Are Scratches On A Kayak Bad? (How to Protect The Bottom)

Kayaking has become one of the fastest-growing sports in America. Even people who don’t like outdoor activities will do it. This probably explains the massive number of kayak models and special cleaning and maintenance products that are designed to buff out scratches. So, are scratches bad on a kayak? 

Small scratches are inevitable most of the time are cosmetic which won’t affect the performance or usability of the vessel. However, with time the accumulation of several or deeper scratches can cause friction with the water, which will reduce the performance and efficiency of the watercraft.

So while scratches are inevitable, every kayaker needs to know how to inspect their vessel, as well as what to do to care for their kayak while spending time on the water.

If you’ve been thinking about these questions, consider yourself lucky because we’re about to answer them in detail. So, let’s dive in. 

Why Do Kayaks Get Scratched?

Scratches go hand in hand with kayaking. Unfortunately, this means that even with the most careful regular use, you’re bound to end up with a few scratches on your kayak’s body, regardless of its material. 

As you navigate the waters, the kayak’s bottom and sides hit several plants and rock formations, even if you’re careful. A curious school of fish might approach your kayak if you’re offering food or throwing your bait. A larger fish might even try to attack your kayak, although you won’t probably feel anything. Still, you’ll end up with scratches on the outer body of the kayak. 

On the inside, your shoes and the sand that gets stuck on your feet will cause scratches. Although these might not be immediately noticeable, with time, you might not be satisfied with the way your kayak looks. 

Are Scratches On a Kayak Bad?

This depends on the nature and extent of scratches. Most minor scratches aren’t that bad or serious, even though they’ll affect the way your yak looks. However, they have no impact on its durability. 

These shallow scratches happen when the outer layer of the wax is removed. This happens due to friction when a fish approaches your kayak, or you lightly hit another yak or a rock. They’re not deep enough to penetrate the yak’s body and won’t affect its balance or durability. 

However, deep scratches are different. These are more serious because they can actually affect the overall structure of the yak. If you have a clear kayak, they can also affect its visibility. Deeper scratches happen when you get into an impact accident with another yak or a large rock formation. 

Even having a lot of shallow scratches isn’t a good thing because too many scratches can affect the yak’s maneuverability. In addition, the yak’s body won’t be as smooth, and this might affect its speed and balance. 

How Can You Get Rid of Scratches?

Assessing the extent and condition of scratches will help you come up with the best way to remove them. You can do this every month or so to keep your yak in perfect condition. You can also examine the kayak’s bottom after a long trip if you’ve hit a sharp object that left a bigger impact on your yak. 

Dealing With Shallow Scratches

  • Start by flipping and examining your kayak. You should also check out the interior to assess the type of scratches you’re dealing with. 
  • Use a razor scraper to remove any dangling pieces of plastic that might have been removed from the yak’s body. Hold the scraper from the scratch center till the end of the kayak to get rid of any dangling pieces. This will facilitate the process of waxing and buffing the yak’s body and getting rid of the scratches. 
  • Get medium-grit sandpaper to sand the shallow scratches. You should start from the center of the scratch and keep on buffing until it’s smooth. If you do this step right, only the deepest scratches will be visible. You can deal with the interior scratches in the same way, as they’re probably not that deep. 

Dealing With Deeper Scratches

  • Start by cleaning and examining your kayak’s bottom and interior. 
  • Address the shallower scratches first to facilitate your job. Even if they’re not completely removed, they’ll be smoothed out and easier to deal with. 
  • Use medium-grit sandpaper and buff out the scratches until they can no longer be smoothed out. 
  • Deeper scratches need to be filled, and this won’t be that challenging since you’ve removed some of the shallow scratches. It can be done using several methods. 
  • Using Gel-Coat
  • Apply a single layer of gel-coat to fill in the deeper scratches. 
  • Examine the depth of the scratch, and apply more layers until it’s completely filled. Don’t overapply the material, so you don’t end up with a bumpy surface. 
  • Let the gel coat completely dry and cure for at least 24 hours. You can also use a blow dryer to help it dry faster. 
  • Apply a layer of wax and buff it out until the scratches have disappeared. This will add an extra layer of protection to protect your yak from further damage. 
  • Using Polyethylene

This method will work for you if the scratches are extremely deep. 

  • Get some scrap polyethylene from an older kayak and put it in a pan. 
  • Heat it until it melts. 
  • Wear protective gloves to protect your hand from the hot material. 
  • Pour the melted polyethylene to fill in the deeper scratches and smooth it out using a knife to make sure that it’s even. 
  • Use medium-grit sandpaper to smooth out the surface. After that, use finger-grit sandpaper and start from the center of the scratch to remove any extra material. 
  • Keep your hand light while sanding because you might accidentally remove the paint unless you’re planning to repaint your yak. 
  • Examine the scratches and use filler gel to fill any remaining holes or scratches. 
  • Make sure that your kayak is completely dry and smooth. 
  • Apply a layer of wax. Waxing the surface adds an extra layer of protection to keep your yak scratch-free. However, don’t apply too much wax because it can make your kayak too slippery. 

How Can You Get Rid of Dents?

Dents aren’t impossible to get rid of if you have a plastic kayak. Using only some heat, you’ll be able to restore the shape and function of your yak. 

  • Examine the depth and direction of the dent, and use a heavyweight object to push the surface in the opposite direction. 
  • Leave your kayak in the sun to make sure that the surface is as hot as possible. Two or three hours are enough to heat up the surface without causing too much damage. 
  • Use your blow-dryer and apply high heat to heat up the surface. 
  • Press on the yak’s body from the inside to fix any dents or deformations. Start from the outer side if it’s bent to the inside. 
  • Make sure that you’re not applying too much heat, as you might accidentally ruin the yak’s body. 

How Can I Protect My Kayak In the Future?

After spending that time on maintaining your kayak and getting rid of the annoying scratches, follow the next tips to prevent them from occurring in the future. 

  • Be extra careful in rapid water or in areas where there are known rock formations. 
  • Take off your shoes before going into the yak to prevent interior scratches. 
  • Pay attention to loading, unloading, and hauling your kayak. 
  • Avoid docking on rocky beaches. 
  • Properly store your kayak and cover it with a special cover to protect it from any accidents. 
  • Address smaller scratches as soon as they happen. 

Final Word

Having some scratches on your kayak is perfectly normal and won’t affect its performance. But having too many shallow or deep scratches will affect the yak’s look and can eventually lead to cracking.

Luckily, you can get rid of shallow scratches by sanding them out. If the scratches are too deep, use a gel coat or scrap polyethylene to fill them in. 

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