DIY Outriggers for Kayaks

In very rough water or high winds, the native tipsiness of kayaks can be intimidating to moderately skilful paddlers. For a neophyte, learning to balance himself in this sleek, fast, but often unstable craft can be frightening. It is, of course, this on-the-edge balance characteristic that gives the kayak its maneuverability. This same feature, however, can make it difficult for a new paddler to master paddling techniques. A handy homemade outrigger can help.

Clean the ends of one 2-inch pipe and the inside of the 2-inch female ends of two 4-inch PVC adaptors. Glue the adaptors to the ends of a 2-inch, 8-foot-long pipe. Repeat with the other 2-inch pipe cross member.

Clean and glue the ends of 90-degree, 4-inch elbows to the open ends of the adaptors on the ends of the 2-inch, six foot long cross-member. Make certain the elbows face in the same direction. Repeat with the second cross-member assembly.

Clean the ends of 4-inch pipes and inside of the elbows of both cross-members. Turn the elbows to face each other between the ends of the 2-inch cross-members. Measure the cockpit of the kayak. Cut the 4-inch pipe at least a foot longer than the cockpit. Glue the 4-inch pipe between the elbows to create a rectangle shape.

Cut the 2-inch cross members exactly in the centre. Test fit the 30-degree elbow in the centre of the cross members. The elbows give a tent-like shape to the pipe rectangle.

Test fit the assembly over the hull of your kayak. Place the foam pads between the cross-members and the hull of your kayak to give it the proper lift from the hull. Cut the length of the cross-members so that the outrigger pipes ride at the water level, but are not fully immersed. Take into account the weight of the paddler when figuring where the waterline will be. The outrigger pipes should be fairly close to the kayak to prevent interferance with the double-bladed paddle reaching beyond them. These outriggers have extra buoyancy so they can ride closer to the boat.

Glue the cross-members to the 30-degree elbows. Wrap 3-inch foam pads around the 2-inch cross-members about 3 inches from the edge of the deck on each arm below the centre elbow. Zip tie the foam in place with one tie at either end of the pad.

Set the pipe assembly on the deck of the kayak with the cross-members fore and aft of the cockpit. Tie down the assembly with lightweight ratchet tie-down straps fastened to tie-down points on the hull in front of and behind the cross-members.


If your kayak doesn't have tie-down points in the proper place, consider installing them. If not, secure the assembly with heavy bungee cords run beneath the hull. The cords will impede the hydrodynamic properties of the hull while you are moving through water, but since the rig is likely temporary, it shouldn't matter to the paddler. If you prefer to make the outriggers permanent, consider adding permanent tie-down points to the deck or drilling holes and bolting the framework in place.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 PVC pipes, 2- inch diameter, schedule 40, 8 feet long
  • 2 30-degree elbows, 2-inch diameter, female to female
  • 4 PVC adaptors, 2-inch to 4-inch, female to male
  • 4 PVC 90-degree elbows, 4-inch diameter, schedule 40, female to female
  • 2 PVC pipes, 4-inch diameter, schedule 40, 4-6 feet long, depending on the size of cockpit
  • 2 PVC pipe caps (rounded), 4-inch diameter
  • 2 foam strips, 3 inches thick by 6 inches wide by 6-1/2 inches long
  • 4 zip ties
  • PVC cleaner and glue
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Tom King published his first paid story in 1976. His book, "Going for the Green: An Insider's Guide to Raising Money With Charity Golf," was published in 2008. He received gold awards for screenwriting at the 1994 Worldfest Charleston and 1995 Worldfest Houston International Film Festivals. King holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Southwestern Adventist College.