How to Build a Homemade Kayak Launch

Are you wondering how to build a homemade kayak launch?

Is it because launching a kayak from high banks or muddy spots can be challenging? And extremely annoying? 

There’s a solution, though, and I bet that’s why you’re here.

It’s called building your own kayak launch. 

Q: Can anyone build a launch?

A: With the right tools and planning, absolutely!

Design Options 

You have a range of design options to choose from. Each design offers unique features and advantages. 

The ramp-style launch is a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts due to its simplicity and functionality. It consists of a sturdy box framework that provides stability and support for the kayak during launching. 

One of the key benefits of the ramp-style design is its versatility. It can be adapted to fit various kayak and canoe sizes and weights.

Materials and Tools

The materials required for building a homemade kayak launch include:

  • 2×4 lumber: This durable wood will form the main framework of your launch.
  • Galvanized piping: It adds strength and stability to the structure.
  • PVC pipes: These will be used to construct the custom-made rollers you will need, which facilitate the smooth movement of your boat.
  • U-brackets: To provide lateral support and reinforcement.
  • Screws

The materials you use will determine the long-term viability of the launch. Be sure to choose sizes and lengths that suit your specific requirements.

The width of your kayak, for example, will determine the dimensions of the rollers and the spacing between them so that your boat will fit inside. 

Specific tools will be needed, like a saw for cutting the lumber to the right size, a drill for making holes and assembling the components, and a measuring tape.

Construction Process

Building your ramp-style kayak launch shouldn’t be too difficult if you follow these instructions.

Box Framework

Start by measuring and cutting the 2×4 lumber to the desired lengths for the top and bottom of the launch framework.

  • Cut two long pieces for the sides of the framework, ensuring they are slightly longer than the boat width.
  • Lay the wood pieces on a flat surface, positioning the two long pieces first and placing the top and bottom pieces on the outside of the side pieces.
  • Drive the screw through the top and bottom pieces into the long sides, securely fastening them together. Use more screws for support. 
  • To provide reinforcement, cut a third length of 2×4 and position it between the two long side pieces, securing it with screws.
  • The box-like framework is now complete and ready to support the weight of the kayak during launching.

Creation of Custom Rollers

Take long lengths of PVC pipe that fit the width of your kayak. Cut these lengths into smaller pieces to create the rollers.

  • Using a saw or PVC pipe cutter, cut the PVC pipe into sections slightly longer than the width of your kayak. 
  • Cut a notch in the top end of each PVC pipe section, creating a groove that will accommodate the kayak’s hull. Do not make these too tight on any one spot of the kayak. 
  • Make sure the rollers are far enough apart to support the kayak evenly.
  • To create a spinning mechanism, insert a galvanized pipe into a PVC sleeve, allowing the PVC pipe to spin freely.
  • Screw the top end of the galvanized pipe with the PVC sleeve into the top of the box framework, securing the rollers in place.

Customization and Adaptation 

Be sure to to consider local conditions and tailor the design to suit your needs.

Factors like water levels, the terrain, and the accessibility of the launch area should all be considered. For example, if the put-in spot has a high bank, you may need to adjust the dimensions of the launch framework to accommodate the slope.

Additionally, you can customize the size and spacing of the rollers and the PVC to match your kayak.

If you plan to launch multiple boats, you can extend the length of the launch to accommodate the extra vessels. 

Remember, the beauty of building a DIY kayak launch is the flexibility it offers. 

Benefits of Homemade Kayak Launches 

One significant benefit is how cheap it is compared to commercial options.

(Editor’s note: If you’re curious about the health benefits of kayaking, see our article “How Many Calories Does Kayaking Burn?”)

In addition to cost savings, a homemade kayak launch provides the convenience that every paddler desires. With a well-constructed ramp-style launch, you can smoothly slide your boat into the water without struggling with difficult or uneven terrain.

The PVC rollers ensure a secure and efficient launch, allowing you to focus on enjoying your kayaking adventure rather than the logistics and annoyance of getting your kayak in and out of the water.

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the process, we encourage you to consider embarking on your own kayak launch building journey. It might provide you with a cheap and effective solution! 


Is a kayak launch the same as a dock?

No, a kayak launch is specifically designed for launching kayaks and differs in structure and purpose from a dock.

Should every kayaker have a launch?

Having a kayak launch can greatly benefit kayakers, providing them with a dedicated and convenient spot to launch their kayaks.

Does this project make launching easier?

Yes, building a homemade kayak launch simplifies the launching process, especially in challenging areas like high banks or muddy spots.

What if you don’t have anyone to help you build a launch?

While having assistance can be helpful, it is possible to build a kayak launch on your own by following the provided instructions and taking necessary safety precautions.

My friend said this type of build doesn’t take long. Is that true?

Yes, constructing a ramp-style kayak launch using a box framework and custom-made rollers is a relatively quick project compared to other complex construction projects.

How do I use the u-brackets?

The u-brackets are used to secure the rollers in place, providing stability and support for the kayak during the launching process.

How do I know if the water is deep enough?

If you’re concerned about it, check to make sure the water depth is sufficient by using a depth finder. 

Image Credits
Photo 1 by Superior National Forest

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