You went kayaking with some friends and decided you like the sport. You went out and bought a nice new beautiful kayak. Now you are asking yourself “Self, how do I take care of this beautiful kayak?”
- Try to keep it indoors or covered if possible (direct sunlight will bleach colors and material, seats get brittle)
- Keep it up off the ground to prevent anything from making a home inside of it (trust me on this one)
- Clean the water and debris out from inside the kayak as frequently as possible (could become home to mosquito family)
- Apply a generous coat of kayak wax at the end of every season before putting it away for the winter (show some kayak love)
The Basics of Kayak Maintenance
Kayaks are pretty simple and don’t require a lot of maintenance. If only my cars and bikes were this easy… This is definitely one of the things that have drawn me to the hobby of leisure kayaking. They are super easy to pick up, throw in the van and hit the road. Yeah, I said IN. I don’ t have the standard roof rack on my van so someday I’ll have to do a custom job. But for now, I can fit up to three 9.5″ Swifys inside my family van. I can even throw the little sit-on-top in for Lily if she wants to go.
Living barely ten minutes from the Snake River in Twin Falls makes it super convenient for me to load up and take off for a few hours. And for under $300 to buy a kayak (usually $249 if you hit a sale like 4th of July at Dick’s Sporting Goods), you just can’t beat it. Compare it to snow skiing in the offseason. I can’t even buy a winter coat and boots for under $300 let alone the skis, poles, and lift tickets. But I digress…
There are a few things you can do to keep your kayak in good condition. One of the best things you can do is store it properly. Ideally, it should be stored in a dry place like a garage or shed. Or if you are like me and have an extra salvaged-title Suburban sitting in your driveway… you can store a few in there. If you are storing it outside, make sure to roll it over with the cockpit area facing the ground. This will keep water from pooling up inside the kayak. Pooled water will damage the kayak and leave an ugly watermark. It is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other critters. Try to keep it in a shaded area and out of the wind if possible.
Shade Your Kayak From Excessive Sun Exposure
Over time, exposure to the sun will take a toll on your kayak. Extended sunlight will fade the colors and rapidly eat away at any seat covering that may be installed for comfort. My kayak is a beautifully colored Swifty Perception and I want it to stay vibrant for as long as possible. The blues, purples, and greens blend together and terminate at a solid black nose. I love it! The seat is unusually comfortable as well. It is cushioned a bit and covered in black soft material. That would be the first to go if I left it out in the sun too long. I have no doubts it would become brittle and fall apart.
For those of you paddling in salt water, make sure you rinse your kayak off with fresh water after you are done for the day. Pay special attention to rinsing off any parts of the kayak that contain metal like the rudders, foot pedals or gear tacks. Saltwater erodes away at metal parts and you don’t want your kayak to end up looking like the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean.
Kayaks Take a Licking and Keep on Ticking
Wait, that’s Timex. Anyway…one of the greatest aspects of plastic kayaks is that they can take quite a beating and still work just fine. My wife and I have pulled each other up on rocks many times at Pillar Falls and there are scratches but nothing that needs to be addressed or fixed. But they will show signs of their abuse so be thoughtful when handling if the idea of a scratch on your beautiful boat bothers you. Don’t worry about the little scratches on the bottom of your kayak unless they are really deep. There are YouTube videos showing how to carefully melt certain types of plastics onto your kayak if you feel it needs an extra layer.
Something to keep in mind is that it is actually quite normal for the hulls of plastic kayaks to become a little deformed over time. If it becomes seriously warped or dented, oftentimes direct heat can reverse the damage. Simply guide a heat gun from your local hardware store gently over the area. Being careful not to get so close as to melt the plastic but close enough to soften the material. If you don’t have a heat gun, you can lay your kayak in direct sunlight. This method works just as well but takes a little bit longer.
When You Really Damage Your Kayak
Note: you CAN hit a kayak hard enough that is could crack. Or you could punch a hole right through it if you aren’t careful. This is something that you need to take care of right away. If you have a plastic kayak, there are several videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to “plug” a hole by melting common plastic materials. Composite kayaks will require someone skilled with fiberglass to fix holes and deep scratches.
The same care goes for your gear. I have a large tear in the paddle tape on my Field N Stream 180. Upon reaching my destination one afternoon, I happily tossed my paddle up on land and began to exit my kayak. Little did I know I ruined my grip tape as it bounced across the jagged rocks. Lesson learned. I’ll probably resort to buying some grip tape from a local sporting goods store and taping over my mistake. At least until I upgrade to a lighter paddle (Sponsor, <taps on glass>, I’m talking to you…)
So remember, take care of your little kayak and it will take care of you. I see no reason why mine can’t last me a good twenty years or more. I’m sure the colors will fade over the years but the memories we make will be fantastic! And these little beauties can be passed down from generation to generation. What I REALLY need is a good trailer that will hold all of my kayaks and the trusty old orange canoe. Someday…
FAQs on Kayak Care & Repair
Q: How long do kayaks last?
On the off chance that a the kayak is put away out of the sun, in a carport, an obscure territory, under the house or packed away in a kayak spread, it tends to be relied upon to last 10-15 years or longer
Q: How do you shine a kayak?
Clean your kayak with mild soap and water. Use a safe protectant spray to guard against UV rays and to help your kayak shine.
Q: Can you store a kayak upside down?
Continuously store your kayak inside or under a cover to shield from rough climate, direct sun, and different weather elements. Putting away your kayak topsy turvy on crossbars or dangling from ropes around the cockpit are the most ideal approaches to keep the kayak put away.
Q: What is the best material for a kayak?
Rotomolded polyethylene is typically your least expensive and heaviest kayak material. It is probably the best choice for recreational kayaks since people don’t usually want to spend a lot for a recreational kayak. Polyethylene is the most flexible material and therefore, the most impact resistant.
Q: How do you repair a fiberglass kayak?
Sand the damaged area with medium-grit sandpaper. Clean the area with acetone or isopropyl alcohol. Cut the fiberglass material to the proper size, overlapping the damaged area by 1″ on all sides. Mix the resin and catalyst. Apply mixed resin directly to the hull in the damaged area.
Q: Can you leave kayaks outside in the winter?
Try to store inside. This will allow you to control the environment in which you keep your kayak or canoe. Outdoors, it will be subject to the elements. If you have to store it outside, be sure to cover it with a tarp for UV protection. The sun can, in fact, be a great deal more harmful than the cold.
Q: How do I know if my canoe is Kevlar?
If there’s damage the kevlar will “fuzz up” and look like felt material. Fiberglass will break off and grind smooth. In the end, a nice kevlar boat will be easily identified by weight, color, and construction.