There’s a lot more to painting than just picking up a pint, quart, or gallon and slapping some on there. That’s especially true with kayaks and kayak paddles, because they both undergo pretty severe exposure, flexing, and pounding.
Can You Paint Kayak Paddles and A Kayak?
You can certainly paint your kayak paddles and your kayak as well, however, there are several things you need to understand about the structure of both the kayak paddles/kayak and paint. There are a lot of things that make a huge difference.
The material of your kayak paddles/kayak, the type of paint, cleanliness level for both, opening up the material for proper bonding, the environment, and the type of use you put your kayak through, all play a large part in what paint you choose and how you apply it.
How To Choose Your Paint
The process begins here. All of the prep work and environmental conditions come later, prior to and during the paint application. First, you have to choose your paint and that decision should be based on what type of material you’re painting.
There are several types of material used in the construction process when the paddles are made and the kayaks. Apply the wrong type of paint to a material, it will likely fall off in sheets, when it’s not cracking, and turning into tiny little paint flakes that aren’t suitable for the environment.
There are four, common materials found in kayak paddles. For those who have kayak paddles made up of more than one material—such as aluminum handles with carbon fiber paddles—the same paint won’t work across the length of the paddle.
You’ll have a choice at this point: paint the paddle one color and the aluminum another or just paint the paddle and leave the handle/shaft section alone.
- Fiberglass Paddles: Acrylic latex paints are best for fiberglass as they bond better to the material.
- Carbon Fiber Paddles: Epoxy primers bond best with carbon fiber and most metals.
- Aluminum: You can use an epoxy primer with aluminum—especially if you prep the surface well—but polyurethane is a better bet.
- Wood Paddles: Polyurethane is also an excellent paint choice for woods.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about paddles here. Paddles are extensively used, dipping in the water, scraping along rocks and sand, constantly flexed—no matter how stiff you think they are, they flex—and constantly exposed to the sun.
No matter what level of prep work or what kind of paint you choose, there’s still going to be a level of degradation over time. Paint isn’t steel, and regardless of its bonding qualities with the surface they’re applied to, they will still degrade quicker than anything else.
Kayaks are going to take more paint than paddles, for obvious reasons, and some of them are made of different materials.
- Polyurethane Plastic: Plastic is difficult to paint over, so efficient prep work is crucial. Epoxy paints are the best kind for marine applications on polyurethane plastics.
- Fiberglass: The same application for fiberglass paddles applies to fiberglass kayaks. Acrylic latex bonds the best.
- Thermoform: Polyurethane, Epoxies, and Acrylic all bond well with thermoform production plastics.
Regardless of what paints you choose to go with on any particular surface, prep work is essential. It’s also highly recommended that you spray paint rather than roll-on or brush-on paint.
The reason for this is twofold. First, the prep work on the paddles and kayaks is designed to “open” the material up, while cleaning away any residues—such as oils—that will act as a repellant to the bonding process.
Second, when you spray paint, you’re atomizing the paint. Since you will have opened the surface, you get far more penetration with atomized paint particles, a more clean and even coat, and a longer-lasting product that’s superior in strength and endurance to other methods.
Spray painting with cans is okay, so long as you can match the paint with the surface material. However, we recommend a residential or industrial spray painting method for superior and longer-lasting quality.
How To Properly Prep Your Paddles And/Or Kayak
When we say prep, what we mean is completely stripping down the kayak and paddles, removing everything that can be removed—that’s not getting painted. Thoroughly clean every square inch, and sand down every square inch to open the surface up.
Everything that is not going to be painted—straps, latches, rubber components, etc.— should be removed if it can be. The parts that can’t be removed should be securely masked with some quality masking tape.
Get a bucket of hot, soapy water with a good scrub cloth. Thoroughly wash and clean the entire surface of the kayak or paddles. Rinse it as thoroughly as possible, making sure that no soapy residue is left behind.
Completely sand down the entire surface area with a fine-grit sandpaper. Any scratches or marks on the paddles or hull should be sanded down and smoothed out as best you can.
Thoroughly wash everything again and rinse it well so that all the dust and residues from sanding it are removed. Once the kayak or the paddles are dry, come back and wipe every bit of surface area down with acetone. Acetone will remove any lingering stains, dirt, or oils on the surface.
Once the kayak and/or paddles are completely dry, you can start applying your paint. We highly recommend spray paint, but you’ll need to make sure you have the appropriate safety equipment or that your environment is well-ventilated to minimize your exposure to fumes.
Also, don’t spray paint if the humidity is high. You don’t want to spray over tiny water molecules. It’s best to spray paint on a sunny, clear day.
Spray paint in patterns, one straight, horizontal line. Don’t twist your wrist as you spray. Maintain a straight wrist and a consistent, unwavering distance of 12 – 18 inches away from the surface.
When you curl your wrist, you’re unconsciously reducing the amount of spray millage—because a curled wrist is farther from the surface—so that you are getting an uneven coating. Some areas of the surface will have thicker paint layers than others.
On your second line, overlap the first line by ¼ to ½. When the job is finished, let it completely dry to the paint’s specifications before returning and applying a second coat.
Things To Know When You Paint Water-Exposed Equipment
There are a few more things that are important to know when spray painting any marine vessel, from paddleboards to gigantic canoes.
- Always use marine paints
- Always use water-based paints and avoid oil-based
- Mistakes are costly
- Spray paint your paddles, even though it seems counterproductive
What Kind of Paint Will Stick To A Kayak And Paddles?
Marine paints are specifically designed for crafts and instruments that are going to be consistently exposed to water and UV.
Water-based paints are superior to oil-based paints because they are far more flexible when they are cured—a necessity for small watercraft—have a higher UV exposure rating, and they resist water and salt penetration better than oil-based.
Thoroughly cleaning and prepping is important. If you miss a spot or neglect something, the paint will not properly adhere to the surface.
Lastly, spray paint your paddles too. It’s just a far more efficient and long-lasting method. Considering the beating that paddles go through, you want the absolute best prep and spray methods for the most secure bonding process.
Painting your kayak and paddles requires using the right type of paint made to withstand water, high exposure to UV, and salt.
While it’s possible to paint your kayak and paddles, it’s much easier to buy the color kayak and paddles you like.
- Do Kayak Paddles Come Apart?
- Do Aluminum Kayak Paddles Float?
- Is 303 Protectant Good for Kayaks?
- Can You Use Armor All On Kayaks?
- How Can I Shine My Kayak?
Marshall, V. (N/A). The Pros And Cons Of Different Kayak Materials Retrieved from: https://paddlingmag.com/boats/kayaks/what-are-kayaks-made-of/
O’Brien, S. (July 27, 2021). How To Paint A Kayak: Step-By-Step Guide For A DIY Kayak Paint Job Retrieved from: https://www.watersportswhiz.com/how-to-paint-a-kayak/