Kayak outriggers are like training wheels for a kayak; they’re flotation devices that essentially widen the bottom of your boat, giving you more stability. They usually take the form of an arm protruding horizontally from the side of your kayak with some kind of pontoon at the end.
They are all about stability. There are a number of situations in which you may find your boat simply isn’t stable enough. Perhaps you’re on a long stretch of water where using a sail would be absolutely perfect, but you know rigging a sail up would compromise your stability. Outriggers can help with that. Or, maybe you’re just starting to get into kayak angling, but don’t feel totally stable rigging up rods, reeling in fish and taking your catch off the hook in your boat. An outrigger would help with that. If you’re tall, heavy, and always feel unstable in a kayak, then you can already imagine - an outrigger would help with that. And if you simply don’t feel safe in a kayak, an outrigger would help.
Types of kayak outriggers
Kayak outriggers, also known as kayak stabilizers, come in a couple of different variations. The main two are inflatable or solid kayak stabilizer systems.
Inflatable outriggers use inflatable pontoons that have a bladder with a tough outer membrane. They’re easy to store, are lightweight and can be inflated using your mouth; however, they are susceptible to punctures from rough terrain or your fishing equipment.
Solid Kayak Stabilizer
Solid kayak stabilizer kits use solid floats to offer more stability. Often made of PVC, these things are rugged and can be bashed off sharp rocks without concern. Of course, they’re a bit more difficult to store than inflatable options, and tend to be more expensive and heavier. Most outriggers are highly adjustable, allowing you to find the right spot on your boat for them. Horizontal arm lengths vary as does the attachment method.
Which kayak outrigger is right for you?
If you’ve decided you need outriggers, you probably have all kinds of questions, one of them being, “How long should a kayak outrigger be?”
Generally, outriggers are between 30 to 36 inches long. They’re usually placed about three-quarters of the way toward the stern, just behind the seat. This keeps them out of the way of your paddle. Of course, this is all up to personal preference. There are also some outriggers that lift out of the water, providing you with the ability to easily switch between paddling with or without their assistance as conditions change.
How to install a kayak outrigger on your kayak?
There are a couple different mounting options, some easier than others. Some require you to drill a couple of holes in your boat, some don’t. It’s certainly something to consider when shopping for outriggers. Of course, it’s best to make sure the kayak stabilization kit is compatible with your boat before purchasing it. Any of the reputable outriggers will come with installation instructions. Following their directions, you’ll often have to drill a couple of holes in your boat. If you’re totally uncomfortable doing this, your local outfitter should be able to do it for you. Remember, you can’t un-drill holes! First, figure out the right location on your boat and mark it. When you’re ready to begin drilling, start with a smaller drill bit and switch it out for gradually larger ones to ensure you get the hole in just the right spot.