Opinions on Clear Kayaks and Canoes

-- Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:27 AM EST --

Hello! I work at a small welding and machine shop, and we want to start manufacturing clear kayaks and canoes. They are made of polycarbonate (like lexon.) We're hoping some veteran paddlers can give us a few thoughts so we can get an idea of what the market might look like. We made up a little survey we would really appreciate some responses to:


If you'd like some more background information, these aren't meant to be gimmicky boats that are low quality and hard to maneuver. The idea is for a kayak or canoe that would be desirable even without being clear, comparable in characteristics and quality to Kevlar. 15 and 16 foot prototypes weigh in at around 30 pounds, and repeated smashing into rocks has only resulted in cosmetic damage.

Here is a link to some more information if you're curious. Feel free to leave thoughts and comments on this thread as well.


impact resistance?

Ease of repair?

If I were developing it I’d pretend it wasn’t transparent.

impact resistance

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:16 AM EST –

Thanks for your response! That's more or less the idea. We're shooting for a really good line of products where the transparency is just a bonus.

15-16 feet prototypes weigh about 30 pounds. Impact resistance seems pretty good so far. My boss repeatedly smashed one into submerged rocks and only cosmetic damage resulted. We haven't done any testing on ease of repair as of yet.

Clear may not be better
One of the problems with having clear boats is that they are difficult to see. Kayaks already have a problem being seen on the water and making them even more difficult to see may not be a safety advantage, particularly for sea kayaks.

One of the concerns I have is that I doubt a boat as you describe would be completely invisible from the air. A sea kayaker might be almost impossible to find since the boat is (probably) what is first observed from the air.

The safety of those who paddle waterways where powerboats (particularly ski boats) or ships are present may be significantly reduced.


a marketing opportunity

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:16 AM EST –

...for the manufacturer to add a line of fluorescent colored dry bags.

Clear may not be better

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:57 AM EST –

Excellent point! I don't know if anyone has considered their use as a sea kayak, but that does seem like a potential problem. We're located in the Adirondacks where paddling is usually in little waterways and lakes away from larger vessels, so not a huge amount of concern went to that issue.

And awesome idea with the fluorescent bags! That sounds like it would work well and definitely increase visibility.

What’s the benefit?

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:47 AM EST –

Here are my observations:

There are already a number of manufacturers making thermoformed polycarbonate and ABS boats, though none of them that I'm aware of are clear. Unless the specific material you're using offers some substantial benefits over existing materials, this would be more of a novelty item than anything else. Of course, that doesn't mean that it wouldn't sell.

Scratches are a fact of life for kayaks and it seems that a clear boat would show them really badly (at least when out of the water), which is probably why nobody is doing it.

On sunny days, you would get a lot of heat buildup inside the boat if you were wearing a spray skirt, which you would want for any serious kayaking.

The current shape of your cockpit coaming doesn't lend itself to spray skirt use and I question whether a skirt would hold well enough around the tubing, even if the shape was similar to other kayaks.

The boat has no floatation, which is a real problem on the water if you capsize or swamp. Google the term "Cleopatra's Needle" for more information on this.

What is the purpose of the large opening behind the cockpit? Again, that's a huge problem if you capsize or swamp.

I strongly suggest that you do more research on kayak design before making major departures from the norm, as there are very good reasons for the shape and design features of kayaks (they've evolved over centuries). Also, read the book "Sea Kayaker - Deep Trouble" which details safety issues that may be encountered on the water and how equipment affects their outcome. It can literally be a matter of life or death, even in situations that appear benign on the surface.

Perhaps canoes would be a different story, but I can't offer you any advise on them, as I'm strictly a kayaker.

You can’t control…

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:49 AM EST –

...how customers use your products, so where you're located is completely irrelevant. People paddle entirely unsuitable craft on the ocean and on busy waterways all the time, with mixed results. Visibility is a really critical issue for kayaker safety, as is flotation. You cannot assume that people will do the responsible thing and add fluorescent float bags, even if you provided them, so it's better to build the safety features into the boat. That way they won't have the option to take irresponsible risks that they could turn around and sue you over.

BTW, have you looked into liability insurance for kayak manufacturers? I realize that you're in a manufacturing business, but will your current carrier be willing to cover watercraft production, too?

Why aren’t the paddlers

– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 9:45 AM EST –

shown in your photos wearing PFDs?

look closer
(they’re clear PFDs)


has been some
There are a few clear kayak companies out there:





None seem to have made real impact on the market. Not sure if clear kayaks are not needed, or if the businesses just didn’t do it right.

Delta has a few boats that have clear sections that allow you to look down (but the majority of the boat is not clear). One example is http://www.deltakayaks.com/delta-cat-10-5-sot/. I talked to a rep there and the placement of the clear section is in a spot that is less likely to get scratched (it is recessed - so if someone hit a rock, a non-clear section of hull would take the impact). Guess scratching is an issue.

I agree on the concerns
I agree with most of the concerns here on your prototypes. 4 of the 5 kayaks that I own are skin on frame designs which, like yours, lack built in bulkheads which all modern rotomold and composite kayaks the size that you are building have to keep the entire hull from flooding and sinking the boat. In every one of my boats I fill the bow and stern cavities with inflatable flotation bags whenever I paddle to render them safe. Your hulls appear to be very high volume to begin with and I suspect they would be a real hazard if capsized. Have you tested performance in a capsize? You should do so, but be sure to be close to shore and not in a situation where the boat sinking or your not being able to re-enter it would be dangerous.

Also, as has been mentioned, your cockpit design is way too large for a boat that size. It would be impossible to have a competent sprayskirt over such a large area – that is another safety factor in kayak design. You seem to almost have a bulkhead behind the seat, but with that huge opening above it really can’t function as a flotation compartment.

Honestly, I don’t see much of a market for these. Boats 16’ long are for touring and sea kayaking and people who buy sit inside kayaks for this type of paddling are going to want bulkheads for safety and semi-dry storage and a cockpit coaming that supports a sprayskirt. Clear hull boats of various designs have been around for years without gaining much interest. Most of us don’t paddle in clear enough water that would make such a novelty interesting. Though some people even make their own skin on frames using clear vinyl, most who do that will usually re-skin the boats with opaque materials once the novelty wears off.

With flotation bags in them, and most of your view down blocked by your legs, what is the point of a clear boat anyway? It makes more sense in a canoe where you have a large flat area of hull ahead of your feet or knees.

In terms of lightness, a regular skin on frame kayak with 8 ounce ballistic nylon skin is just as light. My 18’ SOF only weighs 31 pounds.

I would say if you intend to pursue this, stick to open canoes. That’s the market that needs lighter long boats and I think you would find more demand there. If you really want to make kayaks with large cockpits and no bulkheads, stick to shorter “rec” style boats 8 to 12’ long and make it clear they are only for use in shallow inland waters. I imagine a lot of people who like to “lily dip” in shallow ponds and streams in little rec boats are going to be the ones more interested in looking at the flora and fauna under their hulls. And if your 16’ boat is 30 lbs, I imagine a 10 footer could come in under 25 lbs. I think you would find more demand and less competition for a shorter kayak and the longer canoe, depending on the price points you could achieve.

And please, wear PFD’s when you take the boats out and when you advertise them. If you capsize one of these I guarantee you are going to be swimming to shore.

I couldn’t agree more, so no need for a separate reply.

Another tiny negative
…they are going to get really hot inside on sunny days.

Thanks for the feedback. I would like to respond to a few issues you have brought up. The pictures on the website are prototypes and the production models will have some changes. Without question I would like the option of having a spray skirt fit the production models. The boats you see have features I wanted because I built these for my own use. They were 15-16ft so I could go faster & carry gear. I have competed in a couple races and done well with them. The rear opening is sized so that my backpack can fit in. I intended to fit it with a cover but haven’t gotten to it. I’m a big guy, 6’0, 240lb so that contributed to the cockpit & boat size choices for the prototypes. The production units do not need to be tailored to my wants.

next year

better living thru chemistry

One more.


– Last Updated: Oct-06-16 2:32 PM EST –

I agree on the visibility issue but perhaps you could make a colored deck and keep the hull transparent (that'd keep your legs from getting sunburnt and might keep the heat down.

Can that material be bonded to other materials?

My next question is weight. Has to be the most common consideration after "does it float". Weight is partly why the market is moving to SUPs (hey: a transparent SUP!).

The market is flooded right now so your product will have to offer an advantage besides novelty. The big sellers are the cheap boats that sell from places such as T.J. Maxx.

I think you are too late !
I have already seen them down in the Florida Keys-Both canoes and kayaks.

If you take good care of them they are fabulous for undersea viewing.

But there was a rental outfit a few years back that had a few they were renting out, and they ended up so badly scratched that they were no longer good for viewing and they got rid of them

Jack L

Paddle Naked?
Just what nudists need! I suggest marketing to them.