abused kayak material strength, newbie

I am about to give in and buy my first sea kayak. I’ve kayaked in a double with an experienced partner in Berners bay, AK, and Tomales bay, CA. Just took a sea kayaking class to learn how to self/T rescue. My goal in kayaking is to cover long distances in multi-day trips, or use the boat for exercise. I am leaning towards narrow streamlined boats (got the speed bug from my racing background in nordic skiing and cycling). Thinking to get a QCC 600 series, and I do understand that I will have to learn how to balance it etc, i.e. so I am willing to grow into it.

I now have to decide if I should go for kevlar of fiberglass. Thing is, I am very paranoid about the integrity of my boat when far from the shore (to me anything more than 100 yards is far - I am not a natural swimmer). At the same time, I tend to abuse my equipment - I am just sloppy. So I guess question 1 is: kevlar or fiberglass for an abused boat? Question 2 is: have you ever had a major open water emergency due to a major hull failure in your boat - like a crack from the boat having been dragged on rocks?

Don’t know if it matters - 6 feet, 185 lbs, 33 y.o.

First, if you know you abuse a kayak,

– Last Updated: Aug-04-09 5:34 AM EST –

why don't you take steps to rectify your problem?
Second; If you get a QCC-600 out of kevlar or fiberglass, you are getting one of the best made kayaks on the water.
Third, the only way that QCC could have a "massive failure" while in the water would be by a big wave tossing you head on into a rock.
Fourth: no boat should be draged across rocks. Every time I see some one dragging their plastic boat across rocks I cringe.
Fifth: The way QCC makes their boats, the kevlar and the fiberglass with gelcoat are probably just about equal in strength and durability, but the kevlar boat will be lighter in weight.

I have three different model QCC's, and I have utmost faith that they won't have a failure out in the water other than perhaps a rudder cable breaking which doesn't affect me at all since I very seldom use it.
I take mine way off the coast and have never given a thought to the fact that the boat might sink since it has proven itself to me and a lot of other paddlers.

Lastly if you can't or won't correct your "abusing" a kayak, then don't waste your money on even a plastic rec kayak. - Just take up a different sport like boxing!


As a general rule
Fiberglass is more “abuse friendly” than Kevlar.

Pay cash for it
Then you’ll think twice about abusing the thing. If you really want a beater boat, go with a long WS Tempest or similar in plastic. If you buy fiberglass/kevlar, be kind to the thing, especially loading and unloading.

Out on the open water, you aren’t all that likely to hurt it unless you are just trying to break it.

I’d go with fiberglass over kevlar unless the difference in weight really matters to you.


for the sheer ability to take abuse…
Go with a poly boat (plastic)! I sail my kayak up onto concrete boat ramps, grind it over oyster reefs, and generally take it places where no glass boater would dare. I always laugh when I watch my buddies take 10 minutes or so extra babying their glass boats at the launches and landings. Hell, sometimes I just kick my boat because I can. :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, look at what we do to our WW kayaks! If you think you’re going to be the type to abuse your boat, go with plastic unless yer too wimpy to carry it. :wink:

Seconded the recommendation on the WS TEMPEST for performance and durability.


can take a lot of abuse. The standard for construction of all kinds of boats -commercial and pleasure craft, for decades.

this is a good quick read:



What do you mean by “boat abuse”? Not asking to be an ahole. Just seeing what we can improve here, if you want to.

If you mean: drop your boat a lot, toss it wherever, then man just re-program yourself to take care of your toys! Not baby them, respect them.

If you mean drag it over rocks for distances, do a protracted launch length over gravel, riprap, or a concrete boat launch, then learn the balance skills to enter/exit the boat in a foot or two of water. With your racing background I bet you already have excellent balance - just apply it here!

If you mean you get carried into rocks, land on rocky beach underwater ledges, that kind of thing, or hell, you just enjoy surfing the wild coast of Alaska offers, then maximize your boat handling skills in those zones to avoid the un-fun bashing. Prolly good for you and the boat '-)

If any or all of the above describes you and you don’t want to change your habits (and that is not a judgement) then honestly, a plastic boat is better for your lifestyle. Have at it and wear it out.

About Kevlar: frankly if the marginally extra effort to care for a fiberglass boat is not for you, then the extra money for a glass/Kevlar hybrid is pretty much wasted. It is used to reduce weight and resist direct impact. If exposed due to excessive wear on the surrounding fiberglass it is trickier to repair than 100% fiberglass.So if you are hard on the fiberglass you are gonna expose the kevlar more and sooner.

Kevlar is trademarked to Dupont for their Kevlar49. Other aramids (aramid = generic name) are not Kevlar. So investigate that further before you invest. Kevlar 49, for example, is the spec for the bulletproof vests worn by many U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Your other question: No reputable company would allow a seakayak to go out to the consumer if the bulkheads stood any chance of failing. Can it/does it happen? yeah, statistically minute but it does.

That doesn’t mean you don’t shop smart. Get up close and personal w. the composite boat you want to buy, give the bulkhead walls a good strong push at the center and sides, and esp. the base. You should see some good consistent taping and glassing all around the edges. You should be able to push hard for a few seconds and just see some minor flex. If the flex is major or the bulkhead starts to pull off it’s footing, walk away, or negotiate hard for a good deal and use the savings to have a professional reglass them.

Yeah, you can’t check a QCC before it’s built and shipped to you, BUT, they let you have it for 30 days and if you’re not completely satisfied, they will refund your purchase price, plus take care of the return shipping costs. Pretty awesome.

Capeche? Go out and find the right boat. Good luck!

I’m always amused…

– Last Updated: Aug-04-09 1:30 PM EST –

...by the "consensus" of babying fiberglass boats!

My first sea kayaking experience was touring with guides at Alaska, TWICE with two different outfitters. Seems like all Alaska outfitters use fiberglass boats (heavy duty doubles). And they make no bones about dragging them on and off the beach, day in and day out (as any rental boat would be)! So naturally, I asked how long their boats last with such "abuse".

The answer? They last fine in a season of heavy abuse! That's what, about 3 months of dragging on and off the beach EVERYDAY!!! Granted, they've got all winter with nothing else to do but to repair the gelcoat. But the same boats are good to go again come next season...

I said it before, and I will say it again. It seems to me, the majority of California rock gardeners and surf launch/landing paddlers uses fiberglass boat. While many of the placid water paddlers of the east will swim their fiberglass boat ashore at the sight of a shadow of a rock!

I've had a unique experience of witnessing boats being tossed onto rocks REPEATEDLY (due to poor trip organization). Amazingly, most boats were still intact after being thrashed by waves onto rocks for nearly an hour (that's how long it took for us to rescue all the boats). And the two boats that got cracks and holes were repaired on the field with a fiberglass field repair kit within 30 min.

While I wouldn't purposely drag my boat on rocks if I have a better choice. I wouldn't worry too much about it when I DO (drag them)!

as I posted - respect them, not baby them.

Respect means to me not treating them like throwaways. There is too much of a throwaway culture in our general society.

I expect to repair a few whacks on my fiberglass hulls every year - just like waxing my car, or changing out the air and cabin filters. Or degreasing the derailleurs on my bike.

I don’t have to do it. But to me it’s a small effort with a big return for enjoyment & top performance.

abuse example
Here is an example of abuse. Suppose I’ve got a 50 lb fiberglass QCC600 with 50 lbs of gear in it. How do I gently transfer the 100 lbs of the boat+gear from water onto dry land without dragging it? Sure, I can try to lift the whole 100 lbs over my head, and gently place it on the ground, but with 150…200…250 lbs this would not work unless I get hernia or practice serous weight lifting.

I would not abuse my boat for the sake of abusing it, it’s just when out in the wild with the adrenaline rush I get excited about the trip/scenery/etc and tend to become absent-minded.

Go plastic or aluminum

I would go with plastic - but isn’t it true that plastic boats can’t be made to cut water as efficiently as composite boats, because plastic can’t be bent into tight corners? I do want a fast boat. And the boats that I like don’t seem to come in plastic - only glass, kevlar, and carbon. Well, may be I should look harder.

unload boat
Most people unload the boat at the waterline and carry gear up separately. Bring an empty duffel bag to make carrying other gear easier.

I am with the others in saying that plastic can be your friend. Much more forgiving of sloppy paddling. I don’t think QCC has plastic, but there are fastish plastic boats out there. Plastic as a material is supposed to be only some 2 or 3 percent less efficient than glass (when comparing 2 boats of the same design but different materials).

And I would get used to start. You can buy and sell for about the same price, and use the boat to work your way up the learning curve.

And never buy a boat that you haven’t had but time in. If your heart is set on QCC, find a way to demo it to make sure it all fits for you.

You-tube video of hammering a Necky

if the link doesn’t work, do a search on You-Tube for Necky sledgehammer demo

that’s a fair example.

One way to do it is stern rudder the boat in and drag it a little beyond wave reach. Then use a net bag s o bring your drybags and what-all up to the campsite. You’ll make a few trips, the net bag allows you to make fewer.

Then you move the kayak up to the campsite or landing area, and secure it where the tides won’t reach it and the wind won’t bring in seaward. Repeat for loading.

You can also float your kayak in an anchored position using a siwash. Feb. 2008 SeaKayaker has step by step instructions to make (easy) w. pix. You can order their back issues online if you can’t put your hands on one.

Siwash lets the boat float in wading depth water so that you can reach it to retrieve yet not allow the kayak to drift away. They deploy in seconds. Very popular w. fisherfolk to keep the live box cool. This obviously is not for active surf. They have been used to cool off an adult bev or few while you are making camp.

Finally, if your manhood will allow (JK) you can build a very small collapsible stern cart and stash it in a hatch. Also easy to deploy in less than a minute. This way you could leave more gear in the boat and move it without dragging.

I’m totally with you on the excitement of landing and exploring, but think of your kayak like a horse… she has taken you where you want to go… first tend to the horse…

Plastic is not bent
Plastic boats are made with a mold and molten plastic. There is no bending.

plastic abuse
Plastic boats abrade much more easily than glass boats. Drag both a plastic and a glass boat over rocks and oyster beds for a few years, and the plastic one will lose more material. I’ve seen a handful of plastic boats with holes worn right through the keel from owners dragging them. I think this happens because of the oft-repeated, but untrue advice given here - plastic can withstand more abuse than glass. To be more accurate, people should say that plastic gets abused more than glass, but that’s just a reflection of how people treat their stuff, not how durable the material is.

If beach-abrasion is your concern, I wouldn’t worry about it with a glass boat. I have no problem dragging my boat up on the rocks to get it out of the water. And my boat has no deep scratches on the bottom. Plastic will scratch much more deeply in the same situations.

If your concern is getting holed when you launch full-speed onto a rock while surfing, then you’d probably be better off with a plastic boat. Just don’t drag it across a parking lot. :slight_smile:

interesting video
To do it right, he would have to have his ears and eyes closed, and hammer 10 boats of different brands, in an order unknown to him, preferentially in at least 5 stroke attempts, in the same position on the hull. If the Necky remains intact in 5 strokes out of 5, while other boats get holed in 3…5 strokes out of 5, I would believe him.

That’s a lot of boats though. But hey, car manufacturers crash their cars with dummies in them.

QCC 700X for seven years
and no failures of any sort. I highly recommend the 700x if you want speed. They say it is fast, and man is it ever. I have paddled mine in lakes and slow rivers, and I DO drag mine. I see no point in unloading the whole thing just to go around a beaver dam, etc. Longer carries and I will unload it, but if its not rocky or obviously going to be real hard on the hull, it will be dragged. This summer I noticed that I am starting to grind into the glass in the stern a bit. $2300.00 over 7 years is cheap at a little over $300 per year. If it lasts ten like this, I will be happy, get rid of the old and buy another.

QCC are great boats. The 700 is not too tippy, carries huge amounts of gear, and I also use it for racing. Not to be pushy but if you like speed, definitely get a 700 over a 600.

Hammer on glass boat.

Several years before Necky and Epic’s ‘one shot’ deal.

Cut and paste from the old www.eteamz.com/paddleshop website written several years ago:

Friday, January 9

One would think the Kevlar is the only way to go. It is and it isn’t.

There are many ways to lay up a boat. It would be refreshing to hear manufacturers reasons behind why they choose to do one thing or another rather than just offer something as the end all.

Are they building with Kevlar to save weight or to have a stronger boat? (Or to make more $$$?)

Which is stronger? Glass or Kevlar?

Before my head explodes with all I have to say and do not have time to write…I will say this.

A glass boat layed up thoughtfully will take more minor bumps and grinds and will also absorb a greater amount of energy than kevlar BEFORE it STARTS to fail.If a equally layed up kevlar boat were built it would not take as much abuse before it would start to soften up …BUTTTTT. A kevlar boat WOULD endure catastrophic force far better.

If a giant were to pick up a glass boat and wack it across a log it would probably break 1/2 - 3/4 of the way through on the first hit and fly to pieces on the second.

A kevlar boat would make a dull thump on the first hit and show some damage in the form of delamination of plys but would be mostly intact. The second hit would probably cause failure of the resin and the boat would lose it’s shape at point of impact but it would still most likely stay together. It would take several more hits by an increasingly frustrated being before the boat would come apart.

This is what kevlar can do…now picture what would happen if a jetski plowed into you to offshore or you bailed on a big set and your “lifeboat” pounded on the rocks for a set or two before getting spat out.Kevlar can provide security a non balistically layed up glass boat could not.

A quick synapsis of my personal construction opinions. Please note I do not follow the same line of thinking many of the Majors do.

I can build a super light all glass boat but I do not recommend this. The thinner glass layup is not quite as tough as the light Kevlar layup and due to the extra labor involved I would also charge the same price to build one.

If boats are going to be bounced off of rocks on a regular basis in any conditions other than blue water go for the standard glass construction. Unbelieveably tough and resistant to bump and grind damage. Still light and does well enduring the day to day stuff for a long time. Save some $$$ too.

If boat will see occasional rocks only and will not be abused with IN heavy surf / rescues with boat wallowing full of water etc. AND a light weight,stiff, super strong, safe build is the goal , go for the Lightweight Kevlar layup… I just call it Kevlar layup.

Blue water, real potential for life threatening conditions , boat may hit a submerged rebar at speed it, MUST stay together after shark , jetski or cargo ship attack… Go for a kevlar layup built up around the weight of a similar glass boat then add a bit. Please let me know what you are thinking / picturing.

So much to say here…happy to discuss over phone if you wish…no pressure ever…here to help. Until I really write down each scenario I am trying to describe briefly here all this might sound confusing.

Especially if you go by what other manufacturers are doing. I do not have a generic Kevlar layup. Each one is custom built based on it’s intended use. Most of the added cost of a kevlar boat over a standard glass layup is labor…Carbon does add a bit more even though it is easier to work with.

Friday, January 9

Hammering the hulls

See Hammer Test. This is a 19 hull built in our standard glass/epoxy layup. The hull weighs 18 pounds on its own. NO special layup or tricks…this part is sitting here in the shop and I invite anyone who is around to stop by , draw a target on any part of it and have at it. Please note these clips were NOT one take, we shot several and picked the best ones and no these were not the first takes. There is NO damage or even marks at impact zone. This prompted me to flip to the claw and go again…still same story.

A similar weight kevlar boat would have held up as well on the surface but would have some interlaminar weakening though one might not see it.

A lightweight kevlar layup would also have held up , shown a little more localized damage in the form of delamination/softening over a larger area but it still would be intact.

A lightweight (cored) glass layup would have shown more damage, but the hammer would still bounce off the first and second times. Claw might have pierced it on first shot

beaver dams?
Beaver dams? Wow. I once canoed in upstate NY in a rental kevlar canoe and crossed ~50 of beaver dams in a day. But I would not think to take my own $2500 boat there.