Kayak Design, Manufacturing & Standards

-- Last Updated: May-31-04 6:13 AM EST --

After reading a great deal of this site it seems that the current state of the art of Kayak design, manufacturing & standards is similar to the way sport cars used to be. In the past, sport cars were plagued with problems and required high maintainence. Now sport cars are not only better but have few, if any, problems and require little maintainence.

These are some of the problems I have noted from reading the site:
- hatches leak
- bulkheads leak
- skeg boxes leak
- these result in watertight compartments that are not watertight
- skeg cables become detached because of the galvanic corosion of dissimilar metals (aluminum/stainless steel)
- seats are uncomfortable
- foot braces are uncomfotable
- thigh braces are uncomfortble and not adjustable
- cockpit lacks adequate and adjustable padding
- manufactures do not accurately report length & width at the water line at a given weight load
- manufactures do not accurately report the weight or efficiency
- little information is available on durability or longevity
- body type/build is not reported when commenting on or reviewing a Kayak
- Reviews are not critical. Kayaks are rated a 10 despite problems.

Are there more? Is this accurate?

Not that bad!
Just a bunch of cranky tinkers who bought “off the rack” and need “custom made”.

Mariner kayaks.
Not all boats are equal. The problems you have listed are common and serious. I paddle my Mariner Express just like it was when it came out of the wrap. It needed nothing. I put in some floatation and a sea sock but other than that I have done nothing to the boat but small patches where i encountered serious rock issues. I don’t like to modify things. Especially kayaks. I just want to paddle.

Purchasing my sea kayak was the a very positive experience. Pricey, but positive.

My mariner has no rudder, no skeg, no bulkhead, no hatches except for a small one up front. It is simple. It makes paddling fun.

Prudent to research/ test before buying
Just like sports cars, you get what you pay for in terms of quality. Without opening the flood gates on which quality Kayaks Mfr. stand behind their products, there are numerous quality kayaks firms selling great kayaks. The industry continues to grow. Probably faster nowadays thanks to the rising price of petrol and not Bush’s tax cut. (Sorry, had to get that in there as a Republian)

The items of concerns listed in your original email are subjective. A leaking hatch after pounding the surf or trekking through troughs out on the Chesapeake Bay is meaningless to me as minimal nuisance. It is serious issue if paddling through calm waters on a lake. Comfort on the back rest and foot pegs falls back on quality parallel with price.

As a newbie, after 7 months of testing, reading and researching went 130 miles out of my way to buy my first kayak. In my eleven months of ownership, I have had no regrets on my purchase. This includes replacement of my foot peg system by the Mfr at no cost. All it took was a simple phone call. Operator error on my part learning to roll improperly over that of an mfr defect.

Needless to say, I am biased in considering my kayak as one of the top of the line kayaks out on the water. But, my time invested in researching and testing various kayaks before purchasing ensured your list of issues hasn’t become my list of whines about my kayak.

V/R Mark

my experience.
We have had QCC, Perception, VCP, NDK, and P&H kayaks. I haven’t encountered any of the problems described. Some of the boats are/were more comfy, did certain things better and are more suitable to us. Rubber hatches seal very well and we never had one leak. The hard-shell hatches where neoprene is stretched over the hatch opening beforehand would take on some water if rolling a lot. Never had a skeg leak. If I did, and it wasn’t a structural issue, I would simply seal it with Marine Goop or something. Same goes for a hatch rim. Uncomfy seat? How about the rest of the boat? Lots of people cut the seat out of NDK boats and make their own from foam. Some people find them comfortable just as they are. I happen to be one of those people.

Sometimes you like a kayak as is. Sometimes you might want to make a small modification to make it “just right.”

To buy and expect that, without exception, a kayak is going to be perfect in every case, is not realistic.

If one is looking for that kind of a match-up, then one had better expect to try a LOT of kayaks.

Honestly, I don’t know anyone who buys and then paddles the same boat for a long period of time. To me, it’s great fun and variety to buy/sell or even borrow different boats. Get to know them. Maybe find a keeper.

Buy used. Save money. Find something you really like? Want a new one? Sell the used one and go for it.

So many different kinds. So many different uses. Fish, lollygag around, take pictures, go alone, (but be safe, please!!!) go with a group, take a lunch, paddle to “the island”, just too much fun!

Don’t obsess about stuff. Don’t research and think too hard about it. Get something cheap that you think you would like. Experience on the water is the best of teachers. You’ll learn what works for YOU.

Sorry for going on so.

Have fun!



  • seats are uncomfortable
  • foot braces are uncomfotable
  • thigh braces are uncomfortble and not adjustable
  • cockpit lacks adequate and adjustable padding

    the above are too personal for a manufacturer to make right for me,I end up re-doing cockpits. This is like cycling where folks have to get used to the posture where some issues of comfort can’t be fixed without working against the ergonomics of paddling.

  • manufactures do not accurately report length & width at the water line at a given weight load

    data can be meaningless regarding performance on the water.

  • manufactures do not accurately report the weight or efficiency

    variability can occur,efficiency?

  • little information is available on durability or longevity

    too many variables,and why would Ford say “our cars aren’t as reliable as a Toyota!”

  • body type/build is not reported when commenting on or reviewing a Kayak

  • Reviews are not critical. Kayaks are rated a 10 despite problems.

    people spending money aren’t unbiased reviewers but it’s better than nothing,read between the lines.

I think this kayak thing is in it’s infancy. Computers too.

Like Sports Cars
"I think this kayak thing is in it’s infancy. Computers too."

I agree. That is why I used the sports car analogy.

My Prediction
In 10 years every new sea kayak will have a fully adjustable seat. Adjustable thigh support and moveable fore and aft.

consumer variability & expectations
There are quality and comfort issues - but the bigger variable is in the paddlers.

Some folks are happy with stock - some need a more custom fit or features that would not sell to the mainstream. Manufacturers cannot hit this for everyone - but usually try to do there best to achieve a workable mix for most.

Not always the case - but it seems to me that those who spend more time in their kayaks also find it worth doing some work on them. Also, some uses (like rolling, rough conditions, longer distance paddling, racing) are likely to benefit from some modifications.

I agree that the basic boat should be sound (hatches, bulkheads, etc.), but making the boat truly yours by doing a little customizing is just one more enjoyable aspect of the sport.

You are asking very good question on your threads and looking at all this very objectively.

Just don’t expect to find the perfect boat that needs no personalization or minor fixes. Look for a very well made boat that fits your size/weight needs and paddles well for the conditions you will paddle. Cockpit is best when you adjust and upgrade over time. What feels/seems right at first will change as you adjust to the boat and paddle more.

Yeap, and more
The market for kayaks has been stagnant for years - it’s not growing anymore.

Touring and Sea-Kayaks has been the segment that has suffered most. Inexpensive plastic kayaks are what keeps the business going for better or for worse (I.E. declining profitability).

Ask any dealer and he’ll tell you there are too many kayak manufacturers out there and prices are collapsing. -This is good for the customers, of course.

Kayak seats are uncomfortable simply because there’s no way to have an average Westerner sit on the floor with his legs stretching forward for long without feeling awkward: Being relatively big and not used to this position we tend to fall backwards and an object that “blocks the fall” makes us feel uncomfortable in our back and legs.

Inuits did not use kayak seats and no native paddle boat anywhere in the world features any support for the paddlers’ back.

The problem of leaks is the result of taking a simple boat and making it complicated and over-accessorized. This is yet another sign of both a technology and market that matured and need a shakeup.

Overall the kayaks made in recent years are reliable and last long, which is another reason why people don’t hurry to buy new ones.

Percieved leak is often condenstion
I do not think hatches leak as often often as people report. Warm humid air trapped in a compartment will quickly condense into a small pool of water when the kayak is placed in colder water.

It is often common to see rubber hatches being sucked inward due to the decrease in compartments air pressure due to cooling. If this happens the hatch is air tight and most certainly also water tight. Yet there will usually be a small amount of water in there. Even my very large composite QCC hatches with their large joints become difficult to open due to lowered compartment pressure. Therefore I am confident that the compartment is watertight. Still I am never surprised by a small amount of water due to condensation.

some people are never happy
I read about a lot of tinkering and customizing of kayaks here and I have to wonder how much of it is because the paddler bought the wrong boat. Some people buy a fast , long performance kayak but either don’t have the prerequisite skills yet or have bodies that don’t fit a faster longer kayak so they make changes. I guess if it works, then good. But in those cases, it isn’t an inherent design flaw in the boat is it?

Others are very performance oriented, tinkering and tweaking skegs and rudders and trying out all kinds of paddles to improve their performance. They modify seats, cockpit interiors and thigh braces and many of these guys claim to be minimalists and then do all the above to their equipment while hypocritically criticizing any modifications or additions (ie; sponsons) others consider that aren’t in sink with their ideas of “good kayaking”.

They seem to be not only hyper critical of their own kayaks, but hyper critical of the way others enjoy the sport. I read a post from one of these tinkerers blasting one poor guy because he liked to listen to music when he paddled as if that diluted the purity of the sport. Sheeesh!

I paddle a Q700 and I enjoy the hell out of it. I think it is a superior kayak and I am happy with it the way it came from the factory. It gets me across the water comfortably, smoothly and quickly. If I had a disablility, I would definitely customize my kayak to accomodate it. But being in a normal, healthy condition, I believe my kayak was well designed by professionals for me.

Puritry vs. fun
Purity relates to a perceived “ideal” while fun relates to a personal experience.

Have Puritans ever cared about fun? :smiley:

I belive in the purity of fun…:-}

anything works on a pond
on the other hand you have to customize a great sport implement to turn it into a great one.

Working on a kayak to optimize it is like accurizing a gun, getting a custom drilled bowling ball etc. Seats will always be a compromise you could something be made to fit my rear and Sings, you’ll do better to make your own every time of throw down serious bucks for one to be made for you.

Ever hang out with drag racers, serious ocean going boat owners?

Stresses fron surf, rough landings, age etc will take their toll on any product engineered to be as light and strong as possible. so repair and maintainance will be big issue unless it’s just on a pond.

Boat reviews on P.net? I always take them with a grain of salt. How can a newbie write a review of a boat. I take reviews seriously if they are from paddlers I take seriously.


According to statistics 95% of people who paddle do it for FUN, and the importance of “paddling puritans” in market terms is decreasing.

Last week a dealer who rents kayaks told me all his customers cared about was the kayaks’ stability. I asked him if it didn’t bother them that extra-wide kayaks don’t track well, and he replied:

-“Tracking? They don’t know what it is!”

Stock Sea Kayaks
An uncustomized/stock outfitted sea kayak is usually either a fairly new sea kayak (and often also a first sea kayak - or one used in calm waters) or a rental!

Boat reviews
Serious paddlers are not going to give a review that will be usefull to anyone other than another serious paddler…ie; a steely eyed, goal oriented, GPS monitoring, competetive racing, eskimo rolling, elitist veteran. I will probably never be a serious paddler because I get my fun from other aspects of the activity.

If most of us are beginner to intermediate paddlers, then reviews by paddlers like us can be useful to us as long as they have some paddling time with a small range of comparable boats and share our goals.

different strokes
If they start to paddle more than once or twice a year, they will become concerned about some other aspects of kayaks and kayaking.

There are all kinds of people and levels for everyone in this little sport.