Can Kayaks Go In Salt Water? [What You Need to Know]

Have you ever wondered if it’s safe to take your kayak out in saltwater? After all, we all know that salt can be very damaging to some materials. So you might be questioning whether standard kayaks are designed to handle it.

Can Kayaks Go In Salt Water?

You can take your kayak in saltwater, but you should rinse it with fresh water after each use. This will wash away the salt and keep the kayak in good condition. You should also wash all your other gear, including wetsuits and life jackets.

Why Do I Need To Rinse My Kayak?

You might be wondering what salt will do to your kayak if you don’t clean it off and whether it really matters too much. After all, there are bound to be things in freshwater that aren’t great for your kayak either. But you don’t have to rinse it off after every trip.

Rinsing your kayak after paddling in saltwater is vital because if left in contact with your kayak. The salt will destroy everything on the boat. This includes bungee cords, deck cords, metal handles, and even the material of your seats.

Saltwater acts like acid and, over time, will corrode anything that it comes into contact with.  

Essentially, a kayak that has been left salty can end up ruined. And if you don’t want to be replacing your kayak all the time, make sure you rinse it whenever you’ve used it in saltwater. Of course, you should also rinse off all your other gear for the same reasons.

However, it may surprise you to learn that the main shell of your kayak is pretty resistant to salt’s corrosive effects. So whether your kayak is made of fiberglass, polypropylene, or polyethylene, it should be okay. If it gets salt on it, even if you don’t wash the salt off.

That said, leaving the salt on the boat’s fittings is, as mentioned, not a good idea. And if your boat’s seats are ruined, it won’t be much consolation to see that the shell is intact. 

You should rinse away salt as soon as you finish a session on the water. Or at least before it has dried completely.

This will make your boat look better, as well as preserving it, because the salt will leave white crusts on the shell otherwise – which is not such a nice look!

Do I Really Need To Do It Every Time?

Ideally, yes. You should not leave salt on any of your gear at any point, even if rinsing it down is a pain. You can rinse it when you get home, but this should be done before you put the boat away.

In reality, if you don’t remember to rinse it once in a while, the boat will probably be fine, especially if you haven’t splashed a lot of salty water all over the interior. So the chances are you won’t have to replace too much, but it is still better not to do this.

If you have forgotten to rinse your kayak when you get home, you can still do it the next day or even in the next few days. Of course, this won’t be as good, as the salt will have started to crust and corrode the materials, but it’s certainly better than leaving it.

You can also put your boat out in the rain if necessary, as this will wash away the salt. But it may not be very good for the boat in the long term – so make sure you dry it off and put it away afterward.

If you have no way to rinse the boat down (e.g., you’re camping and have a limited supply of freshwater), you should wipe the water off it with a large towel if possible. This will help to get most of the salt off and keep the boat in good condition.

Ideally, this should be followed by a rinse when it becomes possible, but usually, a towel wipe will suffice.

Are Some Kayaks Designed For Saltwater?

If you’re wondering whether some kayaks are designed not to suffer from saltwater, the answer is not really. However, some kayaks are more popular for use. If you want to go out in the ocean or if you’re paddling around salty bays.

Sea Kayaks

If you’re wondering which kayaks are designed to handle better in saltwater conditions, you may wish to look at sea kayaks. The ultimate kayak for use out in the open ocean and the only really safe one if you want to head away from land.

These kayaks are specifically designed to handle well in long stretches of open water. They are narrow and long (sometimes up to twenty-four feet) and have sealed bulkheads that will keep them from sinking if you capsize.

They are designed to track well in open water, stay on course even in windy conditions, and move swiftly through choppy seas.

They don’t turn well, and they are deeper than many kayaks, so they won’t work if you’re operating in tight spaces or shallow areas. But they are great for kayaking in open saltwater. They can also carry lots of gear, which is ideal if you plan to go on a longer trip.

However, you will still need to rinse them and all the gear you have used with freshwater when you return to shore. Even equipment that has been stored in sealed areas may want a rinse to be safe. Although if it’s totally dry, you shouldn’t need to worry about this.

Sit On Top Kayaks

Alternatively, you may be interested in sit on top kayaks. According to YakGear, these are becoming increasingly popular for saltwater kayaking, so it’s well worth checking them out as another option.

As the name suggests, sit on top kayaks have no proper cockpit for you to sit in; you are essentially on top of the kayak, which floats on the surface of the water, rather than sitting low in it.

These kayaks have scupper holes, which let any water that washes onboard go back into the sea, keeping them afloat.

It’s essential to be aware that you will get much wetter if you get a sit-on-top kayak than with a sit-in kayak. You have no protection from the waves and splashes, which is going to be a significant factor if you’re paddling around an ocean bay.

These kayaks are best when the weather is warm. And you need to be aware that they aren’t really designed to be used in the open ocean. Unless they are over fourteen feet. You need a large kayak with two airtight hatches to keep it afloat if you want to go out to sea.

Bear in mind that if you use a sit-on-top kayak, your gear will get a lot more saltwater splashed over it. So you’ll need to clean it more thoroughly after you’ve finished. Also, a thorough rinse will be required for wetsuits, PFDs, and all the handles and cords on your kayak.

Final Thoughts

Kayaks can go in saltwater just fine. And it shouldn’t affect the main shell of your boat. But a rinse after you get out of the water will help to preserve all of your gear. 

You don’t have to do this, but not doing so can lead to corrosion and rotting. And you may find that your kayak doesn’t last nearly as long.

If you plan to kayak in the open ocean. Make sure you have a suitable sea kayak that can handle the salt water and can keep you safe while you’re away from land.