your kayak can use the sticker to provide important info to help others locate you and expedite your rescue if needed.
  • They prevent unnecessary searches. A search and rescue effort is required by law for any boat that is reported as found empty to authorities. This Vessel ID sticker helps track owners down in cases where the boat just slipped off but owners are fine. Unnecessary searches waste a lot of money, divert critical resources away from needed activities, and put rescuers at risk for no reason.
  • They can aid in returning a kayak to its owner. It’s a good idea to place a second Vessel ID Sticker in an inconspicuous place within your kayak (inside a hatch, cockpit, ect.) This can offer you another opportunity beyond the HIN to identify your kayak in the case that it was stolen.

Accessorize and Unique-ify!

Add stickers and install accessories like mounts, extra deck riggings, D-rings, or other options that make your boat or board look different than others of the same model and color.

If you plan to accessorize, we host annual Pimp My Kayak events where we work on upgrades and accessorizing together. Measure twice, cut once … borrow tools and skilled helpers… share Marine Goo! We also chat about accessorizing and upgrading at many of our paddling events – that’s one of many benefits of participation as a Paddle KC paddling club member.

Keep An Updated Photo

Take a good photo of your kayak, paddleboard or canoe, tag it so you can easily find it, and keep that photo on your phone or you cloud storage for easy access if ever needed. Update your “glamor shot” after adding stickers or accessories so you always have a current recognizable version.

Use a Kayak Locking Cable, Paddleboard Lock, or Canoe Lock

Use a locking kayak cable. Add a heavy chain to make it noisy and even more difficult to steal. As mentioned earlier, your goal is to make stealing your boat or board as hard as possible so thieves will move on or choose other targets.

Kayak theft cable
Universal 2-Piece Locking Cable for Kayaks, Paddleboards, Canoes
Works with recreational, touring, sit on top and fishing kayaks and also hard-bodied paddleboards. Key lock.

Extra Thick Kayak theft cable

Extra Thick Universal Kayak, SUP, Canoe Locking Cable
Works with recreational, touring, sit on top and fishing kayaks including Hobies and extra wide boats, and also hard paddleboards. Extra thick cable with both key AND combination lock. I use this locking cable and the combination lock is very handy.

Steel Locking Tie Down Cable

Steel Locking Tie-Down Cables for Kayaks, Paddleboards, Canoes
Great extra layer of security. Be sure to check the size chart to match your boat or board.

Paddleboard locking system
Deluxe Paddleboard Anti-Theft Locking System
Set of paddleboard lock attachment, paddle lock, and cable. Attaches to either a board’s leash plug or fin box. Secure your board and paddle to any stationary object: a car roof rack, tree, park bench, bike rack, and more. Combination lock.

Paddleboard Lock
Paddleboard Lock for use with existing cable systems
Paddleboard lock only (no cable or paddle lock). Attaches to either a board’s leash plug or fin box. Enables locking multiple boards together with a single cable. This lock is included in the Deluxe Paddleboard Anti-Theft Locking System shown above.

Label Your Gear

Write your name on EVERY piece of gear so others can contact you to return it if found, and so thieves may be a little less likely to take it. Use a permanent marker or paint pen to add your name and phone number. Check occasionally to make sure it’s still readable. For example, remember to label your pfd, paddles, hats, water bottles, drybags, tie-down straps, splash jacket, paddling gloves, kayak cart, stern light if you loan it out, etc. This helps avoid confusion when many on a trip have the same gear like identical dry bags, also. We usually have a black, silver, and white permanent marker at Paddle KC events for members to use.

Use Waterproof GPS Trackers

For high-value items like a favorite or hard-to-replace kayak, consider adding a water-resistant GPS tracker in a hidden spot. Models with replaceable batteries are the best value. These are also super helpful on keychains, phones, and hidden in vehicles.


Related Paddle KC Paddling Club Events

If you’re in the Kansas City area, come out to Paddle KC paddling club kayaking, paddleboard and canoe events to see examples and learn lots of useful tips. We host several events in spring and early summer that feature demonstrations of some of these items. Many members use them on our weekend and longer trips.

If you aren’t already a member of Paddle KC, sign up
and join us to paddle, learn and make friends over shared experiences!

Join Us On The Water