Fiberglass kayak in rapids?

I’m a plastic kinda guy.
My idea of high performance is sliding over, around, and onto rocks and not having to patch anything at anytime. I like a little water to go with my rocks. Now if I could just get a minivan made out of plastic I’d be all set. It gets beat up on exploratory shuttles.

I don’t baby mine…
my kevlar Necky and carbon/kevlar QCC show life among the oyster beds in the salt flats and limestone in the rivers. I regularly boof over logs at or just above the surface. Both are pretty thick layups. Some boats are made much lighter and don’t fair as well.

No real damage thus far, but they do sport some reminders of the worst of them.

I didn’t buy 'em to hang them on the wall!

For use in northern rivers where rock bashing would be expected daily, you betcha, poly would be my choice.


Used boats aren’t too expensive…
I’ve two composite kayaks and one Kevlar canoe for about the same money as one new composite boat.

When I no longer can use one of them, I may be able to sell them pretty much for what I paid. Maybe…

Of course that may mean compromise and patience vs. getting the perfect boat right away, if you believe in such a thing.


bed liner?
There is a guy out here in California who covered all the painted areas of a full size van with bed liner material (the stuff used on inside of beds of pickup trucks). Would that work?

Heard of similar on a Samurai
Never saw a photo of it, but someone claimed they’d covered their vehicle in either RhinoLiner or Line-X.

Must add a lot of weight!

I’ve done it
It wasn’t a good idea although it looked great at first. I had a Toyota pick up built for rocks. I used a white bed liner material. The surface is rough though so any branches that dragged left green and brown stripes. They would not wash out, paint to cover.

Paddler Weight?
I would suspect the weight of the paddler would have a lot to do with the amount of damage inflicted by rocks. I don’t worry about my very light wife taking her glass boat in the river by I’d really hesitate to take mine.

I’m about “wife weight”, 110lbs 6ft tall.

I meant for a boat she already owns. If I were planning on hitting the rivers regularly it would be plastic.

That’s not been my experience.

Just make it camo
Branches dragging green and brown stripes–free camo paint job!

I have seen fiberglass kayaks
crack on rocky rivers. In one case, I saw a paddler came down off a small drop on to a rock and … CRACK. I don’t remember if he cracked the hull or a seam, but the back of the boat was soon full of water. A duct tape repair got him to the take out.

Like anything, what you can paddle depends on your skills (and a little luck). A lot of OC1 paddlers take composite boats out in rapids all the time, but they also have the skills:

My advice would be to buy the Pachena, but keep your plastic boat as a “beater boat” that you can use on the rocky streams.

Paddled the Pine River north of Baldwin
Michigan one time in my OT Castine (FG), hit some hard clay shelves and ended up with chips in the gelcoat. Took her to the body shop for repair but have since never ran a glass boat on that river again. Only poly. Much cheaper to play in. :>]

Go Millbrook and skip the gelcoat.

Rotomolding made Bill Masters rich
because FG and rocky rapids are a bad combo. Bill founded Perception.

Yeah, I met Bill, and toured the factory
But fact is, it is easy to keep FG kayaks and canoes in repair on class 1-3 rivers. I did it.

The plastic paddlers quickly lose the ability to plan a route and miss obvious obstacles. I know. I’ve owned two Perception poly kayaks.

fb kayaks

– Last Updated: Nov-04-14 1:03 PM EST –

People have been running Class III rapids in fiberglass canoes for many decades. Sometimes they hit rocks, but the real danger is what happens when they swamp and fill with water. Duct tape will repair a surprising amount of damage to get home with. Fiberglass is surprisingly easy to repair.

Be careful which rapids you chose to run. "No one ever died on a portage."

Develop your skills and rescue technique. Go in a group. Dress for immersion and scout rapids.

Kayaks have two stable positions, right side up is one of them. Wear a helmet and learn to roll ASAP.

But all Kevlar canoes may seem grabby
unless they have clear gelcoat over the Kevlar.

Going to comment even though this is old.
Only be afraid to take a fiberglass or kevlar canoe on mild whitewater if pristine cosmetics are valued. Otherwise, use your boat!!! Most are designed to handle up to class II whitewater. Paddling a canoe in this environment is a lot of fun.

Fiberglass works well for whitewater. Fiberglass canoes do really well in class II water and specialty design composite kayaks (slalom boats) and canoes (ClassFive or MT Canoe) can handle III to V.
My experience is in class II in tandem canoes and hitting rocks in riffles in my sea kayaks.


  1. fiberglass and kevlar layups are super strong and can easily handle glancing off rocks in class II whitewater.
  2. If running class II in a canoe, hitting rocks from time to time is unavoidable.
  3. Hitting a rock makes an aweful sound in a composite boat.
  4. When inspected for damage after hitting a rock pretty hard, the boat may or may not show scratches in the gel coat. Sometimes the point of impact is hard to find despite the horrible sound of the impact and scaping over the rock.
  5. The bottom of a canoe hull may flex over rocks and there is little or no damage. It pops right back into shape.
  6. Put float bags on each end and at the center of a tandem canoe. The real danger to the boat is a two point pin where the water fills the canoe and folds it between the two rocks. Float bags mitigate this danger by keeping the canoe on the surface.
  7. Rescue of a swamped canoe without float bags in a swift current is nearly impossible. So use float bags. I got into trouble running the Nantahala without float bags about 25 years ago. Never again. The floatation built into the bow and stern of a canoe are not enough for whitewater paddling.

My experience:
You are wrong on No’s 1, 2, and 4