Do Kayaks Leak? Best Ways to Find a Pesky Leak | Actively Outdoor (2022)

It’s no doubt that a kayak is a great way to explore any waterway, river, lake, or stream. But, being on the water doesn’t always mean a person is OK with getting wet or sitting in water that’s accumulated in the kayak. It’s normal to get splashed here and there and possibly get a little wet the longer you kayak. Depending on if you are using a sit-in kayak or a sit-on-top design, the kayak could take on more or less water. It’s reasonable to start to wonder, do kayaks leak?

Below I’ll discuss the ways to keep water from collecting in your kayak, ways to remove the water, and also determine if there is a leak that’s letting water into the kayak in the first place.

Do Kayaks Leak?

Any kayak has the potential to leak. This can be caused by cracks in the hull of the kayak that is letting in small amounts of water. Other possible reasons for a leaking kayak could be faulty drainage seals and gaskets, cracks around scupper holes, or loose and missing rivets that hold on fittings and deck rigging.

If there is a cup or two of water accumulated after several hours of kayak, this is nothing to worry about. If there is more water than this, it would probably indicate a leak somewhere in the kayak.

Is it Normal For Kayaks to Get Water in Them?

It’s fairly normal for a kayak to take on 8oz to 12oz of water. It will take 1-2 hours of kayaking for this much water to accumulate.

This can be caused by water dripping from the paddle shaft and into the cockpit. Water could also enter the kayak after launching from the shore.

Storage hatches have also been known to take in a little water over time too. Check to make sure the hatches are completely closed and sealed before using the kayak.

It’s important to remember that it’s common for small amounts of water to accumulate in the kayak during normal use.

There is no reason to think that the kayak has structural issues that are allowing water to enter if there is a small amount of water in the kayak after regular use.

However, if you’re noticing more than the normal 8oz to 12oz of water in a shorter amount of time in the kayak, there could be cause for concern. In this case, there could be a leak in the kayak.

Why Does My Kayak Get Water in It?

Water entering a kayak during and after regular use comes with the territory. It’s almost impossible to stay completely dry using a kayak.

Most people understand this fact when it comes to kayaking. But, it’s also important to know when too much water is entering the kayak.

If you suspect that there is too much water entering the kayak, here are the most common culprits for leaks on a kayak:

  • Cracks in the full from impacts with an object
  • Worn seals or gaskets on hatches
  • Loose hardware or rivets
  • Weak areas in the hull from oil canning and weathering
  • Cracks around scupper holes
  • Worn drainage plug
  • Worn seals for pedal-driven systems

How to Find a Leak in a Kayak

Do Kayaks Leak? Best Ways to Find a Pesky Leak | Actively Outdoor (1)

If you suspect your kayak might leak, there are some checkpoints to inspect on the kayak first.

Put the kayak on a kayak cart or sawhorses so you can easily see and access all areas of the kayak.

1. Visually Inspect the Keel at Bow and Stern

The keel is the point that will come in contact with the ground the most. Whether it’s dragging the kayak over the ground, landing at the shore, or running aground in shallow water. The keel will take most of the damage.

2. Check all Hatch Covers and Seals

The storage hatch of the kayak is known to lose its seal over time. Closely inspect each hatch to make sure the seal has not degraded so much that water could be entering.

3. Scupper Holes Are Weak Points

Sit-on-top kayaks with scupper holes are prime areas for cracks to form throughout a kayak’s usable life.

Damage to scupper holes can be exacerbated by the use of a scupper hole kayak cart. These carts work by using arms that enter through the scupper holes for transportation.

4. Double-Check Hardware on the Kayak

Rod holders, screwed handles, and anchor trolley lines could all be points that allow water to enter the kayak.

If screws or fasteners are not properly sealed water can enter the holes and into the kayak compartments.

5. Drainage Plugs and Rudder Line Holes

Both the drainage plug and the hole for the rudder line (if not installed) should be plugged and properly sealed. It might be the case that a drainage plug was removed and not re-installed correctly which is causing the issue.

6. Fill the Kayak With Soapy Water and Inspect

The last step will be to essentially pressure test the kayak. This is when it’s good to have the kayak up off the ground.

Use a mixture of water and soap and fill the kayak’s inner compartments and cockpit with the soapy water mixture.

Next, walk around the kayak and visually inspect for water leaking. Common areas are anywhere on the bottom hull or sides of the kayak. The soapy water in particular is helpful for this, as any leaks or cracks will be easier to spot.

Do You Need to Plug the Scupper Holes in a Kayak?

The scupper holes on a kayak do serve a purpose. If you want to learn more about scupper holes on a sit-on-top kayak, see this full guide here on why they are important.

The quick answer is no you don’t need to plug the scupper holes in a kayak. These holes are used to help drain water out of the footwell and cockpit of a sit-on-top kayak.

They will not make the kayak sink or let water enter the kayak in a way that will cause damage as a leak will.

If you do choose to plug the scupper holes on your kayak, it’s a good idea to use self-bailing scupper plugs.

Best Ways to Keep the Water Out of a Kayak

Whether you suspect your kayak leaks or not, getting water in a kayak just comes with the territory. It’s pretty difficult to stay completely dry when kayaking.

But, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for sitting in water in the cockpit of the kayak for the entire time.

Below are the best ways to remove water from a kayak or limit the amount of water that will naturally enter the kayak.

Use a Bilge Pump

Bilge pumps can come as a manual hand pump or an electric bilge pump that will automatically remove water from the inner cockpit of the kayak.

Typically, sit-in kayaks will benefit the most from a bilge pump, since they don’t have scupper holes to drain the water out of the kayak.

A manual bilge pump sucks the water out of the cockpit and shoots it through the opposite end and out of the kayak. If you’re needing more information to use and choose a bilge pump check out this post here.

Unplug Scupper Holes

Sit-on-top kayaks use scupper holes to easily drain water from the cockpit of the kayak. Beginners see holes in their kayak and immediately think there is a defect, but these scupper holes are there by design.

You can buy scupper plugs if you don’t like the idea of there being open holes in the kayak, but if you start to notice a large build-up of water in the kayak, don’t forget to remove the plugs from the scupper holes.

Paddle Drip RIngs

The repetitive motion of paddling a kayak through the water will slowly funnel water down the paddle blade, down the paddle shaft, and finally into the cockpit of the kayak.

Spending hours on the water, you’re going to do a lot of paddling, so after this time you might find that there is a lot of water that has accumulated.

Paddle drip rings were made to help with this. These drip rings are small rubber rings that attach to the shaft of the paddle. They’ll block most of the water from dripping and running down the shaft.

Spray Skirt For Sit-In Kayaks

When it’s very hot outside, you might not mind getting a little wet. You might welcome an occasional splash of water in the cockpit.

But, kayaking early in the season when the water’s still cold, or even during the winter months is a whole different story. This is for good reason too.

Cold water continuously splashing can slowly lower your core body temperature and create a dangerous situation.

The spray skirt for a kayak wraps around the torso of the paddler and connects to the coaming of a sit-in kayak.

This creates a water-tight seal that will not only keep water out of the kayak but also keep your lower body dry and warm.

Trying to decide if you need a spray skirt for your kayak? We’ve got you covered here.

Summary | Do Kayaks Leak?

Remember, that a little bit of water in the kayak is very common and not something to necessarily worry about.

On the other hand, a large amount of water in the kayak in a short amount of time can at worst create an unstable situation on the kayak, and at best be very frustrating.

Using these steps to identify the source of the leak will go a long way to help fix the problem and get back to normal use.


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