Can You Put Stickers On A Kayak?

There are various reasons you may wish to apply stickers or decals to a kayak. From registration numbers required in certain jurisdictions or for powered’ yaks, boat names, your contact info, safety features, a record of where you’ve paddled, or simply for decoration. But can you put stickers on a kayak?

You can put stickers on a kayak to customize it, assist emergency responders, or comply with registration requirements in certain states. Vinyl stickers will generally stick easily to various hull materials, although silicon protectants and rough surface textures are known to create issues.

Many people have managed to put stickers onto their kayaks for a variety of purposes. However, others have experienced difficulties getting decals to adhere to the surface of their ‘yaks. 

This is due to the material or the texture. But you can prepare your kayak to take stickers, and we’ll tell you how.

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Reasons For Putting Stickers On A Kayak

You may wish to or have to apply stickers to a kayak for several reasons. 

Registration Decal

In the states of Alaska, Illinois, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, you must register all paddle crafts, including kayaks, and pay special taxes so you can paddle. 

Other states, namely Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and Washington, are considering registration requirements.

If you live and paddle in one of these states, you will have to display your registration numbers on your kayak, which means finding a way of getting the letters to stick to your craft. 

If you have motorized your kayak by putting a trolling motor or similar onto it, you will have to register your vessel no matter which state you live in. 

Registration requirements apply to all motorized vessels regardless of size.

Contact Information

You may also want to put your name and contact info onto your kayak in case of emergency, as first responders would find such information extremely helpful. 

If you have named your ‘yak, you may wish to show her name on the bows.


Other people track down stickers for particular harbors and paddling trails to apply to their craft as a record of past trips, while some like to put stickers just for pretty, whether cute turtles or a shark head design on the bows. 

Customizing your kayak with stickers helps to protect it against theft, as it is easier to identify and harder to fence. You can remove the stickers should you wish to sell your craft.

Whatever your reason for stickering your kayak, you must prepare the surface to give the stickers an excellent chance to adhere to the shell without peeling off, cracking, or rubbing off. 

Protecting them with a transparent nylon layer on top helps prolong their lifespan. 

Here’s some stickers on Amazon and decals that are made for jetskis, kayaks, canoes, and other types of water craft.

Factors Affecting How Well Stickers Adhere To Kayaks

Because the quality of the stickers or decals you apply to your kayak makes a difference in how well they adhere, look for stickers made of high-quality adhesive vinyl. 

An aggressive adhesive will grip better onto the surface of your ‘yak, although there are still various things you can do to prepare the surface of your kayak for better adherence.

If you need to register your craft in the state where you reside, look for companies that make registration transfers for your vessel. 

For example, the company StickerLoaf, which sells through Amazon, creates registration number decals on transfer paper to easily apply to your craft.

Many companies will customize stickers for naming your boat. 

For decorating your kayak, you can use vinyl stickers intended for automobiles, such as from the company Hippy Motors, which sells through eBay, or stickers explicitly designed for kayaks, such as made by the companies Tenare and Kakembo, which sell through Amazon.

These stickers adhere well to rotomolded plastic, carbon fiber, and Kevlar hulls. 

However, surface protectants and texture may interfere with them, and they will need protection to prevent them from scuffing or scratching off.

To protect them against scratching, apply a layer of transparent, adhesive nylon repair patch material over the stickers. If you need to remove the stickers to change your craft’s look or sell it, heat them with a hair dryer.

Certain sticker and decal adhesives are designed to cure over a prolonged period. If this is the case, apply the stickers several weeks before you intend to use your vessel again to give the glue a chance to cure.

If you have concerns about the adhesive on the stickers you wish to use, you can apply a thin layer of cyanoacrylate adhesive (superglue) to beef it up. 

Use such glues sparingly; they are very powerful and generally work better if you apply them thinly.

Protectants And Texture Interfere With Stickers On Kayaks

Silicon-based surface protectants such as 303 will leave a waxy residue on your ‘yak’s hull, interfering with the adhesive on the stickers or decals you are trying to apply. 

Any stickers you have attempted to apply to such a surface will be contaminated and will not adhere, but you can prepare the surface beforehand to prevent the issue.

To prevent waxy silicon residue or other gunk on hulls interfering with sticker adhesive, use rubbing alcohol, hexane, or acetone to remove the build-up. 

Depending on how old your polyethylene hull is, it may have crazed somewhat, making the residue penetrating and challenging to remove altogether. Carbon fiber or Kevlar hulls should clean entirely.

Should your plastic kayak have a rough or grainy surface texture, vinyl stickers will not adhere. This factor will not generally affect carbon fiber or Kevlar craft. If your vessel has a surface texture, you must remove it on the area where you wish to apply the sticker or decal.

Although you will sometimes see application instructions saying that you should apply heat from a hair dryer or heat gun to smooth the area, many people have tried this method unsuccessfully, with the stickers rubbing off quickly. 

A more reliable method of smoothing the surface of your kayak is to sand it. Use an orbital sander or palm sander with a coarse grit, to begin with (around 150 or 200), and gradually use finer grades of sandpaper till the texture is gone and you have a glassy-smooth surface (you can finish with about 2000 grit). 

Finally, clean the surface with alcohol and apply the stickers. 

Adhere to the manufacturer’s directions for applying the stickers, and ensure that you work out any bubbles with an application squeegee. Use lint-free clothes when applying vinyl stickers. 

Any irregularities in the surface will cause it to fatigue and lead to water getting underneath.

Final Word

You can put stickers on a kayak to customize and protect it against theft. However, in certain states, you are required to register paddle craft as you would any other vessel, and in that case, you must sticker your ‘yak with the registration number.

Whatever your particular reason for stickering your kayak, it is possible, provided you pay attention to known issues with applying vinyl stickers, such as silicone residues or rough surface texture. 

You can quickly put stickers on your kayak with a bit of patience and the know-how we’ve provided you.

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