Plastic v glass sea kayaks

If I was buying a sea kayak, I believe I would prefer glass for a few reasons. It is more repairable, and therefore I think more durable over the long run. I also like that they are generally hand made by smaller, more responsive companies. The variety of shapes also seems superior. I suppose it is somewhat stiffer, but that is a less pressing issue for me.

If I were renting a kayak, I would choose plastic, as it is far cheaper, and the repairability doesn’t concern me. Are there significant performance differences between glass and plastic for the same model of hull?

Just curious. Thanks.

plastic is faster

glass is faster

If the same hull
If both are new and the hulls are the same the plastic and composite boats should perform the same.

However, sometimes the plastic and composite boats bearing the same name do not share exactly the same hull.

Though both of my ww kayaks are plastic, 3 of my 4 sea kayaks are composite. I prefer composite for sea kayaks.

big diff
Glass, as a rule, I think, will be lighter and stiffer, which means faster. I own plastic, which is a good thing for me, because I usually launch from a patch of nice, rocky Maine coast. I don’t feel bad about setting my boat on it, doing seal launches etc. With glass, that crunching sound when you set your boat down on a gritty surface just rubs me the wrong way. I still don’t like the way the hull deforms with plastic and someday i will own a composite.

Kevlar is faster

if sharing the exact same hull configuration.

although the designed hull speed, before hitting the wall,is the same for plastic and glass.

The glass glides farther with each stroke so at the end of the day…you have more energy to dance

Best Wishes


Maybe someone has data on wear
rate if glass versus plastic. Poly kayaks are soft, and do wear away when dragged, but there’s enough thickness to last a long time. My composite ww boats have S-glass as the outer layer (no gelcoat), and that outer surface is very hard, and doesn’t wear easily. Again, I hope someone has actual data.

kevlar will empty your pocket faster

"Glass, as a rule, I think, will be lighter and stiffer,"

For similar hulls, plastic ia heavier but only by 10-15 pounds. There would be no noticible difference in straight-ahead speed with this small difference in weight.

The plastic boats have gotten much better over the years. It would seem that they are not that much less stiff than fiberglass.

But does the glass glide farther?
I’d like to think it does, but if both hulls are smooth, weights are similar, and if the poly hull is not being repeatedly flexed by paddling, I can’t think of a reason why glass should glide farther. I say this as one who much prefers glass boats.

used fiber
You bring up an intersting point. That if the hull design is exactly the same plastic/composite may be the same speed, but i have not see this occur in the market.

If i were to buy again i would buy a used Fiber boat. New boats are not worth the premium paid.

Even a badly beat up fiber boat can be repaired to nearly new status with a keel strip, and gel coat and some TLC.

I agree with wilsoj.

– Last Updated: Mar-17-08 1:40 PM EST –

"If both are new and the hulls are the same the plastic and composite boats should perform the same."

I also agree with njkayaker and with g2d above.

Everybody knows
Red is the fastest!

Seriously, comparing plastic and composite boats, whether it be Kevlar or fiberglass, the composite boat is usually faster. Or at least they are more sleek, thus it should be faster.

The real question: Is this an issue? The plastic speed penalty isn’t that great. The bigger question: Which type of boat better fits your needs. The composites are lighter, yet more easily damaged. That’s not to say that they are easily damaged. And any beach that is more than just sand will leave its mark in the hull providing long lasting memories as well as twisting any anal retentive hairs you have in a knot.

Plastic is practcally indestructable. If you planning a paddling trip to an unknown destination there is no wondering about how the boat will handle it. On the negative side, it’s heavy.

I’ve owned both plastic and composite. I finally got tired of hauling both boats with me to unknown locations only to find beach conditions that would damage the composite boat. The plastic Sirroco kept getting the nod. So I sold the Solstice GT.

I prefer a leaded crystal kayak
Something by Waterford, though I could go with Bohemian crystal for paddling the Danube.

Exact or close enough
"That if the hull design is exactly the same plastic/composite may be the same speed, but i have not seen this occur in the market."

The hulls won’t be “exactly the same” since it’s harder to get sharp lines with plastic. Still, it’s not clear that minor differences in shape would yield any detectable difference in speed.

It’s possible that roughed-up plastic might have more water resistance than roughed-up fiberglass. I suspect that, for normal paddling speeds, even this wouldn’t matter (much).

you’re just being silly…

…I like silly.

The Law of diminishing returns

– Last Updated: Mar-18-08 10:38 AM EST –

The plastic vs. glass kayak is classic Law of Diminishing Returns. You pay a lot more for a stiffer kayak that you can repair easily. Lets face it, the cheap plastic rec boats and kayaks bend, develop bulges and indentations if they are not stored correctly and basically are totally inferior to glass. The new generation of stiff plastic is getting close to glass. If you paddle a plastic kayak and then the same model in glass, it feels livelier because of it's stiffness. It may seem subtle but for most seasoned paddlers, a plastic kayak on a hot day just feels sluggish because it is actually flexing in the water. For most people and manufacturers included, that's enough to make the added expense of glass worthwhile. I'm talking sea kayaks. For WW, plastic can take the beating of rocks better by a long shot.

Plastic can take more abrasion than glass. But the stiffness and general feel of the boat in the water out-weights that, and is obviously backed up by companies that make only glass models as well as the buying public. It won't be that much longer where molded boats will equal and surpass glass.

plastic absorbes your energy
Plastic isn’t stif enough.

That’s why it absorbes your energy and you replace more water.

I made the mistake (2 years ago)to buy a (new)plastic Capella RM and I had to work much harder then a friend in a glass Capella, when paddling side by side.

Valley triple layer plastic. Not P&H