hitting nose/ tail of plastic kayak


Sometimes I hit the wood dock straight on when paddling forwards or backwards. Will this damage a plastic kayak?

When playing around docks, sometimes I don’t manage to turn in time and hit the dock straight on. The speeds are not fast and I haven’t noticed any damage. Even so I wonder if hitting nose or tail of the kayak straight on like that might still affect integrity of plastic kayak structure. My assumption is that since this is a hardy Valley RM kayak, it should be fine. Any thoughts?




Follow up question
Is this your kayak or your Dad’s?

Maybe it might be a good idea to find some other place to play until you are able to control your kayak.


probably not

– Last Updated: Dec-30-14 11:50 PM EST –

I have slammed plastic kayaks into rocks when I mistimed rock garden runs, and the worst so far has been bent in noses. If real bad, exposing to some heat will often cause the plastic to re-form back to close to its original shape. Doesn't mean it won;t happen, but just that it isn't likely.

One exception is older kayaks that have aged plastic (along with being older, long exposure to sun also ages a kayak faster). These kayaks have more brittle plastics which are more likely to crack when hit.

Of course, hitting a sharp object (like an exposed nail) could puncture the boat.

And, as said by others already, learning to avoid doing this will minimize the chance of damaging the boat.

This is all assuming rotomolded plastic (not thermoformed). Rotomolded is the most common type of plastic kayak by far.

Thanks for the comments. My question was really about kayak construction and effects of certain impacts. I wasn’t seeking comments on how or where I should kayak, but I guess you have to accept those kind of irrelevant responses when you post to a public message board. All I can say is your idea about having fun on a kayak may be different than mine. For me, paddling backwards towards a wood dock and turning at the last second and swooping into the dock as if you are landing there is about as much fun kayaking you can have on a lake. Once in a while I do hit the dock straight on, but normally my kayak side just kind of bumps up against the dock or cruise in towards it sideways without hitting it. It’s fun, and at my current skill level, quite challenging.

In that case, I removed my …
“irrelevant” response and please accept my apology for posting it.

Jack L

In that case
I wouldn’t let your Dad catch you banging up his boats.

come on
anyone can tell that’s mom’s boat. Dad’s already wise.

(just kidding with you yadang!)

you’re fine
One of the reasons I envy those with poly sea kayaks. You can feel more at ease rock gardening and doing seal launches.

It’s fine…
I have three different poly yaks that I play hard in and that’s why you get poly! Have fun man. That’s what they are made for. I keep my yaks very clean and well cared for, but I bought them to do anything I find fun or exciting. They are just tools to get your heart racing. If you feel like it’s too much for your yak and it will be the last “trick” this kayak will ever do, then think “how bad do I really want to do this”? But bumping a dock…so sweat man. Enjoy!

OK, but not good for it
I used to ice-bash in a plastic sea kayak. Did not harm it but it’s not good, either. A lot of mass is concentrated on a small contact point.

Besides, you might as well get in the habit of NOT hitting things, because otherwise you might damage a fiberglass boat if/when you use one.

playing around docks.

This is RULE No. 113 !


My kayak is 17’6" On a bad day the kayak measure 17’10"

The extra 4" stuck in a garage door jamb, side of my naybors Maserati…or the dock side boards. Ugh, Concrete retaining walls while I ask Garmin why the route disappeared.

I once stuck Lander’s Grumman into Roebling’s original bridge pier: BROOONK !

Solution is get sensitive to the problem areas. Or avoid. With the dock n tides, boat wakes, wind…sometimes what’s in front is a helluva lot more important than what’s happening astern…but in time you adjust…maybe.

a good fiberglass cursing hull has a ‘plug’ n bow and stern, a more or less solid reinforcement for absorbing impacts on a grater surface area than the skin only.

A well made plastic boat is made for people who smash into docks, rocks, ancient Indian portage routes where Indians dragged their plastic hulls thru the woods…so doahn worry but correct. Learning is the deal here.

I disagree with the advice that it is “ok” to hit objects with to nose or tail of your boat. No one is “harder” on their gear than I am. I will beat the crap out of my plastic boats, seal launches, hard rock gardening etc. but I will not directly hit the boat’s nose directly into a solid object. You WILL damage the boat doing this. If you think about the physics of this a little you’ll see why. The force of any impact is spread out over the contact area, the contact area of the nose is tiny, only a couple square inches,. Even at slow speeds the force of impact is huge, especially against an immovable object. I have seen the noses crushed on 3 poly kayaks (brand name, highest quality) in the last couple years. Not a good idea.

Hitting docks is good
I will wake you up if you are asleep


All or nothing and faulty reasoning
The mere fact that there are only a few square inches of contact is only part of the problem, and it’s certainly not a case that damage “will” happen. The contact area during the average rock impact is much smaller, but no one worries about that. Besides the speed of impact and the nature of the material (I’ll take my most fragile boat and bump into wood docks everyday in preference to one direct hit on concrete or rock), as well as the nature of the hull area which transfers the force all matter much more.

If you’ve seen deformed noses on plastic kayaks from head-on impacts, do you really believe the kind of slow-speed, accidental bump described by the original poster is what caused it? I don’t. I’ve seen much worse impacts than that, and I’d wager that so has everyone else here.

I agree with those who say to the OP that it’s time to learn some boat control, but it’s not time to be worrying about damage, because there hasn’t been any.

let it loose
Just an observation- seems to be a lot of emphasis on boat control in your responses to my post. What’s all the emphasis on “control” for? I bet you guys just paddle in a straight line all the time (except for the once a year surf trip and the ww trip you take). Just kidding

Many of the comments to this post and my previous posts were actually constructive and I appreciate it.

an experienced kayaker
Singer Otis Redding sang “I’ll be hitting on the dock of the bay…” Learn to control your boat and error on the side of prudence so as to not damage the dock. Horsing around is fun, but if you hit someone else’s boat, it isn’t funny. Take care of your boat and it will take care of you. I think this is a good lesson for all your stuff.

did you have the telltale marks?
I did some ice paddling in my composite boat, and can still see the marks at the waterline. I was wishing I had a poly boat at the time.

just misunderstanding
It’s pretty clear in your OP that you ARE practicing and that your speeds are nothing to worry about. If the front of your poly boat crumples when you do this, get a refund. Because it shouldn’t.

Learning to paddle around obstacles, which is what I think you were describing in a roundabout way, will come in handy anytime you go on a coastal paddle and actually want to see the coast up close. Then you get to mix in swells and surf to the equation. IMO this is the most enjoyable form of sea kayaking.