Customizing Kayaks

I posted a question on here a few days ago about painting a kayak, and most people said it couldn’t be done. However a member named SpaceGhost79, has proved them wrong. He provided these pictures of his awesome paint job:

Why don’t more people customize their kayaks with paint or decals? I am new to kayaking, and I just don’t understand why people don’t try to add a personal touch to their boat. I think that it adds to the fun, after all isn’t that what this sport is about? We live in a world today where everything is special made to suit one’s particular taste; motorcycles, cars, clothes, etc. I say why not customize your kayak? So I welcome any and all opinions on this subject; especially more people with pics of their custom kayaks.

Happy Paddlin,


Both paint and decals are very subject to scratching.

You can paint ANYTHING!
dirt, grease, plastic…

How long it will stay on is the kicker…

Why would you put that unholy symbol on your kayak?

j/k… I am Spartan what can I say… if my yak was MSU green it’d have a block S on it.

thats right
A sweet paint job is cool, but a sweet paint job with battle scars…that is the best. I thought about painting my boat, but couldn’t decide what I wanted before I had to put all my registration stickers on. now it will just be custom, homemade gear on the decks and a few stickers.

GO BUCKs!! (I was almost an OSU alumni)


My plastic yak has been everywhere,
…so I decided to start putting decals on the front deck to personalize it a bit.

I had them from the Everglades, The Alaska Marine highway, The Great Cypress wilderness, The NCCRA, Yellowstone, and a bunch from the northeast areas.

Then one day I got caught in a wicked hailstorm with the yak on the truck roof.

The yak survived, but all I had left of the decals was bits and pieces.

Imagine what that would have done to paint over the plastic?

You probably would have a real unique looking yak then.



No one said you couldn’t paint it…
…just that it’s not going to adhere well. The beautiful paint job in the photos is going to look like crap after a bit of use. If it pleases you to spend hours painting a boat only to have it look worse than before after you paddle it for a while, go for it.

At least with stickers/decals, you can remove and replace them relatively easily.

You sir are incorrect
SpaceGhost79 used his boat for 2-3 years after painting it, 3-4 times a week; and it was of course kept in the garage to keep it away from natures fury. He claims the only sratches occured on the bottom of the boat from hitting rocks.

I bought an old fiberglass canoe about 4 years ago; the paint was faded, and peeling. So I decided to restore her to her past glory. I sanded her down cleaned her up and put a coat of hunter green oil based paint on her. Everyone kept telling me that it wouldn’t work, the paint would come off in the water. But I didn’t listen, they told me I needed to use a special kind of paint made especially for boats. It took me about two hours and under $20 to paint my canoe, and after using it year-round for the past four years and storing the thing outside the paint job still looks great. So to all the yuppies and snobbs around the world, pull your bottom lip over your head and swallow.

And to all those people like me who just love to paddle, and have fun being outdoors in GOD’s country,



There’s a big difference between fiberglass and polyethylene when it comes to paint adhesion. Paint will bond very well to fiberglass and I’ve seen boats that were painted with house paint. Paint will stick to poly, but not well. Its not that it won’t stick at all, it just doesn’t bond solidly. If you take care of the plastic, you should only have problems with the paint on the bottom.

Latex body paint
You could try latex body paint … just peel it off when you do not like it any more. If it sticks to skin it will stick to poly.

Where are the “after” pics?
It’s one thing to claim that the paint held up well and quite another thing to prove it. I’d like to see the evidence before agreeing that his paint job held up well. I’d also like to know what kind of use he put the boat through. Considering it’s a rec. boat, it may not have been much. Perhaps you can contact him and get some details, and new pics.

Fiberglass is an entirely different animal. There are plenty of paints that adhere to fiberglass very well and the application methods are well known and highly refined. By contrast there aren’t any paints that really adhere to polyethylene particularly well. Yes, they’ll stick, but they scratch off quite easily.

I do that – to make it fit better or perform better in some way on the wate. Painting, decals…? I leave it to each to trip to “customize” the appearance with some scratches, dings and gouges here and there. The more used looking the boat, the better it seems to perform. Probably because I am thinking how it performs as opposed to how it looks. :wink:


Good Point Sing
Sing, I agree with you 100 percent on the fact that safety and performance are by far the most important issue when using a kayak. However, I also feel that art and expression can be a fun and interesting way of designing a boat that is truly unique and one of a kind. Did Native Americans who painted their horses, make them run any faster? For me this is about spirit and soul. I have a different way of thinking; and I don’t care if a kayak costs $150, or $2000, it is still nothing more than a floating piece of plastic. It is what you do with that plastic that makes it special, and makes it all your own; whether it be scratches, dings and gouges, or paint and decals.



I asked
I asked spaceghost some of those questions on the other thread, and it sounded like the boats were pretty lightly used.

So Many Boats, So Little Time…
So many boats, so much gear, and so little time…

I have eight boats, not including IKs. I keep four family members outfitted, and I really do need several boats for myself for different venues.

My boats are lucky if they get wiped down with a rag once a year.

My Thinking…
is that a truly customized kayak in outward appearance and functioning is one you built. I know I’m being biased. The kayaks that I bought doesn’t evoke the need for “customizing” in terms of appearance in the same way I have felt about the skin on frame that I built. The SOF is my product.

My attachment to the kayaks that I have bought – all used – is what I think its performance may be. I never cared about the color because when I buy used I don’t have choice. I’m buying a model for usage and not the appearance of it.

Don’t know if that makes sense or not.


Perhaps that’s because…
…he didn’t want to scratch the paint. :wink:

I have painted polyethelene blades
of one of my paddles. I sanded the blades extensively (a must) and used Krylon primer and then Krylon spray. The paint has adhered well except on the extreme edges where contact with rocks/ground/sand occurs.

Yes… it can be done, but I think it’s very important to ‘rough’ the poly beforehand, or the paint will eventually seperate and peel. The paint will also be VERY susceptible to scratches/abrasion.

Kayak usage

– Last Updated: May-06-05 9:07 AM EST –

My rec boat has been used a few dozen times in the Ozarks and a few times on Lake Superior. Since I moved back to Marquette, most of my kayaking is done on Lake Superior, it doesn't get as much use since I tend to use my sea kayak.

My old sea kayak, which I sold, I had used for over two years, anywhere from 2-7 days a week during spring/summer/fall on Superior and the Huron River in Ann Arbor.

Only paint I've ever lost was on the bottom. Big deal... the bottom's in the water, so it's not like anyone's gonna see it. I have never had the paint peel off or dissolve off in water. And if that ever happens, it's very easy to touch up.

Painting kayaks is all about personal choice and whether you want to spend the time (and risk of screwing it up) involved with it. I'm actually kind of glad more people don't do it as it keeps mine unique.

Here's one photo of it on the water that WildernessWebb took last year: