How to Care for Your Kayak
As you know, a kayak can be quite an investment. “Cheap” boats are still a couple hundred dollars, and high-end yaks can put you out several thousand dollars. When you shell out that much money for a piece of equipment, you’re going to want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. Follow these care and maintenance tips to ensure your boat has a long life.
KEEP IT OUT OF THE SUN
Paddling in the sun is obviously fine—after all, kayaking is a great way to get out and enjoy sunny summer days. But leaving your boat out in the sun for long periods of time is not okay. Although most kayaks these days have UV inhibitors incorporated into the hull material, prolonged exposure to sunlight can make your boat’s bright, vibrant color fade and can weaken the hatch cover(s). Very hot sun can also deform plastic kayaks, especially when left on top of a car with tight straps.
Never leave your kayak on your car for longer than is necessary, and help your boat avoid UV damage—especially the hatch covers—with products like 303 Aerospace Protectant, which is essentially sunscreen for plastic, fiberglass, and rubber.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Once you’ve finished kayaking for the day, be sure to rinse your boat off with clean water and a tiny bit of bleach or vinegar, whether you’ve been paddling in salt or fresh water. The salt from seawater and the sand from the beach will eat away at your boat (the metal pieces in particular) if not washed away, and invasive freshwater species like Rock Snot and Milfoil can take a serious toll on our waterways.
If you store your boat under a tarp, also make sure to dry your kayak as best you can before covering it to avoid mold and mildew.
KEEP IT COVERED
Covering your kayak when not in use is always a good idea, and is especially crucial if you’re unable to store your boat in your house, garage, or shed. A cockpit cover is the best way to keep the inside of your kayak both clean and protected from the sun. They come in different sizes to fit specific cockpit dimensions for a tight seal, and ensure that your boat doesn’t end up full of rain, snow, leaves, or bugs/spiders/other critters while also protecting the seat of your kayak from UV damage.
If you don’t have a cockpit cover, a well-placed tarp is better than nothing—just keep in mind that without a secure seal, nature will still be able to find its way inside.
RUDDERS and SKEGS
If you have a crossover or touring kayak, you’ll also need to take good care of your boat’s rudder or skeg. When rinsing your kayak off after a day of paddling, be sure to pay extra attention to this part of the boat and wash away any sand/salt/dirt to avoid the skeg or rudder jamming the next time you’re out on the water.
POLYETHYLENE vs. COMPOSITE KAYAKS
Perhaps the best part of polyethylene (plastic) kayaks is that they can handle lots of abuse. Paddling in shallow waters and dragging the boat across the shore won’t really do too much damage to one of these robust kayaks. They are, however, still susceptible to some problems, the worst of which is warping. When storing a polyethylene kayak, whether on the ground or on a rack, be sure that pressure is evenly distributed and that padding of some sort is used. (If your kayak stays on the ground, set it on foam blocks or rest it on its side against a wall; if you have a storage rack, make sure the arms are padded.) If you store your boat without padding it or making sure its weight is evenly distributed, you’ll run the risk of the plastic denting or otherwise warping from the pressure—a problem made worse by high temps.
A higher-end composite kayak requires a bit of extra care. The advantage of these boats is that they are lighter weight, but that comes at the price of also being slightly more fragile. With boats like this, you’ll want to be a little more attentive when paddling in shallow waters to avoid dragging your boat across rocks and logs, and they shouldn’t be dragged across the shore. A kayak cart is a great way to make sure your boat makes it from the car to the water and back without getting scratched or gouged.
OTHER KAYAK CARE TIPS
Regardless of what kind of kayak you have, if you choose to store it hanging, be sure to avoid hanging it directly from the carrying handles. This is a good way to wear the handles out very quickly, and if the boat is plastic, it will sag—which is bad for the hull.
Falling snow, ice, and tree limbs can crush your boat. When storing your kayak outside, try to find a place to keep it away from potential debris fields.
Adjustable foot pegs can easily get jammed with sand and become much less adjustable. When your kayak is dry, use a shop vacuum to get the big chunks of sand out then rinse the interior of your kayak out with fresh water.
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