Kayak on Roof Rack—Side or "Flat"?

I have a Tesla Model 3, and I’m getting the OEM roof rack crossbars.

What’s the best kayak mounts to get, the J-type (kayak on side) or a mount that will have the kayak flat (the way it sits on the water)? I’ll probably go with Yakima.

Here’s my kayak (only 11 feet long):

Any other tips?


You could go either way.

I often seem to hear of people going for the J style when they want to get more than 1 boat on the roof at a time. Getting saddles may be cheaper and do the job just fine for 1 boat.

If you put the boat straight on bare cross bars, on foam pads, or similar, you likely would get some sort of indentation in the hull over time especially in hot weather). Something like saddles that spreads the load more would be useful. The saddles also provide left-right support, which would help prevent the boat from shifting on the racks.

I carry my kayaks directly on the rack bars upside down. There are good reasons for this, one of them being that you don’t risk denting the hull on hot days (the deck is stronger plus even if it dents it would not affect performance). Also the kayak will drain of any lake water that has gotten in while paddling (there is always some) as you drive and you don’t have to worry about it filling with water if you end up driving in the rain. It can also be easier to hoist the boat onto your car with your shoulder in the cockpit. And having the coaming (the lip around the cockpit) between the bars can help with security in keeping it on the car.

I have J-racks but only use them when I need to be able to carry two of my wider boats on the car OR if I am carrying one of my folding kayaks which are more safely cradled in that arrangement. J-racks are not great on the highway because they make the boat catch the wind and can cause handling problems with a lighter car.

Here is my car with two of my kayaks on it. I drove 1200 highway miles with them loaded this way on that trip.

I would go with saddles and for a plastic boat on a hot day or more than a couple of hours on the rack, stored upside down. A little deformation on the deck, if it happens, will not affect performance. In addition, unless you have a short car or are tall. most people find that the boat can only be loaded from the side with J-racks. With saddles you can also load from the back which many people find easier.

That being said, there are load assist options that make solo loading easier either way, but they can be expensive.