Can hull scratches be smoothed out?

I carried my rotomolded plastic yak to a shallow river this weekend. I bottomed out several times and I had to get out and pull it across to deeper water. The hull received some scratches from the rocks. First off, I know people will say, “Scratches are part of it.” I realize that. I want you to know that these scratches are superficial and they are not deep enough to affect performance or leak. I just like things to stay looking nice. Is there a “do-it-yourself” way to smooth out the scrapes and scratches? I read about torches and clothes irons. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!

Don’t bother
If you use the boat for what you bought it for you are going to get usage marks. I felt the same way until i got a number of marks on my boat. The more you get the less you worry. Just get out and enjoy what you have.After the first few it get easier.

Wear them out
Forget about the badge of honour crap . . .

Forget about each scratch being a bit of your paddling history . .

The real issue is why do you want your boat to look new ? Or even well cared for ?

Long ago I decided that my boats were consumable items. The sooner I wear them out the sooner I get to rationalize buying something new. I’m not saying that you should mis-treat your equipment. But if you think of boats as something you should try to wear-out then you might paddle harder, paddle more and possibly learn faster. There are lots of skills worth knowing that will damage boats while you are learning those skills - Rock-hopping, heavy surf, tide races, etc.

If you are concerned about every scratch, then you’ll avoid putting yourself in a possition to learn these valuable techniques. I’d rather become a good paddler with a well-worn boat than the other way around. In the grand scheme of things, boats are cheap given how long they last.

There’s nothing wrong with smooth hulls. I just think too many people sacrifice learning to paddle in order to keep their boat pretty.

Best of luck with your choices.


Heat a spoon over a candle.

Apply spoon back to kayak scratch.

Quick simple answer

I went thru the same deal with the perception america 6 years ago. Tried polishing compounds,buffers, wet sanding. Most worsened the condition more than helped.

You can wet sand or go with other methods to remove material and lessen the ‘edge’ but the scratch or gouge is gonna be there forever.

Get some 303 and make it look shiny and consider the scratches as badges of experience and enjoyment of the boat.

I have posted this twice before
But here it is again.

I agree with the most of the previous posters that ordinary scratches don’t matter and I would never do what I am going to describe. But you actually can keep your plastic boat looking almost like new. Get a propane torch, a large drill bit (say 1/2"), and a large pair of vice grip pliers. Hold the bit in the pliers by the end that drills (not the smooth end that ordinarily goes into the drill). Be sure it is secure. Light the torch and heat the smooth end of the bit. Then carefully and lightly go over the boat surface in circular motions with the heated bit. The scratches will by and large disappear.


– Last Updated: Oct-17-07 6:28 PM EST –

I'm fairly hard on my plastic rec kayak too. I go out on the river and look for submerged rocks to hit in some class II, just to see what happens and improve my skills. I also like to keep my kayaks looking as good as possible. I take a propane torch attatch a flame spreader attachment to the tip. I hold the torch about 4-5 inches above the hull. Move the torch in a tight circular pattern, when you see the surface of the hull flash, (starts to shine) and the little plastic hairs start to melt, remove the torch and quickly smooth the area with a piece of heavy paper. I use a piece of folded over grocery bag. Flattens the little plastic hairs, smooths out the scratches and no material is removed.
Ya gotta do somthing in Minnesota in the winter when the water is too solid to paddle.

I don’t want to stir this pot anymore,BUT,be careful applying heat to your boat. I run a canoe and kayak rental business and have an occasional boat that needs repair. The ONLY time i apply heat is when i melt a repair stick (poly repair stick)to repair a hole or really deep gouge in the boat. Throw that boat in the water and go paddling! Vaughn Fulton

maybe after I floss my teeth for the fifth time today.

Much appreciated!
Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions. I was really upset Sunday as we were nearing the end of the run. I had scratched the boat up pretty good. We paddled by a man and his son. They had pulled off the river to rest. As I paddled by I said hello. He said, “I really like your kayak.” I said, “Thanks, I have managed to scratch it up pretty good this weekend.” Without even thinking he immediately replied, “That’s what you’re supposed to do…absolutely!” I just smiled and headed down the river. That was exactly what I needed to hear!

My only concern is that I will not be able to get as much $$$ when I sell or trade. Are kayak shoppers really concerned with the scratches on the hull, or is that just me? I already want a CD Whistler and I haven’t even had this boat 3 months. I am new to kayaking so I want to experiment with different boats. Thanks again for the responses…

yes, many of the folks that say scratches don’t matter will pay much less for a scratched boat. Re-sale value is probably the most compelling reason to keep the boat ‘clean’. But, sometimes you don’t have that choice.


and just to be contrary

– Last Updated: Oct-18-07 9:02 AM EST –

Plastic boats, especially rec boats, are like cars - they depreciate very quickly once they leave the store. A used boat with a nice shiny hull and one with 'normal' scratches will go for nearly the same price. The only time you'll see the value be affected by hull 'damage' is if it truly is damage - deep gouges, thin spots from repeated dragging across concrete, or creases from being pinned/folded.

And I don’t find too many real paddlers who are concerned with resale down the road.