Thermoform Vs Poly

Looking for insight on thermoform vs poly for durability in rocky areas. Specifically looking at Hurricaine Tampico vs Necky Looksha, but the question is how will the thermoform Hurricaine hold up on rivers. I don’t plan to white water with it, but if I scrape rocky areas, will that become an issue? The dealer says they haven’t had anyone coming in to repair these boats. But is that because the people that buy them only use them for open water?

Both use heat and plastic

– Last Updated: Aug-15-12 7:37 PM EST –

If the plastic is in bead form or in a flat sheet
- it is still heated and then formed.

Something that "floats" can be made of a thin plastic
sheet, heated in an oven, and vacuum sucked onto
a mold creating a shape.

Poly boats are often RotoMolded
using pulverized polyethylene.

Or are you talking about composites in a
vacuum bag process which is quite different ?

My Dagger Crossover is over 10 years old made
of EXL™ superlinear polyethylene and I still
used it this year.

Poly is a lot more durable for hits
Polyethylene is a lot more durable if you plan to go out and bash into rocks. Polyethylene gets scratches and scrapes much more easily than the ABS boats.

So no white water boats are made like the Hurricane boats. Hurricane does not recommend their boats for white water or play in surf rock gardens. But I have seen their boats dragged over rocks without a visible scratch and sometimes bumped loaded over rocks without more than a scratch.

Plus you feel bad about scratching an expensive thermoformed boat. You can beat up rotomolded and not worry about it.

The one drawback of thermoformed plastic is it doesn’t do well hitting rocks in cold water. It can crack under those conditions. It’s ideal for everything else.

Of course there are legendary stories about accidents with thermoformed kayaks that came out unscathed, like this one from the Eddyline website:

“My friends and I were returning from a great morning kayaking on Hall’s River, FL. when we were tail-ended. Our four Eddyline kayaks were on the trailor that was hit by a full sized Dodge Ram truck. The Journey and Equinox being the longest kayaks on the trailor took all the impact. I just knew they were toast from the strength of the impact. When I got out of our vehicle I saw the Journey and the Equinox imbedded into the front grill of the Dodge truck (all the way into the radiator). When we pulled the boats out of the grill, the only damage found was to the Dodge. No even a scratch on either kayak. The sturdy bow of each boat and the flex of the trailor allowed for no damage. I can’t say the same for the Ram Tough Dodge truck.”

Dis wat happens ta a thermo-formed… EOB

– Last Updated: Aug-15-12 8:29 PM EST –

hull waan it meets a hard oobject....

Not me boat, ah' jus' fixed it (wit some advice fro' Patrick fro' Onno)


The advantage of thermoform is usually
better stiffness and somewhat lighter weight. I have a Necky Looksha Sport in poly, and though I got it at a bargain price at auction, I have to look a gift horse in the mouth regarding its somewhat flexible hull.

I’m not sure why you’re talking about rapids with these boats. I could race downriver in my Looksha, on rivers I know very well like the Nantahala. But it wouldn’t be any fun for running even easy whitewater. Very poor maneuvering capability.

Scrapes and bumps are fine

– Last Updated: Aug-16-12 4:51 AM EST –

I paddled a thermoformed Perception Sonoma Airalite for a couple of years year-round, including freezing and sub-freezing temps on class II-III white water with the requisite scrapes and bumps and all it got was surface scratches. Nothing deep. The Hurricanes use somewhat weaker plastic IMO but for your stated use it should not be an issues. The weigh advantage is very important though, both on and off the water.

More important than material, though, is to pick the right kind of hull/kayak type for your use. E.g., short vs. long (for speed), maneuverable vs. stiff tracking, level of stability, storage, bulkheads, etc...

Hurricane Phoenix 140
I have had this kayak for about 3 years and I use it primarily for fishing. I tend to be hard on equipment and this boat has been no exception. I use it frequently in salt water flats and it gets its share of oyster bed and gravel scraping. It is highly resistant to this kind of abuse and doesn’t show as much as my poly boats. And, even though I was cautioned by the dealer not to, I have also used it in Class II and bounced off many a rock. Unfortunately, I have also dropped it off the top of my van. Even with this kind of abuse there have been no gouges, cracks, or deep scratches. In short, I have been impressed with this material. I don’t believe for a moment that it’s as tough as poly, but I bought it for its lighter weight, and so far, its durability has been impressive.

Thanks, this is exactly the kind of info I am looking for. Thanks everyone!

Another story of a roof dropping. My friend put it on his car but hadn’t tied it down yet. A gust of wind came along and blew it to the ground. No problems at all. I remember him telling the Hurricane crew at a boating show that it didn’t even get scratched (it fell onto a concrete parking lot). I also have Hurricanes, and yes, I’ve gotten a few scratches, but no big deal. There is a bit of flex (I’ve never encountered Eddylines or Deltas, so I can’t compare), but they’re light and paddle well. Not to mention that they’re gorgeous. I love thermoform.

"The weigh advantage is very important though, both on and off the water."

What’s the advantage of lighter weight while ON the water?

42 lb boat vs 62 lb boat in the water… 42 lbs takes less effort to get up to desired speed and less effort to maintain or increase speed.

It’s physics, therefore I don’t completely understand it. But I understand when a lighter boat moves w. less effort…

Same with the Eddyline
I was all thumbs one day, and the boat fell off the roof of the car. No harm done.

Compared to Eddlyine and Delta, Hurricanes have significantly more flex, which is easily felt when a wave hits you from the side. Test the stiffness and thickness of the plastic by pushing down in front of and behind the cockpit.

brittle in cold water
is thermoform (any maker’s).

A thermoform boat is more prone to cracking if run up against an object in cold water at cold temps - the material shatters. Isn’t an easy fix.

Talking below freezing air and water temp in 30s. Esp if boat is left outside in those air temps then taken to the cold waters.

Maybe you are not out in those conditions but if this is your geography and in your plans be aware of this characteristic.

As long as we are talking strong, Prijon’s blowmoulded plastic is far stronger and more impact & scratch resistant than thermoform and the usual rotomoulded plastic used in non ww kayaks.

What you choose depends on your intended (and unintended) level of use and abuse.

More info??
“Prijon’s blowmoulded plastic is far stronger and more impact & scratch resistant than thermoform and the usual rotomoulded plastic used in non ww kayaks.”

How and why is it stronger, and how have the two materials been tested for comparison?

I owned a (used) Prijon briefly. It was as scratched up on the bottom as any rotomolded kayak, quite a bit more than my four-year-old thermoformed kayak. But I did notice that the deck was definitely stiffer than rotomolded.

not sure about that
I would think water resistance would be the main force in slowing a boat down. So I have a hard time imagining weight having any noticeable effect.

Heavier boat is harder to turn
I would assume that turning is also harder in a heavier boat for the same reason getting up to speed is an issue (and stopping). Less boat to move is a good thing for maneuverability.


given those two examples
…that is a tough call. I had a necky and I thought it was one of the flimsiest poly boats I’d paddled, but it was an older boat.

I’m not familiar with Hurricane’s TF quality.

Prijon Plastic
Google Prijon HTP Blow Moulded plastic.

Basically the forming process produces a longer and thus stronger linear poly chain.

A world of research awaits you if you would like to know more about the chemical composition and properties of each of these plastics. I’m not a chemist (and neither are you) so I’m not gonna go there esp. on a paddling board.

Here is other info you may find helpful.

Take a look at this:

Go over to and similar ww boards and see what ww boaters have to say about Prijon boats.

Check the numerous reviews of Prijon boats here at and see what owners say. Search the archives here and see more of the same. Their collective length of ownership far outweighs that of any one person’s.