Keel Guards

I recently went through an article in an old Sea Kayaker magazine about fiberglassing keel guard (FG) strips on the hull of composite kayaks (fiberglass boats).

I paddle in South Florida - lots of oyster bars/ barnacle covered mangroves, etc…and I am just buying a brand new Impex Assateague.

I am familiar with the backcoutry that I paddle and of course I keep a keen eye on the tide charts as well, but still, of course it is going to be unavoidable to end up with some honorable “battle scars” on the hull on the long run (painfull thought, but accepted as part of the deal).

The question is if these strips are an advantage or not, since backcountry is not the only paddling I do and I don’t want to compromise the performance of the boat on open water.

Thanks for the insights.


I would try just being careful at first.
I have put glass wear strips on a canoe I owned. Glass works well and wears smooth (unlike Kevlar which fuzzes). A really careful job (which can be described if you like) may add a pound or so, but could be done smoothly enough to avoid added frictional drag.

However, ask yourself: If you have enough control when beaching and dragging to confine scrapes to that narrow wear strip, don’t you have enough control to avoid most scraping? And if (as I would expect) you often don’t have enough control to beach or drag the boat only on the wear strip, then what are you going to feel about the wear and tear outside the wear strip?

I also paddle glass whitewater kayaks and decked canoes, and I have always found the wear rate from bumps and scrapes to be rather slow. If enough wear occurs, only then do I carefully fill in and add some replacement glass.

Skid plate alternative
You might try this…

I am a professional boat builder and have all the equipment and skills to keep my boats in good repair, so each winter I would bring my kayak in the shop and refinish the gelcoat and fiberglass on the bottom of the hull where it keeps getting scratched up.

Well this got old after a few years, and I noticed that 90% of the scratches were really in the same location year after year. They were on the centerline of the boat, narrow in the bow and stern and increasingly wider as you got to the mid section. If you drew an outline around them you would find that the “scratch line” was in fact quite symmetrical.

Here’s what I did and now re-do as necessary. With masking tape, tape off a nice symmetrical line around the majority of the scratches. You will find that this heavily scratched section is probably only about a few inches wide in the midsection of the boat. Sand the area with medium grit paper and paint it with a mixture of epoxy resin and graphite powder. (West System sell both) The epoxy is incredibly tough and the addition of the graphite powder not only increases the strength in this situation, but it make the boat incredibly slick as well. My boat just slips over the barnacles and rocks now instead of scratching and scraping. You would be amazed at the difference!

The repair/maintenance of this epoxy and graphite “skid plate” is quite simple….just re-do it as necessary every year or two…

The down side? Well you have a permanent black stripe down the C/Line of your boat, but what the heck it won’t look as silly as some glued on hunk of plastic that probably won’t last or look as good.

Email me if you need more details.


I rolled epoxy and graphite over the
entire bottom of an old C-1 which had gotten quite fuzzy (non-glass layup). The boat seemed faster, and it sure slid easily. Had to be careful where I left the boat sitting on the bank, or it would slide right back in the water.