Rock, Scissors, Paper ... Kevlar

Do rocks always beat kevlar? Does kevlar distinguish between smooth rocks and broken rocks? Is a rippley shallow stream to be absolutely avoided with kevlar? Is it just downright foolish to use a kevlar canoe on a stream/river where there might be rocks.

And, there are the issues of the rocks that always seem to be at the launch and take-out locations. These are the rocks to which canoes seem magnetically attracted and which my bow man occasionally uses for a brake.

The ultimate question is: Can I get a tandem canoe under 50# which can handle the occasional carom, collision, or scrape from round river boulders.

ah the kevlar question.
let me start by saying that all my ‘best’ boats are kevlar. i do have a couple of glass boats but the kevlar thing … ahhhh, there are no words. running my kevlar canoe or kayak over rocks scratches the gelcoat just like it does my glass boats. they look the same.

i’m pretty anal retentive about running any of my boats over rocks and cringe at the occasional contact with rock or oyster shell. the difference i think is that glass, if “bashed”, can be pretty easily repaired. kevlar cannot.

I have a kevlar/fiberglass canoe
I have no problem with my kevlar/fiberglass canoe. I beat the crap out of it and it still keeps on ticking.

I have exactly such a canoe… 48 lb
16’ 10" Bluewater Chippewa, made of glass, Nylon and Kevlar.

If the builder does not use glass for the outer layer, the Kevlar may fuzz with extensive dragging. An outer layer of glass, especially S-glass, adds stiffness, wear resistance, and impact resistance. But all-Kevlar canoes, such as some made by Mad River or Kruger, are not fragile.

If you go to the General Clinton regatta you will see people running light kevlar boats over shallow streams.

The main thing to remmember is that you may scrap, but you are not planning on ramming the big rocks. Gel coat repair is not an impossible task to learn, and JackL will tell you how easy it is to float on epoxy…

I take my kevlar canoe and RedCross Randy’s kevlar boat down shallow rocky streams occasionally… .

kevlar great gelcoat not
if you want the toughest lightest kevlar boat scrap the gelcoat. gelcoat is brittle and much less durable than a naked kevlar boat. what beauty in those translucent amber hulls…

I have a Wenonah 17’ Jensen
ultalight kevlar canoe (39 pounds) that I race in the New River every year. It is a class I river, and there are many rocks that I skim over.

I think in the ten years or so that I have been racing it there I have only had to touch up the bottom with two part epoxy a couple of times, and that is a quick half hour job.

Once you get the first few scratches in the hull and get over the trauma that it has caused to your “delicate baby” you will be amazed where you will be taking that canoe.



agree with jack
my Wenonah Minn II kevlar (43 lbs) and my Kevlar Mad River Independence (35 lbs) both wear ‘badges of courage’. yes, i winced at the first several and may still occasionally cringe if the right ‘noise’ accompanies the scrape … but it’s getting easier and i take both boats where i never would have before. they’re only cosmetic scratches afterall. i keep telling myself that.

kevlar and rocks
I got rid of my Royalex boat because I learned I didn’t need it in the local river. I’ve never had any trouble with kevlar boats taking punishment from the occasional encounter with an unexpected rock and I’ve ahd many encounters with rocks. I personally like the security of a gel coat since then 99%+ of scratches will never reach the fabric.

I’d tend to avoid the lighteight kevlar lay-ups but for me that’s mostly because the boats get too flimsy (not stiff). Overall I think you’re getting consistent feedback that it’s OK for you to go grab a kevlar boat and just use it any way you like.

The difference, according to a manufacturer, is that kevlar won’t punture the way glass will. If you hit a rock water will seep in but not pour in. The shinier a boat looks the more brittle it is BTW. A duller finish means a more flexible coat.

A few degrees off topic
Concerning kayaks:

My kevlar kayak cost $3200

My used (once) polyethelene kayak cost $900

I bought the plastic boat specifically for use on shallow, rocky rivers because… polyethelene is nearly indestructable. I don’t worry about damage from rocks at all; that’s how I like to paddle… worry free.

Kevlar will not sustain catostrophic damage from rocks, but regular abuse will necessitate repair.

Just watched a guy paddle his Kruger
Sea Wind down the rather messy upper Chattahoochee in Georgia. He hit a good number of rocks, and the boat appeared to have only superficial damage. The Sea Wind is, as far as I know, a pure Kevlar layup.

It sounds like I don’t need to be
concerned about the condition of my fiberglass/nylon Poke Boat if same applies to this lay up as applies to kevlar.

the factory finish on the hull is worn all the way off so that I can see and feel the weave of the fabric, but there’s no sign of fuzzing etc of the fabric itself. I bought the boat used last summer and was pretty concerned about it because it seems like it would be pretty difficult to apply resin to a large area of the bottom and have it come out looking reasonably good. From what the Poke Boat people told me and from the above comments, it sounds like I have nothing to worry about and have no need to take immediate action. I’m use to paddling poly boats on rivers and it’s very difficult for me to relax while listening to the fiberglass hull scrape and grind over gravel bars that can’t be avoided. Ok, I’m taking a deep breath now :slight_smile:

Sometimes I wonder if it makes any sense to spend several hundred dollars to buy a poly or royalex boat boat to prevent making a couple hundred dollars damage to a glass or kevlar boat. It’s a lot easier to store a couple boats than several boats. Ahhh, the quest for the right combination of boats.

as UV wears away at the hull it becomes duller. I have see first hand old dull hulls that get punctured from a short drop onto grass(sorry about your cruiser Neil). So ho are you saying that bright hulls are more brittle?

Kruger Sea Wind on rocks
I’m the guy you saw on the upper Hooch and you’re right - I only did superficial damage, the same kind I have done running over oysters in Tampa Bay, bumping down much too shallow rocky streams, and slamming into unseen obstacles in shallow water. Check out the Buck Shoals photos at for a couple of shots of the boat scraping some rocks. It’s the white one, in one of the last pictures, I think. I made up my mind when I bought a composite boat that it was to be used, not put on the mantle and looked at. I’ve never regretted that decision.


– Last Updated: Aug-26-05 12:22 PM EST –

Great pics of you and your Seawind in some "textured" water. They are constructed of one tough lay up. To the previous poster regarding 100% Kevlar lay up of the Seawind; the lay up does have an outer layer of S-glass. And the resin is damn tough too. Not all composite hulls are layed up the same, thus not all will respond the same when impacted or abraded. I have "abused" my Seawind and it's only showing minor gel coat scraches. I will only shoulder the boat if I'm going a good distance, otherwise I drag it to and from my truck at put-ins. It is easily repaired also. I know "easily" is relative to your experience, however some simple research will net good instructions.