Kayak Maintenance 101

kayak maintenance

Kayak maintenance is of key importance in keeping your kayaking gear all safe and ready for your next trip. While kayaking, your equipment is exposed to a variety of damaging environmental elements, and your task is to protect your gear from them.

You need to do pre-season, in-season, as well as post-season kayak maintenance to ensure the integrity of your gear. And here’s how you should do it.

Pre-season kayak maintenance

Before actually taking out the kayak from storage to start out the season, you should thoroughly inspect it along with its rigging. All your equipment needs to be safe and sound, or you will have an unpleasant time during the season.

Inspect the kayak’s hull

The first thing to do during pre-season maintenance is to inspect the hull of the kayak. You should do this even if you are sure that your kayak has been perfect when you were preparing it for storage.

The thing is that kayaks made from plastic are quite prone to warping. This is likely to happen due to temperature fluctuations, tie-down straps, or improper storage conditions.

Fortunately, this warping is more or less mild most of the time, so it very easy to return the hull’s shape. Kayak manufacturers usually recommend to leave the kayak out in the sun so it pops back to its original shape.

Kevlar and fiberglass kayaks aren’t prone to hull warping. The same goes for inflatable and folding kayaks since their full isn’t rigid and can easily change shape.

Inspect the kayak’s rigging

If there are any damaged elements in your kayak, then this is the right time to take care of them.

Thoroughly inspect the rigging of your kayak, including its bungees, perimeter lines, and hardware like rudders, skegs, or whatnot. If necessary, lubricate the moving parts in your kayak, but make sure to consult the manufacturer’s manual to see how to do it and whether you need to do it.

In addition, if repair is impossible, make sure to replace the damaged parts.

Clean the kayak if necessary

Back at the end of the previous season, you should have put your kayak away all cleaned and tidy. However, if the conditions of storage haven’t been perfect, all sorts of nasty things might have built up on the kayak’s hull, as well as on your equipment.

If necessary, wash the kayak with a mild cleaning solution and a sponge to get rid of the mess.

Check your emergency gear

Needless to say, your emergency gear also needs to be all ready for the journey. Make sure to go through your first aid kit, emergency repair kit, and whatnot to see whether you need to refill them.

In-season kayak maintenance

To ensure the longevity of your kayak, you should also perform maintenance during the kayaking season. Your gear will be exposed to some pretty harsh conditions, so you better make sure that it is well-protected.

Keep your gear clean

The waters you are going to paddle in can be quite nasty. And you will be bringing all that nastiness to the shore after each of your trips!

The biggest enemy of your kayaking gear is salt. If let build up on your equipment’s surfaces, it can lead to its corrosion. Grime is also a thing that needs to be taken care of since it can lead to the formation of mold.

Thereby, you should definitely give a good wash to your kayak after each trip. You don’t have to use cleaning solutions for each cleaning: a quick shower should be enough in most cases.

Aside from that, you should do a full wash of your kayaking gear with a mild cleaning solution a couple times during the season.

Protect the kayak from the sun

The UV radiation coming from the sun is a no less dangerous enemy to your kayak than salt. It can not only lead to discoloration but can also weaken the plastic. If left unprotected, you run the risk of getting a puncture in the hull.

Using a UV protectant on your kayaking equipment is thereby a good idea. You could also use a UV-resistant boat wax to protect the hull. But keep in mind that you’ll need to reapply the protective solutions after each trip since they’ll get washed off by the water while paddling.

Cover the kayak when not in use

If you won’t be able to store your kayak indoors during the season, make sure to cover it to prevent rain, mosquitos, or critters from getting in. In addition, keeping your kayaking gear covered will protect it from the harmful sun rays.

Use a kayak cart

Some kayaks are pretty heavy, which makes carrying them difficult. Due to this, some people just don’t bother and drag the kayak to the shore. You should not do this because contact with the rough ground will weaken the bottom of the hull, which could eventually lead to punctures.

Instead, use a kayak cart. It will not only protect the bottom hull of your kayak but will also make its transport more convenient.

Preparing the kayak for storage

The season is over, but before putting your kayaking gear away, there is some preventative maintenance you need to do. Its main purpose is to safeguard your equipment from damage while it is in storage.

Clean the kayak

Before putting away your kayak, give a last good wash for the season.

Unload all removable kayaking gear like seats or rod holders. Then, do a thorough wash of your kayak, including its storage hatches and the cockpit, to remove sand, dirt, dead bugs, and whatnot.

Don’t forget to treat all its nooks and crannies. Parts like bolts and screws should be cleaned as well.

And, before putting all your gear away, make sure that they are completely dry.

Prepare the rigging for storage

The last step to take in kayak maintenance is to prepare your rigging for storage. First of all, inspect the rigging to see whether or not there are parts that need repair or replacing. Take notes so you do the maintenance when possible.

Loosen any bungees, buckles, or any other components that can be loosened. This will help retain their elasticity for the next season.

Lastly, treat the metal parts in the kayak with a corrosion blocking product like WD-40.

Author: Jimmy Hurff

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