Thanks for the tip Chris... post a few recent shots of your setup if you could. I know you were messing around with J saddles and such at one time.
The beauty of the Thule slidebar design shines through as we discuss different loading angles, cuz it can be deployed immediately from any of four points on the vehicle depending on how your parking space is configured.
I started out using my own sidebar attachment (PVC with box-aluminum core) on my large toyota sedan. Eventually, I found it quicker and easier to use a suction/roller loader off the rear of the vehicle. http://www.hobiecat.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=73&t=31224&start=0&hilit=improved
This has been ideal for the car, but won't work on the SUV for various reasons. I'm exploring a few other low-tech rear-loading solutions right now.
Our beaches, parking lots and ramps get super-crowded. Weekends are insane. I know from experience that I can't expect to have any particular side loading angle available when I arrive at the beach. Returning to the car in the afternoon, it's always worse, and I may be completely boxed in door to door. So at any given time, it may be a drivers side, riders side or rear lift.
I know you flip your AI and strap it down. Are you using bare racks only?
Do you think the R&R style bar could somehow work if pads were used rather than saddles.?