The Thule J-hooks I use (they belong to a friend and are used to carry the friend's boat) do not fold down, but I still "unscrew" them, as you say, during every river trip (and naturally I take them off the rest of the time as well). It takes roughly five seconds to remove each one, and I can't see how that's inconvenient (it takes about 30 seconds to install each one, which is "a lot longer" but still no big deal). This is also the very reason I DO remove them while on the river. I'd hate to come off the river to find that someone who thought they needed them more than we do decided to take advantage of the fact that they can be removed almost instantly.
Touring Kayak Paddles
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