As one gets deeper into bigger and bigger swims, it ceases to be a sport where you just show up and swim… all of a sudden you need a team, and a plan, and often times a way to transport a kayak or paddleboard. That last part is a huge pain in the ass.
Last October when I did the Distance Swim Challenge I needed to have 2 vehicles capable of kayak transport to get my paddler’s boat to the start and then back to her car since the race provided zero logistical support for kayak moving. Beth had a rack on her car, and luckily I had a truck and we just tied the kayak down as many places as we could and hoped for the best as we drove along the west side of LA. Not an ideal situation, every turn and gust of wind stressed me out on that drive. As it became more apparent that paddler supported swims were going to become a bigger part of my life I decided that I needed the appropriate rack on my truck to make that safer and easier.
I poked around online for a while and figured I either needed a fancy Thule or Yakima type rack system, or maybe a basic welded one-piece rack you see on construction workers trucks’ might do just as well. I wasn’t really sure since I’d never had anything like this before. I went down to Sea Shells Truck Accessories down the street from my office and talked with one of the guys there for a bit to figure out what I should get. It turned out that a nice looking adjustable rack wasn’t that much more than an ugly non-adjustable rack so I decided to spring for the good stuff and buy a Thule Xsporter Rack. They ordered it up and a week or so later I had them install it. The rack MSRPs around $600 but they swung me a little bit of a deal, and installation was $60.
The Thule Xsporter is all aluminum and the posts are fully adjustable with multiple heights possible. Put the rack up when you need it, put it down when you don’t. It takes a few minutes to adjust the cross bars to a new height, but it’s not that big of a deal. In a big truck you can put the bars all the way down to the top of the truck bed, but in my Ranger the bed isn’t deep enough. I can still get them below my cab though which is great for cutting wind noise. Speaking of… this thing whistles pretty bad when it’s at it’s above the cab! It comes with some rubber stuff to jam into it to cut that down but I’ve never installed it. I find turning the radio up to be a much easier solution :) The reason the whistling channels exist up there is for some really cool sliding holder thingies (possibly not the correct technical term). I really like that extra bit of stabilizing hold.
Randomly the rack also makes for a sweet drying rack and prep station before swimming or bodyboarding. I can hang my fins off the cross bars, and with the help of a bungee bed-net in my truck I have numerous instant clotheslines that I can hook into the slots of the posts. I always have a bunch of suits and shorts out back air drying. It may not be particularly secure, but I’m pretty sure most thieves don’t want to steal speedos that are either sparkly, animal printed or have my name on them :)
One unexpected consequence that you need to be prepared for if you purchase this rack is that old men WILL want to talk to you. It’s a pretty sexy rack with exquisite welding, total dude magnet. People will also think you must be much more interesting than you really are because only someone super serious about fun would have such an expensive looking truck rack.
I’ve had the Xsporter rack since April and I really dig it. I’ve driven kayaks all over between Lake Lopez to the north and Laguna Beach to the south. I think I seriously put 500ish miles on the truck with Lynn K’s kayak on top between her swim and Cliff’s back in August with no problems whatsoever. It’s attractive, functional and of high quality. If you have a truck and want something to carry kayaks, canoes, SUPs, paddleboards, etc I’m not sure why you’d go buy anything else.
You can learn more about the Xsporter and buy it online from Thule.com, or pop into any truck accessory shop or specialty sports shop that carries Thule products.